Inflatable bouncers aren’t really new, but they’ve never been more popular - especially among young families. It’s becoming more and more common to see them in yards and driveways in and around your neighborhood, and they’ve become a mainstay at many festivals and carnivals.
Part of the reason for their popularity is that they are a tremendous amount of fun! Watch any kid as they walk by an inflatable and you’ll see what I mean. And if you’re a parent then you already know what I mean - your kids have probably begged you a hundred times to jump in a bouncer.
From the parent’s perspective, bounce houses are a relatively safe, moderately-priced form of entertainment that kids love. Of the parents I know who have bought inflatables, zero of them regret it and most own more than one! We’ve all had those moments as parents when we just need to put things on cruise control. An inflatable bouncer, funny as it may sound, can be a friend in your corner who can help you corral your kids and get their energy out in a semi-productive manner.
Despite their gain in popularity, many parents haven’t been introduced to the core fundamentals of inflatable bounce houses, including safety measures, best practices and buying principles. This guide is my attempt at giving you all the information you’ll need to make the right decision for you and your kids.
Basic Bounce House Principals
A bounce house is essentially a large air-filled cushion that is powered by a constant supply of air. After initial inflation, a bounce house maintains proper pressure by releasing some air from its seams, and that air is replaced by fresh air coming in from the blower motor.
Continuous Air Flow
This cycle continues until you disconnect the air supply from the inflatable and it is allowed to deflate (or until you unplug the power for the blower and the unit slowly deflates). As your kids jump on the bouncer, the force generated by the blower provides the extra bounce. Taking proper care of not only your inflatable but also your blower will ensure consistent performance and a long life.
Little Tikes Jump and Double Slide Bouncer
- Tall, protective walls surround a large jumping area, including 2 big slides with side rails
- Product Size :168.00''L x 108.00''W x 84.00''H(Inches), Inside bouce area : 85.00"L x 71.00"W x 46.00"H (inches)
- Mesh door closes to protect children and allow parents to watch the fun
- Stakes anchor the bouncer firmly in place while heavy-duty blower provides continuous airflow
- Built of puncture-resistant material with durable mesh netting, Includes heavy-duty blower with GFCI, stakes, repair kit and storage bag
If you’re buying a new bounce house, it should come with a blower designed for use with your model. The blower must remain plugged in the entire time the bouncer is inflated, and it is generally recommended that you do not use an extension cord as this can reduce the amount of power it is able to draw from your outlet. Less power provided means less air moving through the unit and less bounce and stability for the kids who are using it.
Your bounce house will have a tube, made of the same material as the house itself, that you connect to the blower to inflate the unit. Ensuring that you have this tube fully extended with no kinks or bends will give you the best bouncing experience.
Bouncers are generally constructed of vinyl (also commonly called PVC), nylon or some similar material, and feature various degrees of cross-hatching and other techniques meant to increase the strength of the material. Residential models are more likely to be built with much lighter material compared to their heavy-duty commercial counterparts but with many well established brands you can always find an option that will be reliable for your family.
Setting Up Your Bounce House
Depending on the specific model, setting up your bounce house might be a task that requires help from one or more people. A typical residential bouncer weighs anywhere from 30 to 60 pounds and because it is so awkward when rolled up it can be very difficult to handle. Plan on needing help, especially your first time, and you’ll be very happy you did.
In general, the safest place to set up your bouncer is on a flat, grassy surface. You want to have as much open room on all sides of the bouncer as you can, and you want to be sure the path to all entrances and exits are clear. Kids get wild when they play on these things - they’ll be so excited, they won’t be watching where they walk as they circle around the unit.
You shouldn’t have to worry about damage to grass from using a bounce house, but you should make effort to keep it away from trees, bushes and shrubs that could be harmed (or harm the bouncer). An important step in preventing damage to your grass is to take the bouncer down and put it away once you’re done. This will allow your lawn to breathe and recover.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the point where the blower attaches to the unit. There will be a supply tube, several feet long, that must be kept straight and kink-free during operation. You’ll also need to plug the blower into an outlet (preferably without using an extension cord). Keep these in mind when you’re deciding where and how to orient your bouncer. Plan ahead and your kids will have a safe and fun time.
Once the blower is connected, it’ll typically take between 60 seconds and 3 minutes for your bouncer to fully inflate. The blowers move an astonishingly large amount of air in a short period of time. You’ll be amazed at how fast some of these units can inflate.
You will hear air escaping from the seams as the unit is in operation. Remember, the blower has to remain powered on the entire time, and much of the air that is generated eventually ends up escaping through the seams. It’s all normal and there’s usually nothing to worry about. Trust your gut - you’ll be able to tell if there’s ever a real problem.
A bounce house will typically have four to eight straps which are usually used along with a set of stakes to secure the unit to the ground. Always use caution when driving in the stakes. Something I strongly encourage you to do as well is cover the heads of the stakes once they’re driven into the ground. This will help turn any potential serious injury into a minor bump in case a child runs into one.
A less desirable, but perfectly safe way to set up your bouncer is on a concrete or asphalt slab. When you have to go this route, it’s a must to lay down a tarp or some type of mat under the bouncer. This is less about the bouncer - the vinyl can definitely handle being placed directly on a hard surface - but more about the kids. Having a large tarp under the bouncer helps make sure that you get minor bumps instead of skinned knees.
Another must when setting up on concrete is some mechanism to secure the inflatable to the ground. As mentioned, the bouncer will have several straps typically used with stakes to secure it to the ground. This is where you have to get a little creative, but this part is not optional. You have to use sandbags or some other source of weight and attach them to the anchor straps to secure the unit to the ground. I can’t stress enough that this is not optional when setting up on a hard surface.
Many residential bounce houses are small enough to be set up indoors. A standard eight foot ceiling is high enough to accommodate most that fall under the residential category. You must make sure that there will be enough clearance for your kids to jump - mine can typically go 2-3 feet off the surface of the bouncer - so make sure there’ll be enough headroom for them to really jump. All reviews you’ll find on this site will indicate whether a bouncer can generally be used indoors but, as always, common sense rules all and your individual results will vary.
Safety and Proper Usage
As with most things in life, the key to getting true fun and enjoyment out of your bouncer is to follow common sense rules and read the manual. When you do that, your kids will avoid bumps and bruises and will truly love the bouncing experience.
The general verdict when it comes to inflatable bouncers and safety is that they are safe and fine for children to use when used properly. As compared to other similar types of equipment such as trampolines and playground equipment inflatable bounce houses are much safer for your children.
There are some general, common sense rules you can apply when your kids use a bounce house. Before entering, kids have to take shoes off, empty their pockets and take off jackets or anything with zippers, etc. Once inside the bounce house, no pushing and shoving, watch out for others and keep an eye on little ones. Usually kids are pretty good about following the rules if you’re clear and firm.
A top guideline that is important to follow, and one that will be specified in every owner’s manual, is the total weight limit as well as the individual weight limit of each kid. By following the guidelines laid out in your owner’s manual, you will ensure that the bouncer doesn’t become damaged from being overloaded.
With that said, manufacturers definitely err on the side of caution when it comes to their weight limits. At the end of the day, you can get a pretty good feel for what each bouncer can take. And when it comes to adults using them, you’re generally safe if you’re in for a short burst. It’s not really a good idea to jump while you’re in there, but at the end of the day these things are basically big air mattresses.
Each bouncer will also tell you how many kids can jump at once. Use common sense here - just like with the weight limits, they have to be cautious with these numbers. You can usually get away with letting one or two more kids in. Just don’t go crazy and double the number and you should be alright.
A common question people have is whether or not adults can go inside the bouncer. Paying attention to weight limits is important, but it’s generally safe for adults to go inside. As long as you don’t actually jump with your kids, everything should be just fine.
Weather and other Hazards
Care should be taken to avoid setting up your bouncer in hazardous conditions. Failing to properly anchor your unit to the ground, or setting it up in windy or stormy conditions can be incredibly dangerous and will cause much more harm than good. Again, common sense goes a long way in ensuring your family’s good time.
Last but not least, the most important rule when it comes to a bounce house or inflatable slide is that an adult must be present and actively supervising at all times. Nearly all the accidents that I’ve seen happen in a bounce house could have been prevented had an adult been providing more active supervision. It’s more work upfront, but you’ll have a better time overall.
Storage and Repair
Storing your bounce house is usually pretty simple. Most times, if you buy a new unit, it will come with a canvas storage bag that you can use for long-term storage.
If you bought your unit used or it didn’t come with a storage bag you can usually find a plastic storage bin that’ll fit your particular bouncer. Check your local Walmart or Target. With plenty of sizes to choose from, it should be pretty easy to find the right one for you. If you do go this route, I highly recommend that you get a container with wheels, and get one that feels heavy-duty enough to handle the job. Remember, these things can get heavy.
No matter what container you use to store your bouncer, it’s important to take time and use care when rolling it back up to ensure smooth and easy storage. Let the unit fully deflate. This depends on your unit, but usually just takes a few minutes. You may have to help the process along by lifting up any parts of the bouncer that are holding the air tube(s) closed. Leave the air hoses open when you’re folding it up.
Once the unit is fully deflated, make sure you have it fully stretched out on the ground or floor. With it fully stretched out, it’s time to start folding it. In general, you want to try to fold it in half two to three times. Once you have the bouncer folded up, start rolling it until you have a nice, compact bundle. It’ll be much easier to put this bundle back in the storage container than if you had just bunched it all up or rolled it without folding.
When it comes to choosing a bounce house, the sheer number of choices might have you second-guessing the whole thing. Knowing where and how you plan to use the bouncer will go a long way toward ensuring your satisfaction. Once you know that, you can see the features that are available at a particular size.
Size and Space
Before choosing a bouncer, you must first ask yourself where you’ll be using it most often. Using it outdoors obviously gives you much more space to work with, but you may be surprised at how many bouncers fit indoors these days.
Once you’ve decided where you’ll use it, most parents generally try to buy as large of a unit as they can to maximize the experience for their kids. This definitely depends on features - if you want a big slide or a basketball hoop you’ll probably trade that for a larger bounce area - but I don’t know a single parent who wishes they bought a smaller bouncer than they did.
The main driving force behind your purchase is probably one or more specific features you’re after. Inflatables these days come in many varieties, from standard bounce houses to inflatable water slides and even full-blown obstacle courses.
Another thing to consider is whether you plan on having older kids and adults use the bouncer as well. To be clear, when I say “use” the bouncer, I mean really use it. If the parents are going to be jumping or sliding as well, you’ll need to know this going into your purchase. While most retail models have no problem supporting one or two adults who crawl in to help, they’re definitely not okay to jump in.