Remember this spring, when everyone was trying to buy trampolines, pools, and backyard play areas, and the prices and wait times were ridiculously inflated? We’re about to experience a COVID winter. Translation: You might want to snag the latest toys, games, and indoor entertainment stat — even kids are getting sick of screen time at this point! We rounded up the hottest winter boredom-busting items that are expected to be gone as quickly as a bottle of wine vanishes these days.
Inflatable hot tub
Pools were the hottest ticket this summer, so hot tubs are a natural progression for winter. If you recall, everyone and anyone was looking for a little pool to pop up in their backyard. Expect a similar scenario. I tried the Intex 77in X 26 in Inflatable Hot Tub and found it very sturdy, and it’s a good size for a small family. And for an inflatable hot tub, I have to say, the bubble action is fantastic. It’s already sold out on Walmart, but the Aleko 210-gallon ($518) looks like a comparable option.
DIY backyard ice rink
Your kids have been on Zoom all day. So have you. You need to get their energy out, but it’s freezing outside, and they won’t be lured by a snowball beyond day one of winter. But an ice rink? There are tons of companies that will create an ice rink for you, or you can purchase a kit to DIY. The key, however, is doing this before the water begins to freeze, and everyone gets the same idea into their head. These are expected to sell out. If you plan on making your own, check out Nice Rink, which has kits in multiple sizes — and tons of videos to help you. According to their website, your rink can range from $365 for a NiceRink® 20' x 40' Rink-in-a-Box, to $4,035 for a 44' x 88' NiceRink® Gold Package to $26,000 for a 20' x 40' Refrigeration system.
Don’t want to install yourself? Companies like Iron Sleek will do it for you, but if they’re not in your area, most local handypeople will also do it (it’s not very tricky once you have the kit).
This device became so desired when we entered lockdown, that people were buying it and reselling them for hundreds above the list price. Nintendo couldn’t produce them fast enough: More than double the number of consoles sold in March 2020 than in March 2019, according to market research company the NPD Group. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sales also skyrocketed, up 25 percent from the previous year, according to NPD. My advice is to buy one now, even if you aren’t planning on gifting it until the holidays. The MSRP is $299.99, so if you’re paying more than that, you may be duped.
During the second quarter of 2020, online sales at Michaels jumped by 353 percent, according to Seeking Alpha, an investment news and research company. Buyers were snagging everything from coloring books to DIY sewing projects to crafting supplies for kids and adults. We suggest you raid your local art supply store now, before everyone realizes that they’re stuck inside with rowdy kids who are very bored. The Lego Dots Jewelry Stand ($14.99) will keep kids entertained for hours), and the Red Truck Paint-by-Number Kit ($14.99) is great for budding artists.
It wasn’t too long ago when flour, yeast and even sugar was a hot commodity. Now that Christmas is fast approaching, you can expect that these baking products will be hard to find again, especially as we’re more limited in our winter activities. Since March, King Arthur saw its flour sales rise by more than 2,000 percent (they had to add a fourth distribution center). Plan on baking Christmas cookies or a big chocolate cake with your kids? You may want to start stocking up on your supplies right now.
A fun pre-holiday splurge is the Sugar Plum Cookie Making Advent Calendar available at Uncommon Goods ($65). Each of the 25 days surprises you with a speciality ingredient, baking tool, or recipe, to create six different kinds of holiday cookies.
You get a jigsaw puzzle, and your children get jigsaw puzzles, and the whole family will receive jigsaw puzzles. Okay, we’ll stop pretending to be Oprah for a sec. But seriously, this is the gift that keeps on giving, as it’s entertaining, good for indoor play, fun for all ages and may even help with your mental aptitude (we think). But do you remember that time in March when jigsaw puzzles became so popular that they were nearly sold on the black market (not really, but we did spot parents fighting over them on Facebook marketplace groups, and paying way more than market price for them)?
Ceaco, one of the largest puzzle makers in the country, says they sold more puzzles during one day in March than in the entire month of December. And Ravensburger, a major puzzle brand, saw pandemic puzzle sales exceed their holiday shopping sales. They sold about seven puzzles every minute in 2019, but starting in March 2020, they began selling 20 puzzles per minute, according to Thomas Kaeppeler, president of Ravensburger North America. Expect this to happen again as the temperature drops.
Go old school with Clue, Sorry, Monopoly and Operation. If you couldn’t get your hands on one of these games this summer (Hasbro CEO Brian Golder said the company was overwhelmed with demand, having seen a 21 percent spike in their sales, and supply chains were backed up), you may have better luck now. Goldner said in March that the company was planning on releasing new games and products soon, responding to the global stay-at-home orders. They already released some fun twists on their standard games, such as Operation Pet Scan Board Game (same as Operation, but you operate on a pet rather than a human) as well as a new version of Clue: the Liars Edition.
Bouncy house (yes, for real)
The bouncy house, which Vanity Fair dubbed the “savior of pandemic parenting”, was the go-to $500 purchase for parents with backyards everywhere this spring and summer. According to the magazine, Bounceland sold more than 12,000 bouncy houses between March and June, which was a 350 percent increase from the previous year. They sold 50 to 70 per day since March, and on one single day, they sold a whopping 600. Before the pandemic, they typically sold 10 per day.
There’s no reason to deny your child a bouncy house, even though the weather may not permit it. Many parents have moved theirs into basements and even into living rooms. They’re boredom saviors, entertainment warriors and parent helpers. Check out the Bounceland Castle Bounce House ($237.99) or the inflatable ball pit for toddlers: Intex Inflatable Ball Pit Bounce House ($62.99), both available at Target, as of press time.