Indoor games sell out as Kenyans chess, puzzle away boredom

As Covid-19 gifts people more time at home and with their families, Kenyans are increasingly turning to rolling dice, playing cards, or fixing jigsaw puzzles for hours on end to beat boredom.

In the past several weeks, there has been a surge in demand for indoor games — from chess boards, pool tables, scrabble boards and word power crosswords sets with toy shops reporting a boom in sales.

ToyWorld Kenya, for instance, is recording higher sales than usual and it is putting high-volume delivery plans for the next months with the expectation of more buyers.

“People are buying more board games including scrabbles, Uno, Chess, Ludo and Monopoly especially Kumuliki — the Kenyan monopoly-like game,” said Vinay Shah, ToyWorld sales director.

With rising consumers’ orders, the games are depleting fast, pushing retailers to stock more.

“There is a demand for games played on a table, home yards or shades and anywhere people can gather together,” he added.

In times when most businesses have no customers and some have closed stores, some toyshops estimates that the number of customers buying board games has risen by about 60 per cent.

Their best-sellers are puzzles, Lego, remote-controlled toy cars, and slides.

The toy shop has also seen an uptick in orders for table tennis, bikes, and swings in its five stores, with most buyers opting to have their games delivered at home instead of coming to buy.

Games might also seem to be the perfect business for supermarkets. They are seeing more adults buying games for themselves.

“Sales at leisure and sports section is now high than before,” said John Nduati, who works at Tuskys Ongata Rongai which has sold Monopoly sets, Scrabble Mattel, LudoShakes and Ladder games.

“Chess games for both children and adults are no longer in stock but we have ordered for more. Balls and scrabbles for adults are also selling fast. However, items involving water games have almost stalled and as a result, we are not selling much of implements such as goggles, swimming gear, and floaters,” he added.

Create a distraction

According to Godfrey Muire, in-charge of trampolines at Decathlon, a store at Nairobi’s The Hub, that is recording brisk business, there has been a growing interest in racket sports, games that normally require players to keep a distance. Hence people are buying balls and shuttlecock.

“Most people are buying table tennis and badminton cliparts. However, the same has been limited to squash probably because it is highly regulated in terms of rules,” he said, adding that the store has also seen a rise in the sale of bicycles.

“Racing bikes have attracted much interest from buyers,” he said. While the outbreak has forced most sports around the world to shut down, games have not only found a special place in living rooms and backyards.

In April, demand was on skipping ropes, kettlebells, and dumbbells as the closure of gyms and swimming pools forced many to exercise at home.

Cynthia Mutisya, who has taken a liking for indoor games, says the coronavirus pandemic has afforded her time to play with her father and niece, helping her unwind and regenerate new ideas.

“It has given me more time with my family. I’m learning new things about them. I have also improved my cooking skills. We also talk a lot, brainstorm, farm,” she says.

The family living in Ruiru is currently playing Monopoly, water guns and cards.

“I bought my Monopoly set in a supermarket. It has been a great way of involving everyone. And the fun with allocating tasks such as the ‘banker’, buying utilities, paying fined and others play-out choices instil responsibility that is important in life. We play it for hours, depending on the number of people,” she said.

Even if you do not end up solving a puzzle, psychologists say, the consistency of doing an activity that creates a distraction every day can be reassuring in itself.

Cynthia, who is a nurse, says the games relieve anxiety and stress associated with staying at home, social distancing, not travelling, living alone, and not being able to visit family and friends.

“As a nurse, I value games and fun because of their effect on mental health,” she says.

She has adopted a schedule that includes time for fun from 5pm.

“I grab a cup of coffee, watch a movie, or play games with my family or sometimes I take a walk in the neighbourhood. Other times I try out new recipes or just laugh through Tik Tok and YouTube videos,” she says.

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