9 Rules To Follow To Keep Your Children Safe On Bounce Houses

posted: 07/01/16
by: Ashley Lauretta
group of kids in bounce house

With a big holiday weekend and summer in full swing, parties full of family fun are everywhere. Keeping the kids occupied while the adults barbecue and visit usually requires pools or inflatables such as bounce houses, slides or obstacle courses. Add the fact that bounce houses are one of the joys of children's birthday parties, it is likely your child will encounter them at some point this year.

With recent news stories of children getting injured when bounce houses have blown away, how can you keep your child safe while still allowing them to have fun? It is easy to assume that they are safe--as children are just bouncing on a soft, inflated surface--but that isn't always the case.

"This safety perception is derived from the belief that because the device bounces you (much like a trampoline) and absorbs your fall (much like a pillow of air or stunt bag) that you will be safe; unfortunately, that is not the case," explains Brian Avery of Avery & Avery, experts who offer events and attractions safety services. "A 2015 report by the U.S. CPSC shows that between 2003 and 2013 an estimated 113,272 emergency department-treated injuries associated with inflatable amusements occurred."

Avery notes that most of the injuries resulted from contact with other riders, crushing under one's own weight and falling off or out of the inflatables. But what can you do besides teaching your child to be safe? How can you make sure other children are following rules, too, and that the inflatable itself is safe?

Avery has provided a set of guidelines to follow:

  • Never allow your children on a device that does not have a fully trained operator---from the company (a volunteer from the school PTA does not count). If the operator is not paying attention or controlling entry/behaviors, remove your child from the device.
  • Never allow your children on a device with more than two children on it. Devices should have a total number of participants listed on an information plate near the base of the device, but many of the new devices are being imported from China and the plate is sometimes not there or the numbers they list are outrageously high.
  • Never allow your child on a device that has mismatched participants. A large child should never be permitted to play with a small one (adults included--most of these devices are not built or designed for adults and the max weight is usually 200 pounds --the total combined weight on most devices is 400-500 pounds).
  • Never allow a child on a device that is not properly anchored. There are D-rings on the outside of a device, each D-ring should be affixed to a sandbag (minimum 75 pounds or a stake that has been driven into the ground--not small camping stakes, I am talking 30-42-inch stakes). I am sure you have seen some of the devices that have blown away on video; this prevents that.
  • Never allow your child to use a device outdoors or on a windy day (20-25 mph max).
  • Never allow your child on a device that does not have padding at the entrances/exits or potential fall zones of the device.
  • Never allow a child on a device that does not have a warning/informational plate affixed to the base of the device.
  • Read and follow all rules.
  • I do not recommend adults using any inflatables.

This advice is especially important when you are visiting an indoor play center or renting a unit for use in your backyard.

"The popularity of inflatables has allowed inexperienced entrepreneurs an opportunity to capitalize on the benefits of operating an amusement device---we call these owners/operates weekend warriors, most of which operate out of their garage or at an off-the-beaten-path warehouse," Avery adds. "Between indoor play centers and rental companies, most operations try to put the supervisory responsibilities on the parent of the renter of the device because it is cheaper that way."

Avery likens this to going to Disneyland and being asked to operate the rides yourself. You don't need to keep your children out of bounce houses or away from parties to keep them safe, but following these guidelines and staying aware will make a difference and reduce the chance of injury. It will keep these activities fun for every child, while making sure no one gets hurt.