Inside: These hands-on activities for 4 year olds are perfect for rainy days, quiet time, or preschool at home. If your preschooler loves tactile, sensory activities, we’ve got you covered with these easy ideas you can do at home!
Whether you’re doing preschool at home, or looking for screen-free ways to entertain your 4 year old, I’ve got you covered.
Have you ever wondered: “What activities should a 4 year old be doing?” Today I’m going to share with you some simple ways your preschooler can do some hands-on sensory play right at home. You don’t need any fancy equipment or complicated set-ups.
These activities can all be set up in minutes and will (hopefully) entertain your 4 year old for awhile.
It’s important to remember that all kids are different, and while some might sit and be engaged with a sensory bin for an hour, others might play for 5 minutes and be over it. That’s okay. Interest in this type of play can build over time.
How do I entertain my 4 year old at home?
If your 4 year old would rather run around than sit with an activity, that’s okay, too. All kids need down-time or quiet-time built into their daily routine. These activities are perfect for those times of day.
That being said, regardless of your child’s interests (sports, building, pretend play, etc.), sensory play is important for all kids to engage in. This type of hands-on play, where kids are manipulating different variables with their hands, teaches a variety of things.
Sensory play can:
- Help kids calm down and de-stress
- Engage little ones in STEM
- Teach them to learn by doing
- Encourage pretend play and creativity
And if you’re looking for weeks of “planned for you” activities – I just started using The Preschool Playbook with my girls and it is life-changing.
Hands-On Activities for 4 Year Olds
Disclaimer: All activities must be done under adult supervision. This post may include Amazon Affiliate links. You can read our full disclosure policy, here.
While most of these ideas serve as great independent activities for 4 year olds, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on them, especially when small sensory materials are present.
1. Easy Sensory Bin
The term “sensory bin” might sound fancy, but it’s as easy as pouring some uncooked rice into a plastic bin and adding some scoops!
This bin pictured above is Frozen themed (#frozenfever), but you can easily create a sensory bin with your preschooler’s interests in mind.
Here are some simple ideas:
- Blue rice —> ocean theme
- Green rice —-> jungle or dinosaur theme
- Yellow rice —-> construction theme
- Pink or purple rice —-> princess theme
More on Life with Preschoolers:
- My Stress-Free Preschool Morning Routine
- 3 Year Old Morning Routine Makeover
- Daily Activities for 1 Year Olds
- Screen-Free Activities for Toddlers
How to Dye Rice for a Sensory Bin
Making colored rice is actually very simple – no Pinterest fails here.
Here’s how to do it:
- Add one cup of uncooked white rice to a zip-top plastic bag
- Pour one teaspoon of white vinegar in the bag
- Seal up the bag and work the vinegar into the rice
- Open the bag and add a few drops of gel food coloring (one color)
- Close up the bag again and work the food coloring into the rice
- Place some paper towels on top of an old kitchen towel and spread out the rice to dry
- Once it’s dry you’re ready to go!
If you need more ideas on what type of bin to use, or what kinds of items to add to a sensory bin, this post shares everything you need to know.
2. Neon Painting
This one is messy – but a very fun activity for 4 year olds to do at home. My 2.5 year old also joined in on this one (and made an even bigger mess).
You only need 3 basic supplies to make this happen:
- Black construction paper
- Washable neon paint
- Optional add-ons: wine corks, foam letters, foam brushes, q-tips or cotton balls (these can all be used as alternate paintbrushes)
More Activities for 4 Year Olds…
3. Counting with Beads
If you’re not looking to clean up neon paint from your kitchen table, this is a no-mess, engaging activity for preschool-aged kids.
It should be noted that this activity is not appropriate for a toddler or preschooler who might put the beads in their mouth, as this poses a choking hazard.
Here’s what you’ll need for this simple counting activity:
- Pipe cleaners
- Painter’s tape
- Necklace beads
- Construction paper
How to set it up:
- Tape down however many pipe cleaners you want (usually about 4 or 5 is good)
- Write a number on top (this is how many beads they’ll need to count) – choose a number that is appropriate for your preschooler’s skill level
- Practice with them to demonstrate how to string the bead on the pipe cleaner while counting. This skill is called one-to-one correspondence.
4. Kinetic Sand Treasure Hunt
Have you ever played with Kinetic Sand? It’s seriously fun. Even for adults 🙂 – My girls like it even more than play dough!
This is what you’ll need for this fun sensory activity for 4 year olds:
- Kinetic sand
- Gem stones
- Optional: plastic toys like dinosaurs, Paw Patrol figures, etc.
Here are some simple “play prompts” to get your preschooler thinking:
- How many dinosaurs are at the beach today?
- How many gems did you find in the sand?
- Can you sort the gems by color? How many of each color?
- What are the dinosaurs doing at the beach?
- What shapes can you make with the sand?
5. Magnetic Tile Builds
Magnetic Tiles are hands-down a MUST-own product for toddlers and preschoolers. There are so many possibilities for open-ended play with this type of toy.
This is what you’ll need:
- Magnetic Tiles
- Optional: magnetic surface (magnet board: dry erase or chalk, refrigerator, etc.)
While you don’t need a magnetic surface for your preschooler to build with magnetic tiles, it can encourage them to extend their thinking. The magnetic board pictured above is from Michael’s.
6. Sticky Wall
Once again, we’re Frozen-themed here, but the good news is, you don’t need a theme for a sticky wall to be entertaining.
Of course, if there is something in particular your 4 year old finds interesting, you can easily make a themed sticky wall for them! Superheros? Animals? Cars? Whatever it may be, including their interests makes this activity even more fun.
How to Make a Sticky Wall:
- Con-Tact Paper
- Painter’s tape
- Pom poms, pipe cleaners, cotton balls, foam stickers (with backing unpeeled), yarn, cut-outs, etc. – if it sticks, it works!
- Follow the instructions on the Con-Tact paper for opening. You want the non-sticky side against the wall and the sticky side facing out.
- Use the painter’s tape to secure it to the wall.
- See what sticks!
More Easy Activities:
- 5 Minute Sensory Bin
- Daily Routine for a 2 Year Old
- Best Open-Ended Toys
- The Preschool Playbook (planned out activities and printables!)