Outdoor toy market rising amid pandemic

Brands can offer designs that encourage outdoor play for kids of all ages while supporting sustainable initiatives as parents look to nature-based activities to bolster their children’s physical and mental wellbeing amid the pandemic.

Kelly Bongrain, a client specialist at trend forecasting company, WGSN, said the outdoor toy market has grown in importance, representing around 23 percent of the total toy segment in 2021, following the pandemic and periods of staying at home in lockdown.

Citing the US NPD research, Bongrain said outdoor and sports toys sector continues to be the largest category with $2.9 billion in sales in 2021, more than double the size of the second-largest category.

“What does this mean for you? Offer the full breadth of outdoor play activities to appeal to children of all age groups. Target a range of health benefits, from achieving mindfulness and relaxation through kids’ gardening to developing young people’s physical skills and confidence with adventurous play structures,” she said in a webinar.

Bongrain said the nostalgic designs in the bicycle and skateboard category can be also revived with digitally inspired pastel tones and personalized add-ons. “Invest in water play (the category that accounted for most growth in outdoor toys, as researched by NPD), with exuberant inflatable toys and coordinating safety gear high on the agenda,” she added.

Bongrain also urged brands to offer children opportunities to test their physical abilities and discover the hidden side of nature.

This, as parents are seeking new ways to entertain the family and develop children’s physical abilities outside with renewed interest and appreciation of time outdoors, she said.

“The benefits of outdoor play are plentiful, from enhancing fine motor skills and balance, to instilling a sense of independence and confidence. With outdoor pursuits an increasingly important consideration for kids’ development, products that encourage adventurous play come to the fore,” she added.

Bongrain underscored the need to present innovative outdoor adventure activities to entertain school-aged children from toddlers to tweens.

She said UK-based The Den Kit Company has a range encompassing den building, fire building, and forest exploration to encourage youngsters outside.

“Climbing walls and domes have entry level appeal and can be customized over time to provide more challenges as kids grow. Pursuits such as archery and slacklining are adopted in a child-friendly way to bring novel activities to playtime,” she added.

On some of the emerging trends in this area, Bongrain listed support for children’s physical development with activities that promote a series of discovery, reviving kids’ wooden playhouse designs with an architectural feel, appeal to kids’ and teens’ creativity with outdoor craft kits that foster a connection with nature, and investing in gardening sets and educational books to teach toddlers about the great outdoors.

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