Turning 4 is a big deal in our household. Happy Birthday songs are sung a little bit louder, excitement is a little more palpable, and my eyes are a little bit mistier. This milestone of a birthday marks the magical year that our little ones become more independent with strong opinions aplenty (while still needing kisses and cuddles from their mommy, thank goodness!!). It’s an age where they are torn between always wanting a playdate with their friends and never wanting to leave your side. It’s the year that they finally venture off on their own into Junior Kindergarten and begin to develop greater independence, more self-control and creativity. In my opinion, 4 is the perfect age where my “baby” is on the cusp of becoming a “big kid” and it’s in this sweet spot where we still build forts together, kiss away stubbed toes and can have deep conversations about why dragonflies don’t eat fish.
As both a parent and party guest, I’m forever searching for the perfect gift that's most fitting for a special age. Usually Google searches on “what to buy for a 4 year old” will yield too many results and ultimately leads me to buying something in a last minute panic. To save you that same angst, we've created our own comprehensive list of what we believe are perfect gifts for 4 year old boys (or girls!!). We focused on gifts that were practical and fun as well as ones that could help build upon their emerging skills and capabilities. Most importantly, we chose ones that were '4 year old approved' and available from Canadian companies.
Simple board games can teach simple rules, basic learning such as counting, how to cope with losing, and how to work cooperatively within a group. Hidden beneath hours of fun, these traits are honed and it won’t be long before you see your little one exercising the same negotiation skills they learned while playing with their family. Sequence is a favourite game in our home and encourages adults (it’s fun, I swear!) and children to play together. Our 4 and 7 year old easily spend hours playing this game. It encourages pattern building, counting, colour and animal recognition. Shop Sequence.
Feed the Woozle is another great game that helps children learn fine motor skills, dexterity, body awareness, and counting - creatively. There are specific rules designed for ages so your 4 year old won’t be discouraged and will relish in the pretend play that it encourages. A small trick is to try and have your little ones finish the board game without interruptions. This small (and not easily managed) feat can help lengthen their attention span and will come in handy when they’re sitting in their first classroom and listening to a teacher. Shop Feed the Woozle.
Backpacks, pins for bags, and crayons tend to be a rite of passage for the new kids on the block, or in the case of a 4 year old, new kids in the schoolyard. Entering Junior Kindergarten can be a daunting time and the past experience with my 7 year old has taught me that getting new and fun school supplies really helps squash the fear by adding some excitement. Herschel backpacks are a Canadian staple, with fun and cute designs that don’t sacrifice on quality. Easy to clean, with multiple pockets and easily accessed zippers for small hands, the Herschel backpack is by far our favourite bag to start the school year off right. Shop backpacks.
Don’t forget to include fun pins or keychains to go on their backpack to individualize their bags and make them special for their big first day of school. Include a birthday cake pin, made by Canadian-owned Penny Paper Co. and carried by Caring Confetti to remind them of their special day and birthday wishes. Shop birthday pin.
Some of our other favourite pins are from little ai in Toronto. Soft, large and sparkly, these ice cream and smiley face pins can add some pizzazz and make any bag identifiable in a sea full of schoolyard bags. Shop pins.
Lastly, if you’re looking for something to fill their bags – colouring books, art supplies, and markers are always a hit. Art is an ideal outlet for children to use their imaginations and creativity. Yoobi, available at Indigo, has fun and cute stickers, gel markers and pencil cases that will be a hit for all things creative. An added bonus is that for every Yoobi item purchased, they will donate a school supply item to a child in need right here in Canada. Shop art supplies.
Active Play Toys
Stimulate balance and strength, creative play, and their growing bodies by splurging on a sleek and sustainable balance board made by Wobbel and carried by Kol Kid in Toronto. These boards challenge children to move and play at home, and can help strengthen muscles and improve balance during important developmental years. An added benefit is watching your little one’s imagination take over and transforming their board into a seesaw, a bridge and tunnel, a boat, a swing, or any other thing their little mind’s will conjure up. Shop balance boards.
For a smaller and more wallet-friendly gift option, the Quut Cuppi still offers physical play and stimulates hand-eye coordination. Made of durable, recyclable plastic, this game is lightweight and versatile - a shovel, sifter and ball all in one! With their newly formed friendships, your 4 year old and their playmate can have a blast all afternoon playing catching! Shop Quut Cuppi.
Encourage a love of reading by gifting fun and educational books. Time and time again, The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak has proven to be a favourite amongst my children. A simple and powerful idea that books can be an unending source of laughter (at the reader’s expense), this book brings belly laughs and delight every time it’s opened.
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold offers a different lesson that focuses on diversity and inclusion by following a group of children through a day in their school where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other’s traditions and differences, this read will encourage your little one to practice tolerance as they venture into their own new school.
While clothes may not be every child’s favourite gift to open, they’re a practical necessity and may be more of a delight to parents. Choosing t-shirts and sweatshirts that are soft and reflect the birthday kid's personality will ensure a quick-change mid gift opening. We’ve found the softest and non-toxic shirts, with the best graphics from Canadian-brands Whistle & Flute and O & Lo.
Masks are becoming the newest ‘must-have’ and are now mandatory across many Canadian cities. Having a mask that is comfortable and breathable, with a good fit, is key to ensuring your small children will wear them out and about. Local Burlington shop Olive & Splash carries children face masks, made from bamboo, that are hypoallergenic, UV protected and great for sensitive skin. They also come with soft ear loops for a comfortable wear. Sew or iron on a fun super-hero, dinosaur or pirate patch onto your mask to entice your little one to keep it on while out (or in our case, bribery works best in the form of many, many sour patch kids)! Shop masks.
A child’s ability for critical thinking and creative problem solving evolve from imagination. And it just so happens that there are SO many fun toys to choose from that will encourage just this. Magnetic tile toys make construction and creativity endless for four year olds. Magna-Tiles are one of many brands that we’ve come to love and will allow a child to create different designs and are great for colour recognition, counting and sorting, and developing fine motor skills. These tiles are well made, easy to clean up (parents will thank you), and any collection can grow over the years to allow for the most elaborate structures, castles, and forts! Shop magnetic tiles.
Encourage more imaginative play with a Meri Meri pirate ship, available at Caring Confetti. This beautifully designed ship can offer endless fun by providing kids an opportunity to develop their language and social skills by playing pirates with their siblings and friends. Dress your little one and his friends up in stripes, pirate patches and pirate hats and watch the swashbuckingly adventures they’ll go on! Keep this ship in your 4 year old’s room to double as décor, but don’t be surprised when you hear some late night pirate talking. Shop pirate ship.
Do you know of a good item that we’re missing? Please let us know by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.