Four year olds are great. They still have all the wonder of younger children but are capable enough to take part in much more interesting activities than toddlers. They are also usually full of energy so need something that will keep them engaged rather than require them to just sit passively. If you’re looking for great things for them to do, check out these hands on activities for four year olds.
We’ve split the activities into inside and outside to help you find something appropriate for the weather and at the end we’ve created some additional lists of hands of activities to suit specific circumstances.
Indoor Hands on Activities for Four Year Olds
These activities can all be done inside so you aren’t dependent on the weather to have fun.
Small World Play with Shaving Foam
At 42, I still enjoy quirting shaving foam around so it’s a great activity for most ages. While you could just give them a can let them go wild in the bath, what works really well is to combine it with small world play. Gather up whatever waterproof small world play things your child has, for example, figures, animals, cars etc and set them up on a big tray. Then let you child add shaving foam in whatever way they like.
This was both of my children’s absolute favourite activity when they were around 4. All you need is some containers, water, food colouring, white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Use the food colouring to make several different colour waters and then let your child make potions. When they combine the vinegar and the bicarb they’ll they get a cool fizzing effect.
Hammering is an excellent activity for developing hand eye coordination. There are a few different activities you can use hammering for. With careful supervision, you can allow your four year old to hammer drawing pins into a piece of wood. If you don’t feel they’re ready for sharp objects yet then you can collect some plants and flowers, lay them between two pieces of pale colour materials and let them hit them for a while. When they have finished the colours form the plants will have transferred to the material.
Get Creative with Clay, Plasticine or Salt Dough
This type of activity is great for developing finger strength which is one of the best things you can do to prepare a child for learning to write. Some children will prefer plasticine because of its bright colours, others will prefer the texture of air drying clay. Salt dough has an added bonus because your four year can help you make it.
Use Connectors to Build Something
There are two ways you can do this. You can buy a straw and connectors set, they are reasonably priced and in my experience will get a lot of use. Alternatively you can use dry spaghetti and marshmallows. The spaghetti and marshmallows are harder to work with because the spaghetti breaks but the opportunity to eat the odd marshmallow may well outweigh that!
This is something you may well have done with your child when they were a toddler but it’s something children carry on enjoying pretty much until adulthood. When doing this activity with a four year old you can make it a bit more challenging by suggesting they create something like a face or a repeating pattern. Your four year old may also enjoy these other food based activities.
Play Dough Restaurant
I’ve lost track of the number of play dough restaurants I’ve “eaten” at over the years. My kids loved coming and taking my order, pretending to write it down and then going to create my requested meal from play dough. Other days they would pretend they were taking part in a cooking competition and I’d have to judge their results.
Vegetable or Sponge Printing
Your children may not eat their veg but they will probably be happy to paint with it. You’ll need a collection of different shaped vegetables, some paint and something shallow to put the paint in, paper or plastic plates work well. Alternatively you can either buy or make shaped sponges and print with them. We like to use a long roll of paper to print on and then when it’s dry we can use it as wrapping paper.
Your four year olds interest in bubbles might have waned somewhat but you can easily reignite it with bubble painting. Pour bubble mixture into containers and add a drop or two of food colouring. Use the coloured coloured bubble mixture to blow bubbles on to pieces of white card.
Like shaving foam, I love playing with gloop. It is essentially a mixture of cornflour and water and the result is a strange substance that is neither liquid or solid. You want a ratio of around two parts cornflour to one part water but it doesn’t need to be exact, it’s quite fun to experiment with variations. You can also add some food colouring if you want to.
Marble with Foam and Food Colouring
If you have any shaving foam left, you can use it to create beautiful marbled effects. You need paper or card, shaving foam, liquid food colouring, some trays and a long ruler. See our food colouring and shaving foam marbling instructions for more details.
Be warned, this one is messy! Moon Sand (sometimes called cloud dough) behaves in a similar way to kinetic sand but can easily be made at home. I’d suggest doing it somewhere that it’s easy to clean up. You need a ratio of one part oil to 8 parts flour. You can use either vegetable oil or baby oil, whatever is easier. Once it’s mixed together you’ll have a soft, sand like substance that will bond together but also fall apart easily.
Hands on Activities for Four Year Olds that can be Done Inside or Outside
These are activities that can be done either outside or inside. If the weather is good then you could also do any of the messier activities described above outside too.
Create an Obstacle Course
You can either do this in the house with things like sofa cushions, blankets and chairs or outside with planks of wood and garden play equipment. We have the most fun when we take turns creating obstacle courses for each other and then see who can complete them the fastest. Simple things like jumping from cushion to cushion, or hoping from one place to the next work really well. If you want to extend the idea further, you could have a mini sports day at home.
Have a Scavenger Hunt
If you want to do this at home you use can household items in the hunt, for example:
- A Book with a dog in
- Any kind of brush
- Something bright pink
- A toy car
- A shoe
- A cuddly toy
- Something you wear on a cold day
- Something with feet
- Something that makes a sound
If you want to do it outside, a park or woodland work well, you could include things like:
- A green leaf
- A brown leaf
- A twig
- A petal
- A pine cone
- A chestnut
- A dandelion
Build the Tallest Structure you Can
This is a great one to do with multiple children, you can either have them compete or work together. Inside you can use something small like lego, building blocks, straws and connectors, magnetic building tiles or something bigger like cushions.
Outside you can use smooth stones, twigs, branches or play equipment.
Build a Fort or Den
Indoors, great forts can be make with pillows and blankets, under tables or by pushing furniture together. Outside you can build forts from fallen branches, tarpaulins or under trampolines. Once the den is built, celebrate with a drink and snack inside, hot chocolate if it’s chilly or lemonade if the sun is shining.
Outdoor Hands On Activities for Four Year Olds
These are activities you need to do outside, although they don’t necessarily need good weather, in fact, some need bad weather!
Have a Toy Car Wash
There is something kids really love about washing stuff (unless it’s themselves, when they seem to think soap will kill them). You can set up a toy car wash with a bowl of soapy water, a jug of clean water and nail brush. Children can start by playing with their cars in the mud and then take them to the car wash.
Along similar lines to the above idea, my children always loved washing their bikes. I think they felt like grown ups washing their cars but with more enthusiasm! Baby shampoo is great for cleaning bikes (and cars for that matter) and also won’t dry out their hands too much.
Go Rock Pooling
If you live close enough to the coast for a day at the beach then rock pooling is a great hands on activity for four year olds to try. They’ll need a bucket to collect what they find and a net if they aren’t confident picking things up that might be slimy or alive. Water shoes are also really useful as rocks can be sharp and slippery for bare feet.
Jump in Muddy Puddles
This is the simplest activity but also one of the most fun. While you can jump in puddles pretty much anywhere when it’s rained, real muddy puddles that you find in a woodland area are definitely the most fun. Wellies are a must and you can add other waterproofs but there’s nothing wring with getting soaked if you aren’t far from home. Once you’re, done chuck the clothes in the washing machine, the children in the bath and get the hot chocolate on.
Leaf and Bark Rubbings
All you’ll need for this is some paper or white fabric and some crayons, ideally chunky ones. For leaf rubbings you can collect some leaves when you’re out and about and then do the rubbing at home. Simply lay the paper or fabric over the leaf and use the long edge crayon to rub over it, creating the pattern of the leaf’s veins on the paper.
For bark rubbings you’ll need to take your crayons out with you. Fabric is slightly easier to use for bark as it folds over the curve of the tree better but paper will work too. Juts hold your fabric or paper against the tree and use the long edge of your crayon to rub over it, creating the bark pattern on your paper or fabric.
Go to the Park
If this is something you do a lot then it’s possible that your 4 year old is a bit bored of it so why not try a park tour? We made it our mission to visit every park and playground in our town, both large and small. My children loved visiting different playgrounds and discovering new equipment. They also enjoyed talking about their favourites and what makes a good park.
Crabbing involves catching shore crabs, it’s done at places like harbours, piers and dedicated crabbing lakes. All you need is a crabbing line, a bucket and some bait, bacon is their favourite. You can’t eat shore crabs so once you’ve had a good look at them you release the back into the water. Check out our advice for crabbing with kids.
Make Mud Pies (The Activity I did when I was Four Years Old!)
This is something I did as a child and my children have loved doing too. It doesn’t have to be pies, magic potions have also been popular with my children and I used to make some questionable “perfumes” with water and flower petals. A few old containers, a jug of water and access to mud and plants is all they need. We always enjoyed experimenting by making different consistencies of mud.
Go Pond Dipping
If you have a pond in the area then pond dipping is great fun. You’ll need a net to dip with and a container to put your “dips” in, a white or light coloured tray is ideal. If you want to keep it really simply you can just take a light coloured or clear container, scoop some water out and see what you get. A magnifying glass also adds to the fun and it’s useful to have a pond dippers guide handy to help you identify what you find.
If you’re lucky enough to get some snow then snow painting is a great activity to do with a four year old. All you need to do is mix up some water and food colouring to create some “paint” and then, once you’re all wrapped up, you can paint to snow with it, either using brushes or droppers. To find out more, check out our post on snow painting.
Hands on Activities for Four Year Olds You Can Set Up in Minutes
These activities are great if you need to engage you child quickly and don’t have a lot of time to prepare an activity.
- Small world play with shaving foam
- Build something with connectors
- Play dough restaurant
- Create an obstacle course
- Build a tall structure
- Jump in Muddy puddles
- Go to a park
- Do a bark or leaf rubbing
- Make mud pies
Activities for Four Year Olds that Don’t Make Much Mess
This is hard for me because I’m a big fan of messy play but these are the tidiest hands on activities for four year olds.
- Build with connectors
- Do a scavenger hunt
- Do a leaf or bark rubbing
- Paint the snow
- Go to the park
The Most Fun Hands on Activities
These are the activities my children loved the best when they were four.
- Mad Science
- Play Dough Restaurant
- Make gloop
- Moon sand
- Build a fort or den
- Jump in muddy puddles
- Make mud pies
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