As most of you know, I’m a mom of 6 children. I am also a homeschool teacher for my kids. Before that, I taught preschool in a daycare setting.
Yes, I stay very busy! I love my life though! I love watching my children grow and learn. My 5th child just recently turned four years old. He wants to be just like his older siblings and asks to do school time with them every week.
There’s so much more to cognitive development than just workbooks though. Don’t get me wrong, we DO use workbooks at times, but there are also many other great cognitive activities for 4-year-olds to do.
Especially at this age, I have found that it’s so important to give my preschooler plenty of time to learn through play and life experiences and not just by sitting at a desk. Young children need lots of variety to exercise all of their cognitive abilities!
- What Does Cognitive Mean?
- 25 Cognitive Activities For 4 Year Olds
- 1. Go on a scavenger hunt.
- 2. Read or listen to books together.
- 3. Play with a kitchen set.
- 4. Encourage movement.
- 5. Make a Craft
- 6. Have Them Help With Chores
- 7. Get in the Kitchen and Bake Together
- 8. Go Fishing Together
- 9. Play a Board Game Together
- 10. Coloring
- 11. Memorize a Poem Together
- 12. Teach Your 4-Year-Old the Calendar
- 13. Play with Slime or Play Dough
- 14. Plant a Garden
- 15. Puzzle Time
- 16. Building Blocks
- 17. Riddles and Jokes
- 18. Teach Them Songs with Motions
- 19. Memory Games – Get Creative!
- 20. Use Your Senses Game
- 21. Ride Bikes and/or Scooters
- 22. Get Them Involved in Sports
- 23. Have Them Help Care for a Pet
- 24. Make an Obstacle Course
- 25. Play Outdoor Games
- Related Posts
What Does Cognitive Mean?
First, let’s establish the definition of cognitive. According to Merrian-Webster, the definition of cognitive is: of, relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering).
Today I’m rounding up a list of 25 of the best cognitive activities for 4-year-olds to help promote learning in fun and engaging ways.
At the end of this post, I’ll share some links to our favorite items that are perfect for cognitive activities with your four-year-old.
25 Cognitive Activities For 4 Year Olds
1. Go on a scavenger hunt.
Scavenger hunts are an excellent way for 4-year-olds to exercise both their bodies and minds! You can talk about color recognition, identifying items, and even challenge their math skills by asking them to find a specific number of items for each item.
Here is an easy, free printable scavenger hunt, and here is a more challenging printable backyard scavenger hunt once your preschooler completes the first one or if you have older children who want to participate.
2. Read or listen to books together.
My four year olds have always loved reading books together. Reading aloud to your child(ren) is wonderful for their cognitive development! Check out my list of our favorite children’s books.
You don’t have to be the one to do the reading either. We love audiobooks at our home. We listen to them in the car, sometimes during lunch or dinner, and lots of other times throughout the day. We recently discovered the Yoto Mini player and have loved it! I highly recommend it! It’s a simple way to make sure you fit in some time for reading every day, even if your day is super busy.
Another great option for busy parents is Cali’s Books. These books come pre-recorded and ready to read to your children at the push of a button OR you can record yourself reading the book (or Grandma, Grandpa, etc.). They have a lot of the great classics available and my children have really enjoyed those as well.
3. Play with a kitchen set.
Role play playing is so important for child development. Free play is equally as important. Many people think kitchen sets are a girls-only toy, but that’s simply not true! My boys have all enjoyed playing with a kitchen set too! It’s a great way for them to use their imaginations while they act out real-life situations and work on their problem-solving skills.
Melissa and Doug make some great kitchen sets for pretend play. My kids have this kitchen set and have had a lot of fun with it! Don’t forget some pots and pans to go with it for great imaginative playtime!
4. Encourage movement.
Kids at this age have a lot of energy… a LOT of energy! It’s great to look for activities that get them moving. It’s often hard for them to sit still for long periods of time so when you do ask them to sit at length, provide them with a fidget opportunity, whether it’s something handheld, or something where they can get their whole body moving, like a Joggling Board or exercise ball.
How does this look in real life? Well, here are some examples:
- Let your child color a picture that relates to a daily lesson while you are teaching the lesson. Are you teaching him about frogs today? Give him a coloring sheet that shows their life cycle to work on while you read about them.
- If your child has a desk, use a Joggling Board for a chair instead of a traditional desk chair.
- Practice counting while doing jumping jacks together. That’s good exercise for both of you!
My four-year-olds often concentrate better when allowed to move at the same time.
5. Make a Craft
Preschoolers love making crafts! There are thousands upon thousands of craft ideas on Pinterest – maybe even millions at this point! Just search for some things you are currently learning about or your little one is interested in. I’ve got a number of craft ideas on this site, like making a squirrel feeder or crafts using recycled cardboard.
Some children like to follow instructions and some like to do their own thing when crafting. I try to offer my four year old opportunities for both. It’s good for them to know that sometimes they must follow instructions for a project, but other times it’s great to tell them they make work at their own pace and complete their art projects in whatever way makes them most happy.
6. Have Them Help With Chores
Now is a great time to start teaching your child some basic chores. As a bonus, most four year olds are eager to help out and do the chores you are doing. I gotta be honest though, there’s a good chance they will not do it to your standards, but that’s okay! Use this time to help them learn. I have a whole post dedicated to kids’ chores, but here are a few simple chores that four-year-olds can do pretty well:
- Folding small hand towels, dish towels, washcloths, and their underwear. They are also great at helping to match up socks.
- Preschoolers love helping to wash windows usually. You’ll almost definitely still have streaks, but they will be so proud!
- Push a chair over to the sink and let them wash dishes by hand. They can also help unload the dishwasher.
As he/she reaches more developmental milestones, you can increase the difficulty of the chores.
7. Get in the Kitchen and Bake Together
Kids are usually much more apt to try a recipe if they get to help fix it! Cooking a meal or dessert together is a good way for kids to practice hand-eye coordination. Baking in the kitchen is a great introduction to fractions too!
If you really want to make them feel important, get them their own apron and measuring cups/spoons set!
8. Go Fishing Together
I’ve never met a preschooler who didn’t enjoy going fishing. Of course, this activity might not hold their attention for TOO long, but it’s still a great way to get them out in nature.
If you can’t get out to a river or creek, you can always purchase a “fishing” set for home! We have a wooden set from Melissa and Doug that’s been great for practicing matching, counting, color recognition, fine motor skills, and number recognition.
9. Play a Board Game Together
Preschoolers love to play board games and there are so many great ones available for them! I’ve got a great list of the best board games for preschoolers if you’re looking for some new games to try.
Of course, card games are a good option too. There’s a reason why Go Fish and Old Maid are still popular. They are simple and fun and you definitely want them in your game closet.
Coloring is a great way to recognize color recognition and practice hand-eye coordination. We always have a good assortment of coloring books on hand. It’s a fun activity for younger children.
11. Memorize a Poem Together
I have always enjoyed nursery rhymes and my kids do too! We started doing a special thing on Fridays – Tea and Poetry time – and it’s been a big hit! As part of our tea and poetry time, my kids try to memorize a poem that week to recite for everyone to hear.
Rhyming and verse are important for language skills and early childhood is a great time to start working on this.
My personal favorite is a collection of poems in an old Childcraft book that was mine growing up. You can find lots of great poetry books for kids at the library.
12. Teach Your 4-Year-Old the Calendar
Four years old is a great time to add the calendar to your daily routine. We got one from Melissa and Doug which allows us to go over not only the days of the week but also the month, the year, the weather, feelings, and special activities and holidays happening.
We like to go over the calendar after breakfast and discuss our plans for the day. It’s a great activity to get the day started.
13. Play with Slime or Play Dough
Sensory play is always fun for little kids. It’s great for hand-eye coordination, pretend play, and developing artistic abilities. You don’t even have to give them any additional tools for playing with this. Soemtimes simple activities are the best activities.
Of course, if you have a container of designated slime and/or play dough toys, those are great to get out once your child begins to grow tired of just playing with his or her hands.
14. Plant a Garden
This is the first year we’ve planted a garden with children who are old enough to participate. It’s been a great experience so far for my older children but also the younger ones too. They love helping to plant the seeds and seedlings.
It’s a great opportunity to learn about plant life cycles, working with their hands, the long-term benefit of hard work, and healthy eating. Give your child choices and let them help to decide what to plant.
15. Puzzle Time
Puzzles are a great cognitive activity for your 4-year-old! I’d recommend a combination of easy puzzles your child can complete on their own, ones that are a little bit hard that they may need to ask for help to get a few pieces in, and then some really challenging ones that the two of you do together.
Sometimes I will get out a big stack of our simple puzzles and time my child to see how long it takes him to complete all of them. He loves the challenge!
16. Building Blocks
Building blocks are great for hand-eye coordination and imaginative play. Don’t limit yourself to just wooden blocks when you think of building blocks though (although don’t get me wrong, wooden blocks are GREAT and we definitely have some of those). Other things to consider are LEGO DUPLO, magnetic building sets, etc.
17. Riddles and Jokes
Kids love learning jokes and riddles they can tell others! This is good practice in memorization and communication with others – plus as a bonus, it’s fun!
18. Teach Them Songs with Motions
There are so many great songs with motions you can teach your 4 year old! Some of our favorites are:
- Hokey Pokey
- The Wheels on the Bus
- If You’re Happy and You Know It
- Baby Shark
- Father Abraham
- Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
- I’m Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee
- Itsy Bitsy Spider
What were your favorite songs growing up? (PS – Don’t forget how delightful it can be to a child if you change up your voice during a song! Different voices for different characters or movement can really add to the excitement and fun!
19. Memory Games – Get Creative!
We’ve all probably played the classic Memory game at some point where you flip over two cards and try to make a match. That one is always fun for my preschoolers. However, it’s fun to get creative and do other types of memory games too.
For example, one we like to play is where I set out 15-20 objects on a table. My four year old studies what’s on the table and then doesn’t look while I remove one item. Then he has to see if he can figure out which one I took away.
20. Use Your Senses Game
For this game, your child practices uses one or more of his or her five senses (taste, smell, touch, hear, see). First, you’ll need to blindfold your child (except for the sight portion). You give them a clue where they will use a sense to try to guess what the item is. Here are some examples:
- For taste, have them try a variety of different foods and guess what the food is. You could even do this with pureed foods.
- For touch, you’ll want to hand them a variety of items and see if they can figure out what the item is just by touch. You could also set out a row of items, for example, shoes, and then have them tell you how many number of shoes there are by feeling them.
- For smell you’ll want to put a few items with strong smell under their nose and see if they can guess.
- For hear try playing different sound effects or animal sounds (you can find them on YouTube) and see if your child can tell what is making that sound.
- Finally, for sight, try to give your child a portion of the full picture, whether it’s a literal photo of an object and you cover a portion of it, or maybe an item from around the house that you cover most of it with a towel while leaving a good clue exposed.
My kids all love playing these 5 senses games throughout their preschool years and beyond! These are great brain games for your child’s cognitive development.
21. Ride Bikes and/or Scooters
Learning to ride a bike and/or a scooter is a great way for kids to practice their balance. They also need to use their minds to determine which way to turn the steering wheel, when to speed up or slow down and of course, this is also great practice with hand-eye coordination.
22. Get Them Involved in Sports
Sports are a great way for your four year old to get social interaction and develop good social skills. It’s never too early to get your preschooler involved in sports, they are getting great physical activity too!
23. Have Them Help Care for a Pet
There are so many aspects of caring for a pet which are great for a child’s cognitive development. The preschool years are a great time to start having your child contribute to the care of a pet. They can help feed, water, bathe, possibly walk on a leash (depending on size), and play with a pet.
24. Make an Obstacle Course
Completing an obstacle course is great physical activity for your child. You can set something up outside or even in your living room. In fact, one of the favorites at our house involves taking all of the cushions off of the couch and chairs and having kids jump from one to the other without touching the floor.
If they seem to grow bored with that, you can always modify it in specific ways, like telling them they must hop, go through it backwards, etc.
We have this set of plastic stumps and logs that my kids love using to create obstacle courses.
25. Play Outdoor Games
Remember playing Red Light, Green Light, Capture the Flag, and Simon Says? Those are classic games your child can play to practice following simple directions.
Here are some other posts you might find helpful for your four year old.