What you need to know

Toddlers and preschoolers require more parental supervision than older children, which means that marketing to this age group involves marketing to parents as well. Working parents must balance two shifts, the “first shift” spent as an employee and the “second shift” spent as a parent. Working double shifts often results in parents feeling overwhelmed, guilty, stressed out, and tired.

Most parents describe an ideal interaction with their 2-5-year-olds as “educational,” “creative,” and “fun.” Attitudes and preference differences between moms and dads ultimately influences the types of activities chosen. Moms prefer to shop with their young children while dads opt for digital entertainment, often via tablet, computer, and/or television. Younger dads and older moms are likely to choose self-directed activities that children can do on their own. Meanwhile, older dads seek activities that increase a child’s social intelligence. Finally, young moms are focused on raising physically active kids; they are adamant about outdoor play with their children.

This report closely examines how parents spend time with their toddlers and preschoolers, including an analysis of demographic factors, such as gender, household income, race, and age. These factors determine interactions, activities, and the child’s influence on parent’s time. The report also covers topics such as in-home activities, out-of-home activities, sources used by parents to find activities, desired qualities in activities, parent perceptions of children’s TV shows, and attitudes toward activities.

Readers of this report may be interested in the analysis presented in Mintel’s Marketing to Kids and Tweens – US, May 2014, Activities of Kids and Teens – US, November 2013, and Black and Hispanic Moms – US, January 2014.


The focus of this report centers on how parents (namely, moms) spend time with their children aged 2-5 years – specifically the activities that parents do with their children and their motivations behind what activities they choose.

For the purposes of this report, Mintel defines toddlers and preschoolers by age. In 2014, toddlers are aged 2-3 years and preschoolers are aged 4-5 years. This report is based on a survey of parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers, not the children themselves.

Value figures throughout this report are at rsp (retail selling prices) excluding sales tax, unless otherwise stated.

Data sources

Consumer survey data

For the purposes of this report, Mintel commissioned exclusive consumer research through GMI to explore parents’ attitudes and behaviors toward activities done with their toddlers and preschoolers. Mintel was responsible for the survey design, data analysis, and reporting. Fieldwork was conducted in January 2014 among a sample of 796 adults aged 18+ who are parents/guardians of a child aged 2-5 living in the household, with access to the internet. Quotas were set to ensure the respondents were proportionally balanced based on age, income, and gender. Mintel also set quotas based on the age of the child to ensure adequate representation within groups aged 2-3 and 4-5.

Mintel selects survey respondents so that they are proportionally balanced to the entire US adult population based on the key demographics of gender, age, household income, and region. Mintel also slightly oversamples, relative to the population, respondents that are Hispanic or Black to ensure an adequate representation of these groups in our survey results. Please note that our surveys are conducted online and in English only. Hispanics who are not online and/or do not speak English are not included in our survey results.

Mintel has also analyzed data from Experian Marketing Services, using the Fall 2013 NHCS (Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study).

The Experian Marketing Services, Simmons NHCS was carried out during November 2012-December 2013 and the results are based on the sample of 3,791 adults aged 18+ with children younger than age 6 living in the household, with results weighted to represent the US adult population.

Additional data from Experian Marketing Services, Simmons NHCS Adult Study 12-month are included for 2009-13.


  • Experian Marketing Services, Fall 2013 Simmons NHCS Adult Study 12-Month.

  • Experian Marketing Services, Fall 2012 Simmons NHCS Adult Study 12-Month.

  • Experian Marketing Services, Fall 2011 Simmons NHCS Adult Study 12-Month.

  • Experian Marketing Services, Fall 2010 Simmons NHCS Adult Study 12-Month.

  • Experian Marketing Services, Fall 2009 Simmons NHCS Adult Study 12-Month.

While race and Hispanic origin are separate demographic characteristics, Mintel often compares them to each other. Please note that the responses for race (White, Black, Asian, Native American, or other race) will overlap those that also are Hispanic, because Hispanics can be of any race.

Abbreviations and terms


The following is a list of abbreviations used in this report:

ATUS American Time Use Survey
GNPD Global New Products Database
NHCS National Hispanic Consumer Study (Experian Simmons)


Generations are discussed within this report, and they are defined as:

World War II/Swing generation Members of the WWII generation were born in 1932 or before and are aged 82 or older in 2014. Members of the Swing Generation were born between 1933 and 1945 and are aged 69-81 in 2014.
Baby Boomers The generation born between 1946 and 1964. In 2014, Baby Boomers are between the ages of 50 and 68.
Generation X The generation born between 1965 and 1976. In 2014, Gen Xers are between the ages of 38 and 49.
Millennials* The generation born between 1977 and 1994. In 2014, Millennials are between the ages of 20 and 37.
iGeneration The generation born between 1995 and 2007. In 2014, iGens are between the ages of 7 and 19.
Emerging generation The newest generation began in 2008 as the annual number of births declined sharply with the recession. In 2014 members of this as-yet-unnamed generation are younger than age 7.

*Also known as Generation Y or Echo Boomers

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