Activities to Do with a 4 Year Old Boy....

Updated on February 08, 2011
T. asks from Saint Petersburg, FL
21 answers


I am struggling with finding things to keep my 4 year old boy interested in. Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of kids in the neighborhood so we are home a lot which I am working on but when we are home, he doesn't play by himself a whole lot and I'm finding that nothing I come up with keeps him interested or he won't even try. Like today, I asked him what he wanted to do and he said he didn't know. So, I came up with different things, read books, puzzles, color, draw, play a game. We played one game, put together 1 puzzle (halfway) and then that was it. The problem is that when he is bored he gets into trouble. Then I feel like all I'm doing is yelling at him and I always end up feeling awful by the end of the day because I was really trying hard to find something constructive for him to do but just ended up yelling all day. He is very bright and he is a sweet child but I'm trying to think of things to get and keep his interest. I don't want to just plop him in front of the tv or video games every day. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

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So What Happened?

Sorry, I was kind of vague on my story.....He is in VPK M-F and unfortunately he is in aftercare until 5:30 M-F also. I was mainly talking about the weekends. I know he needs physical activity as well but this weekend happened to be rainy and yucky so we couldn't get out. He LOVES construction vehicles (which he has a ton of) and Toy Story (which he has the characters to play with). He just doesn't seem interested in anything I try to come up with. He does have a train table and cars and a box of beans to play with his trucks in but nothing seems to keep his interest. I'm just trying to come up with some new ideas. I do have him help with chores around the house too.....Thank you for all of the suggestions, they were great! I will try some of them because they are different approaches to what I am already doing and a few things that I'm not already doing. Thanks!

Featured Answers



answers from Orlando on

My kids ALL love to play with shaving cream! (they are 21, 18, 11 and 6). You can just get a can of it and spray it on a table or glass door and let them have at it! It really is a lot of fun and cheap entertainment ($1 or so)



answers from Sarasota on

Don't know if anyone else has suggested this, and I don't know what the facilities are like where you live...but have you been taking him to any local playgrounds? He'd get physical activity and come in contact with other kids. Also, many libraries and community centers have regular programs for preschool-aged kids. Finally, you might want to consider joining a moms group--they typically offer playdates and things like that.
T. F.

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answers from Cleveland on

Not sure how you feel about this, but I have a family child care and two of my enrolled children just come one day a week. They are families where the father works full-time and the mom stays home. They bring their children to have fun and activities here with other children while they get to have a day for appointments or whatever for themselves. It works all the way around. It's like a full-day playdate. Just an idea.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

I probably wouldn't ask what he wants to do, I would make specific suggestions. "Do you want to play with play-doh at the table, or finger paint?" "Would you like to cut up a magazine and glue the pictures or read a book with mommy?" I sometimes have to referee play time, but certainly do not constantly play with my 4-year-old. He will sit and do Play-Doh for hours at a time with a cookie cutters, plastic knives, making footprints with his toy dinosaurs, rolling it out, etc. He has a few "activity bins" he can use when his little brother is napping, including Legos and other toys that are just too small or messy for the little guy.

It sounds like maybe he needs to learn to entertain himself a little better. You could try making a few different sensory activities for him. Get some small lidded totes and have one with dried beans, one with a few cups and sponges for a water activity, etc. He can scoop beans, drive small construction vehicles in them, count them, etc. With water, he can sit at the table and pour it between cups, play with the sponges, etc. If you can get outside and have a garage, try to make a play area right near the front for rainy days so he can have fresh air and take a picnic or snack out there.

My 4-year-old also gets himself into trouble pretty quickly and easily (usually doing stuff with or to his little brother) and it IS a frustrating age, so be patient and try to give him some guidance and options. If you are doing household tasks, give him small jobs to do with you so he is doing something useful and that he can feel proud of, even if it is handing you pieces of laundry or non-breakable dishes to wash. If I'm baking, I have my kids sit at the table and repeat the measurements for ingredients and count everything out with me (which might be why my 2 1/2 year old has developed a recent obsession with breaking raw eggs all over the kitchen).

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

A train table is a good idea! So is getting him involved. It's hard with any kid I think, but you have to have a mixture of you doing your things (like laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc.) and him doing his thing (playing by himself). It sounds like you may have to help him learn how to play by himself a bit more. Break out your pretend play stuff and see if he likes it...things like costumes or small action figures or blocks. He could maybe do it in the same room your'e working in to keep him company. Art projects, if he's into it, is another good thing. Things like stickers, magnets, painting, etc. are all really good and will keep him busy for a bit. Also, you could consider taking some of his toys and putting them in a tub and storing them for a few weeks and then switching them out with the other toys. This will help keep things fresh and interesting. Of course you still want to incorporate times when you do things together like you mentioned, but there has to be a balance and he needs to be able to hang by himself without getting into trouble! Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

My son loves long cooking projects and following the written directions is a great pre-academic skill.

Find a recipe for homemade playdough... you guys can make the play dough and then play with it. That's an hour or two easily. Baking bread, cookies, cupcakes, ANYTHING is great fun.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

My son is 4 as well.

Boys, need a lot of physical activity as well. They are like wild young horses.

Everyday, just have a routine and 'schedule' with him.
ie: morning: breakfast ( you can have him help you), my son for example knows how to cook easy things. He can scramble & cook his own eggs with my supervision.
After breakfast, do some simple tidying up or chores. Have him help you wipe kitchen table etc.
Then, play or run errands.
Do learning activities with him. Teach him counting/the alphabet, whatever you think you want to teach him, or that he is curious about.
Do crafts with him.
Take him to the Library.
Take him to the park.
Let him draw outside with sidewalk chalk.

ANY kid, when they are 'bored'...they do tend to get into trouble.

Kids this age, need to have a routine. It helps. Then they know what is coming up.

What does he like to do? Does he have anything that he likes to do in particular?

Or, sign him up, for a class.
Or an activity group.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

On the weekends, I'd make sure he gets some physical activity. Limit TV (at least with mine, it makes behavior worse), if you can eliminate it. We have movies but they are only used as rewards not daily watching. The train table may not be interesting any more (mine loved it from before 2 (when he got it) to 3 but after that it's just not that interesting). Try Legos (not the duplos, the real ones) my son (turned 4 a week ago) built a fire truck last night. He was so proud. Go for a bike ride and make sure he has time to play alone. Have him help with chores and make sure he knows that when you are done, mommy will have time to play with him too. Also, rotate his toys so that it's not the same stuff out all the time. Hope that helps.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Get a train thing ever for little boys!



answers from Philadelphia on

I have this trouble with all of my kids too. I get up and go out as a rule everyday when the weather is warmer. I let them carry a bucket and we will look for and collect things while we take a walk. They love picking up rocks or leaves or whatever and collecting. I abandon this in the winter time because I can not handle the cold and snow. Shudder. But, if it's nice where you live go for a walk and have a treasure hunt. It'll keep him interested if you change what you are hunting for and the walking route you take. Good luck.


answers from Tulsa on

I try to get my son involved with what I am doing. He helps me with laundry, he helps me push the vacuum cleaner, I give him a smaller broom when I am sweeping, he helps me gather up trash, etc. I try to make these things fun so they don't seem like a chore. Also, you can do TV and video games in moderation. I have a couple of preschool computer games that my son will play. He's learning things, so it isn't mindless. You can also sit with him as he is playing and help reinforce the lessons. My son even started telling me you're welcome in Spanish the other day. Which he learned from Dora. As long as it's educational, TV and games aren't going to hurt him. Also, my son's favorite toys are Thomas the Tank Engine toys. He LOVES them. It seems like every 4 year old boy loves trains, so maybe see if a new toy would hold his interest. Good luck.



answers from Jacksonville on ---check on here to see if any local playgroups are in your area...not only does your child make new friends, but so do you! Your sanity is saved, and you get support for those hard times and cheers for those great times. Solves kids getting bored and allows you to breathe, as well.

There are always a ton of things you can do with a 4 year old, but they have very short attention spans and they are usually ready for a new thing in 10 minutes or less. Add the advice of things to do the others gave to you, add on a playgroup that meets regularly, and you will not only reduce YOUR stress, but his as well...and just enjoy him while he is this little! It passes WAY too quick! :)



answers from Pittsburgh on

We print a lot of coloring pages on various topics and color them. We build a LOT of lego. We build a LOT of tinker toy constructions. DS outgrew his trains at about 3. We fold laundry together (I secretly refold it later). When it is warmer, we kick around a socker ball, throw a ball, he rides his bike, make up games to play outside, go to the park and swing on the swings, slide and climb on the jungle gym. You are really lucky to be able to really get outside all year. (Although we can go sledding)



answers from Miami on

Of all the things you mentioned, you did not include anything where he is moving his body! Moving the body is the only thing that will actually get him ready for school. Most kids these days are not neurodevelopmentally ready to be ina classroom. Sign him up for My Gym, take him to the park every single day. Let im find friends to play with at the park that he can be social with. Make your house into a sensory gym with small round trampoline, hanging bar, swing hammock, crawling tunnels, mats for rolling, and other things to stimulate his vestibular and proprioceptive senses. He will not get in trouble if he is fullfilling his need to move. BTW, a 4 yr old should be in some sort of Pre-K program for a few hours a day.



answers from Miami on

You cannot keep a 4 year old boy entertained 24/7 but you cannot also expect that he will entertain himself if he doesn't know how to do it... He is already 4 and in most states I believe is the age when kids start the PreK program which is free at most public and some private schools/nurseries, have you tried to enroll him on that program? It will let him be around other kids as well as learn self discipline that will hopefully continue when he is home, Other than that, kids love to be outdoors, spare any time you have and just walk around instead of being scooped up indoors, go to the park or if the weather does not permit it then enroll him at the YMCA on a gym class or something that will make him use a lot of that energy only a 4 year old boy can have... There is also T-ball, usually free, and tings like that... Just don't expect him to decide what he wants to do next, I know as a mom you want to please your child and you may think that by asking him and doing what he likes you are doing the best for him but remember you are the parent and you need to set the rules and say what the day will be like and get him into that kind of mentality so that he knows there are rules to follow and he will be happier than left to his own will and wants and then you loosing patience with him because he wants to do what he wants. I am no expert, just a mother of a teen looking back at the things I would have done differently if my kids were little again :D



answers from Tampa on

Have you tried play doh? How about a basin filled with beans and some bull dozers or trucks etc?



answers from Boca Raton on

I can't tell from your post if he is in pre-school yet. If not, you can pick up some activity books for pre-school at Office Depot. They have one that has a LOT of activities. I have a 4 year old girl and I find that when I am home and I have a lot of housework to do that I get her started on an activity and then do some of my own stuff while coming back to her to help. I also find that if you spend a solid 1/2 hour with them a couple of times a day giving undivided attention it goes a long way.
He also may need some physical activities outdoors to get rid of the wiggles.



answers from Tampa on

See Yoka she has helped us beyond belief.
best, k



answers from Tampa on

I'm sure you got every answer in the book. If you're ever interested in a playdate, let me know. I have a 4,5 and 6 year old (4 and 6 are boys) and soon to have a 1 and 3 year old (girls). We visit a lot of the local parks, mainly Denver and Shore Acres Rec center.



answers from Boca Raton on

Check with your local library, home-schooling groups and pre-K
Blessings, S.



answers from Miami on

I'm pregnant with my first child now, but I teach art classes to kids ages 4-12. Many times there are children who just aren't interested in the projects, it usually turns out that they just need a little extra push and attention. It seems like the kids that get bored easily are usually the ones that are a little brighter than the others and maybe they need something more challenging.

Maybe if you go outside in the yard or to a park for the first part of the day and play some kind of sport, or just throw a ball ball back and forth. That could spark some interest and get out some energy, then he might be more apt to play by himself later in the day.

Maybe you can try to use the things that interest him the most and turn it into a project or a game. If there is a movie that he likes a lot, maybe you can find some coloring pages of the characters in the movie.

You can make all kinds of things out of cardboard, tape, glue, glitter and string/yarn. Shields, belts, swords, robots. You can cut out the shapes and even cover them with tin foil. Of course you can buy all of these things in the store but kids are so proud after they have actually made something that they can use.

You're doing a good job!! Just keep introducing new things and through trial and error i'm sure you'll find things that he won't want to stop doing! has a lot of free themed printable coloring pages that might be helpful.

simple crafts and printable games:

finger paint recipe:

play dough recipe:

this is a website for teachers but browse the lesson plans and you might get some ideas, you might need to altar some of the activities a bit to make it more geared toward a 4 year old, but maybe it will inspire you.

Good luck!!

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