Schools across the country are closed. Parks and playgrounds are roped off. Even playdates have gone virtual all in the name of social distancing.
Amid coronavirus, families are forced to figure out how to educate and entertain their active and energetic kids all day every day – often while also working. About three weeks into full-time living under one roof, some kids, and their parents with them, understandably have been bouncing off the walls.
One solution: Let them.
To that end, families are snapping up bounce houses, playground sets, trampolines and other yard-friendly activities. And if they don’t have yards, they’re even setting them up inside in place of the dining table.
Sales of outdoor toys were up 20% for the week ending March 21 and toy sales overall were up 26% for that week, according to data from research firm The NPD Group.
Unlike sales of pandemic supplies like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, for now, it’s still possible to find toys online and at retailers including Target and Walmart for in-store pickup.
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Tara Higgins, of West Orange, New Jersey, turned to Amazon to order a bounce house and a basketball hoop for her three kids to add to the backyard, which already had a playground with a treehouse, rock wall and a slide. A Step 2 roller coaster is on its way.
“By the end of this, my entire backyard will just be covered. You won’t be able to see any grass,” Higgins said.
Her reason for the backyard play expansion is for some time to work while 8-year-old Charlie, 4-year-old Ava and 3-year-old Ben play.
“I’m hoping I can sit outside at my outside table and do work and that will somehow eat up an hour,” Higgins said, “They’ll have fun, and my biggest thing is they will get their energy out.”
It’s why Allyson Scrivani – who temporarily moved from her Yonkers, New York, apartment to a small house in the Catskills with her 2-year-old son Patrick for safety –ordered a toddler trampoline, T-ball set and slide. She also bought a folding treadmill for herself.
Before COVID-19, Scrivani regularly took Patrick to a trampoline park, which is now closed along with libraries.
“With a toddler, you have to run them around to get them tired,” she said.
Growing sales expected to heat up
Nick Huzar, CEO and co-founder of OfferUp, said the online marketplace has seen shifts in buying and selling behavior with retailers closed. There’s been 50% to 100% increases for products people use at home including sporting goods, games and toys.
“These are very unique circumstances, and as people adjust to being at home 24/7, they’re changing how they’re buying their essentials and engaging in commerce,” Huzar said.
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Dana Macke, Mintel director of US Reports, said with kids out of school and daycare, toy manufacturers “have an opportunity to serve parents looking to occupy their housebound children.”
“Outdoor and sports toys are already one of the largest areas of spending in this market and this segment is positioned to grow as the weather warms up,” Macke said. “Parents will be tempted to set up swing sets and basketball hoops in the backyard to encourage their kids to get fresh air in a safe environment.”
One side effect: The neighbors may not love the constant loud hum of the bounce house fan and families finances might deflate a bit with the increased electricity bill, but for many the primary result is priceless.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko