Gift Ideas for 4-Year-Olds

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Here at Marotta Wealth Management, we love getting to see our clients become parents and grandparents. For many, family is one of their core values in life and the arrival of the next generation breathes a new sense of purpose into them and their finances.

As the proud mother of a now five-year-old daughter, I thought I’d record some of my and my firstborn’s favorite things from this past year as helpful ideas for gifts from grandparents. You can see the past posts here: 3-years-old, 2-years-old, 1-year-old and the first 0-12 months.

Clothing

This past year was an easy year to clothe. Size 4T, child size 4, or child small all fit the whole year even though my daughter grew so very much.

Meanwhile, my daughter grew 3 shoe sizes from toddler size 9 at the start to toddler size 12 at the end. I hear that this kind of rampant foot growth is common at this age. In my family, we rely on my daughter to tell us when the shoes are uncomfortable. Because of this, it seemed like she outgrew shoes suddenly overnight. To combat this, we found it helpful to always have on hand rain boots in the next larger shoe size. We picked rain boots specifically because they are versatile for all seasons, weathers, and outfits. Our favorite rain boot brand has been Hatley, which is also available on Amazon.

A year ago, we discovered the Little Adventures washable costumes. They are washable and have a lifetime guarantee; both of which we have tested. My daughter spent most of the year dressed up in one of these costumes. Around Halloween, parents gave us knowing smiles at the grocery store as though being Elsa while running errands was a novelty rather than daily life. Our favorite new one from this past year has been the Moana-themed “Island Twirl Dress.”

We also continued to love the Princess Awesome dresses we were gifted. This year, the “Fleur-de-Liftoff” Rockets Dress was especially a big hit.

Movies

Over the course of the past year, my daughter’s enjoyment of action and adventure in movies expanded greatly. She especially enjoyed “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” and “Emperor’s New Groove.”

We also loved the David Attenborough nature documentary “Life in Color.” It explains how animals use color to succeed in their lives. It is a great introductory nature documentary because the only prey captured are insects and mating is limited to watching a bird dance.

And with some explanation at the jokes, she fell in love with “Pirates of Penzance” and especially the silly song “With Cat Like Tread.”

Books

While the 20-issue Disney Fairies comic book series continued to reign as a favorite this year, several other books joined the ranks of favorites. We loved Ben Hatke’s “Zita the Space Girl” graphic novel trilogy, Andy Runton’s reprinted “Owly” comic book series, the Disney Fairies chapter books in the “The Never Girls” series, and Mary Pope Osborne’s classic children’s chapter books “The Magic Tree House.”

A surprising favorite from this year was the “Pokémon Super Deluxe Essential Handbook.” I was surprised at how many homeschooling lessons this little book managed to check off. It is an alphabetized list of Pokémon, which encourages a quick study of the alphabet in order to locate your desired entry. Each Pokémon has a unique name with a pronunciation guide which requires a mastery of phonics in order to to sound out. Entries list the Pokémon’s evolution chart and typing which helps practice pattern recognition and if-then systematic thinking. And finally, to even the surface level fan of Pokémon, the artwork and entries are fun to read and view. If you have a Pokémon fan, consider this find or an updated handbook.

Lastly, we discovered the Usborne Illustrated Stories series this year and enjoyed the “Illustrated Stories from the Greek Myths” and “Illustrated Fairy Tales.”

Education, Toys, & Games

By this age, office supplies and educational supplies make great gifts. Sometimes for a four- or five-year-old, the difference between trying something new and not doing it is whether you have a pen you know you are allowed to use.

This past year, my daughter started creating representational artwork and engaging in various types of independent writing. With those new hobbies, blank journals or sketchbooks as well as writing utensils have been well loved.

Some of our favorites have been the big box of Crayola colored pencils (blissful extravagance), a pencil grip set (we keep these stashed on a variety of easy to reach writing utensils), the AFMAT Electric Pencil Sharpener (reviewed to be able to endure a classroom of preschoolers and is amazing), and the uni-ball Vision Rollerball Pens in assorted colors (a favorite pen set).

Some fun activity books we’ve found were “Disney Princess Hand Lettering” (enjoyed best by scanning the pages so you can trace them again and again) and “First 100 Words Bilingual (English/Spanish)” wipe-clean activity book (a nice exposure to the fact that English is not the only language).

This year, I was given a gift card to Outschool and now recommend the platform highly to my parent friends. Essentially, it is a platform for online teachers and students to find one another. The classes are hosted on Zoom through Outschool’s platform and can range anywhere from one session to an entire semester. We especially enjoyed Miss Lauren’s “Into the Unknown!” beginner Frozen-themed dance class and Sophie Sepulveda’s “Disney Princess Escape Room Series.”

While we bought these several years ago, SpriteGru’s Magnetic Rainbow Fraction Tiles were finally loved and well used this year. These little magnets helped us to halve or double our recipes and have also been a fun color or shape sorting game.

We enjoyed a rainbow Roll-Up piano as early music exposure. I was able to create color-coded sheet music for some favorite Disney songs and my daughter has started to learn to pick them out on the piano thanks to the color-coded keys.

For arts and crafts, we loved Lakeshore Learning’s “Suncatchers Painting Kit” as well as the “Paint By Stickers” series. These are fun projects for any age, but especially this age.

As most parents of doll-loving children know, you end up storing a lot of dolls while your child really loves to change the outfits the most. This is one reason, I’m so excited that Disney made what they call doll accessory packs. These are outfit changes for their Classic Doll series (the Disney princess dolls with regular flat feet and bendable elbows). In addition to being sold at Disney.com, you can also find them on Amazon.

Some fun puzzles we did this year were “Mudpuppy Bugs and Birds Double-Sided Puzzle” (able to do alone) and “Buffalo Games Pokémon Eevee’s Stained Glass” (fun to do with help).

Financial Gifts

A 529 college savings account or even just a stock or two in a custodial account can be helpful savings. The power of saving and investing while young means that this will be the gift that keeps on giving. My article “How to Make a Gift of Appreciated Stock Feel Personal” has some ideas on presenting money to children.

We present children with gifts that expose them to ideas and possibilities about the world. Unlike adults who use sensitivity in their response to gifts, children often have very clear favorites and least favorites; they don’t love each gift equally. But sometimes the duds are as important as the successes at helping the toddler. Life is enriched by being introduced to a wide diversity of items, experiences, and facts. The process of learning what you enjoy in life includes learning what you don’t enjoy as much.

So don’t be discouraged if even after lots of research picking what seems like the perfect gift, you find out it isn’t a favorite. They don’t have to be amazing to be a great gift.

Photo by author. Product photos from their online listings.

Follow Megan Russell:

Chief Operating Officer, APMA®

Megan Russell has worked with Marotta Wealth Management most of her life. She loves to find ways to make the complexities of financial planning accessible to everyone. She is the author of over 700 financial articles. Her most popular post is "The Complete Guide to Your Washing Machine" while one of her favorites is "Funding a 3-Year-Old’s Roth IRA."