Why Outdoor Playtime is More Popular than Ever

Jun 30 2020

During the pandemic, the demand for outdoor toys has skyrocketed. Here’s what’s happening…

The last few months have changed the way families play—and YPulse research shows the coming months will be keeping a lot of that play at home. Our most recent survey on young consumers’ summer plans found that 79% of Millennial parents need new ways to entertain their kids this summer because of COVID-19. Brands are stepping into the opportunity with creative solutions like Zoom princess parties and Zen content—but outdoor play is also becoming a major focus. Sure, screen time is soaring (and TikTok and Animal Crossing: New Horizons have been having a moment), but after months of being at home, Millennial parents are also desperate to make sure they get kids outside and off devices. According to the NFD, there was a 51% increase in April for outdoor and sports toy sales over the same period last year, an 81% increase in playground equipment, and a whopping 161% surge for sports activities and games. 

Even before the pandemic began, we told you that getting hands on and outside was going to be a major toy trend taking over aisles this year— and our Playtime trend report found that 60% of Millennial parents would rather have their child play with toys that are not connected to the internet, with 85% of moms and 74% of dads reporting that they want toys for their children that encourage movement and activity. COVID-19 certainly accelerated the trend.

Outdoor toy and backyard adventures company b4Adventure is one of the brands that has seen a surge in sales and demand in products during lockdowns. The nine-year-old company’s family of brands includes Slackers, American Ninja Warrior, Playzone-Fit and 4Fun, and their adventure toys—like backyard ziplines, trampolines, and rock climbing kits—are selling out. Earlier this year, they partnered with UK brand, Plum Play, to distribute modern play structures and outdoor play products to the U.S. as well. We spoke to b4Adventure’s Senior Marketing Manager Molly Ridic about the impact of COVID-19, what’s behind the demand behind outdoor toys and equipment, and what the next generation of parents want out of playtime: 

YPulse: How has COVID-19 impacted b4dventure? 

Molly Ridic: Due to all of the extra time spent at home, parents were looking for more entertaining products for their children at home. We went through three months of inventory in one month and experienced a demand that was more intense than the holiday shopping season!

We heard from so many parents thanking us and letting us know that our products were saving them during that extra time at home by not only entertaining the kids, but also by providing kids with something constructive and engaging to put their focus on away from screens. 

YPulse: Have you seen a change in the kinds of products that people are buying? 

MR: We can’t speak for other industries, but based on what we’ve seen this year, it seems as though the impact of COVID-19 almost reset everyone’s intentions in a more constructive way. Families are going on more walks together and getting outside more oftenif only in their backyardsjust to get out of the house, which is why we have seen a huge jump in our 4Fun line of family games like Cosmic Golf, Wicket Kick, and ChangeUp. 

YPulse: Are you seeing signs that outdoor play will continue to be more common now even after the pandemic? 

MR: We certainly hope so! We have continued to see an increase in demand for our products. There is no doubt parents understand the need for their kids to play outside as often as possible. The challenge remains in keeping kids interested in playing outside for extended periods of time, which is where we find inspiration in continuing to create innovative products unique to the market for more appealing backyard adventures. 

YPulse: Do you think that this generation of parents thinks about outdoor play differently than previous ones? 

MR: A lot of younger parents today barely remember what life was like prior to cell phones and the internet, so technology is a natural center for families today, which is perfectly fine. It just challenges parents with younger kids to get more creative and more disciplined in making sure that kids are getting enough fresh air and vitamin D. 

YPulse: We also found that the majority of Millennial parents think toys should be educational, not just fun. What do you think about that, and how does b4adventure speak to that desire?  

MR: There are different aspects to what educational means to today’s parents. Education isn’t just learning math skills anymore; there is an enrichment factor that parents look for more than they used to. A well-rounded healthy lifestyle is very important to anyone today, but especially parents. So having the opportunity to create products that help educate kids on how they can persevere to learn about the physical strength they’re capable of while simultaneously building self-confidence is something we take great pride in.