Bounce Houses

The Ultimate Guide to Bounce Houses

A bouncy house can take your kid’s birthday party to a completely new level. Many parents have found that buying a bounce house is also a long-term investment.  However, inflatable houses aren't just great for parties, they can also be used for weekend play dates.

Not to mention, setting up a bouncy house isn’t as difficult as it was before. It's a easy as taking it out of the bag, unrolling it, connecting the blower and turning it on.  Then sit back, relax and watch your kid’s eyes gleam with joy as the structure inflates itself.

Kids jumping in bounce house.

Bounce houses have been increasing in popularity at children's parties, mainly because they're safer and more entertaining than the alternative: trampolines.  It also provides kids a place of their own without adult supervision (although some bounce houses are so big you could fit in too)

Depending on your personal preference, you can buy or rent an inflatable bouncer.  However, we believe buying a bounce house is the way to go.  They practically pay for themselves after a few uses and can be sold when they aren't needed anymore.

Brief History Of Bounce Houses

Inflatable structures (or bounce houses) were first designed by a mechanical engineer named John Scurlock in 1959. The idea of designing an inflatable house occurred to him when he saw his employees jumping on the inflatable covers for tennis courts.

John Scurlock is considered a pioneer of domes and inflatable tents. One of his biggest achievements was designing the safety air cushion: a device primarily used for catching people jumping from heights or buildings.

When he saw his employees jumping on an inflatable cover, he developed the idea of starting a company of his own called Space Walks. During the same time, a few students in England used this idea to raise funds. Instead of the term bounce houses, people called these inflatable structures “moon houses”.  The name came from the feeling of walking on the moon.

Original bounce house by John Shurlock.

These inflatable structures were widely promoted for kid’s events, such as fairs, picnics and birthday parties. The only problem people had with early inflatable designs was that they didn’t offer any enclosures.  Getting thrown off and onto the hard ground was a real possibility.

This posed a safety threat. Fortunately, a few years later, pressurized tops and walls were incorporated.

Modern Bounce House Features

Modern inflatable play structures don't have any of the old "moon house's"problems.  This largely due to advances in textile technologies and manufacturing techniques.  

Modern textiles have resulted in tougher and more durable areas for kids to play on.  Gone are the days of an overgrown nail puncturing the fabric.  New age fabrics add the extra benefit that they are much stronger for the same weight.  This results in serious reductions in weight making it possible to setup a bouncy castle in minutes and alone.  Ask any veteran rental company owner and you'll get an earful about how heavy old inflatables were to lug around.

The introduction of high performance plastics have also allowed for the blowers to be much lighter.  Old blowers were made of metal and were quite noisy.  Modern inflatables feature lightweight and quiet blowers.  In fact, most blowers of smaller units (ie 12 x 12 feet) are about as loud as a vacuum cleaner.

Modern stitching machines also reduce the involvement of humans in stitching the panels together.  This results in straighter lines and no manufacturing mistakes, all at a lower price.  Modern stitches are also stronger because they have way more reinforcements in weak areas than old designs.  While old "moon houses" could have reinforcements too, the extra manual labor meant that they were much more expensive.

Because stitching is now cheaper than it used to be, designers can add extra features while still keeping the price reasonable.  Integrated slides, inflating side walls and climbers weren't a possibility in the old days.

Types Of Bouncy Houses

Thinking of investing in a fun bouncy house for your little one? Here are the three types to choose from:

Indoor Bounce Houses

Indoor bounce houses are smaller and shorter than traditional options on the market.  To fit inside or in a garage, the bounce area needs to be smaller.

The jump areas typically measure 63 to 100 square feet and are best suited for kids of younger age groups. So, if you're in search of a small bounce house you can store in your basement or set up in your child’s room, this is the perfect option for you.

However, if you intend on taking this kind of structure outside, you will need to keep a couple of things in mind. Indoor bounce houses are typically made using lighter materials compared to other bouncers.  Lay down a thick tarp and secure the bounce house with ground stakes. Keep in mind these bounce houses cannot be used in breezy weather or in the rain. Due to their light weight, they're at high risk of being thrown off by gusts of winds, even with kids inside them

Indoor bounce houses are made of nylon for non-bounce areas while the actual jump area is reinforced using 18 ounce PVC. These materials can be easily damaged by sharp rocks and branches. For this reason, it's best you don’t set up the bounce house outdoors.

Some indoor bouncers don't come with blowers.  They need to be inflated then capped.  Over time, they lose pressure which makes them less stiff for bouncing around in.​

Standard Bounce Houses

These inflatable structures are similar to indoor bounce houses in look only.  However, they're made with thicker materials. They have more reinforcements along the seams and near the entrance.  They also come with a blower which provides a continuous supply of air and pressure to the cushion.

These inflatable structures are slightly larger and tend to be heavier than indoor bouncers due to the weight of stronger materials. Despite their added weight, these bouncers should still be set up on a tarp to avoid being punctured.

Standard bounce house.

Outdoor bouncy castles can accommodate more children at one time compared to indoor ones.  Although the materials could handle more than what the manufacturer recommends, the real issue is safety.  Having too many kids bouncing around close to each other at one time could lead to collisions and bumps.

Inflatable Bounce Water Parks

This kind of bounce house is intended for water use. Standard bouncy houses can be dangerous when wet. However, these water park structures feature additional textures that prevent accidents via slipping or sliding.

When investing in a water park, you can opt for a number of features, including splash pools, slip ‘n’ slides and water slides. These parks are best suited for use during the summers and can generally be enjoyed by people of all ages.

If you are looking for a water slide, which is specifically designed for home use, you can find slide attachments that can be used with pools.

However, a minor downside of inflatable water parks is that you need to wait for them to dry completely.  Folding and storing them when wet could lead to mildew. Rest assured, these few minutes of waiting are totally worth it.

Commercial Inflatable Bounce Houses

As the name indicates, these bounce houses are designed for frequent use and will withstand more abuse compared to their consumer counterparts. If you're an event planner, we suggest you specifically opt for commercial bouncers to accommodate a large number of children.

Commercial-grade inflatable houses are made of multiple layers of materials to increase their durability.  Because they are typically very large, some even require multiple blowers to keep every nook and cranny pressurized.

Selecting The Right Bounce House

If you're a parent looking to buy a bounce house, you need to keep in mind four factors when selecting the make and model: 

  • Your kid's age: if your kid is over the age of 6 and is pretty active, consider going with a larger bounce house.  It'll last a few more years and won't be as susceptible to wear.
  • Your backyard's size: No point buying a massive inflatable house if it won't fit in your backyard.  Just be safe and whip out the old measuring tape before you buy.
  • Your budget: modern bouncy castles range from anywhere between $200 to over $1,000!  The sky really is the limit.  Just be conscious of what your budget is.  This way, you won't get your heart set on a model just to realize it's too expensive at checkout.
  • Buy online: We believe buying a bounce house online is the way to go.  Amazon's return policies are amazing in the event of a product failure.  Returns may not be as easy in brick and mortar stores.

Safety Considerations When Buying

Sure, bounce houses are safe compared to trampolines but if you choose the wrong one, your child can still get hurt. Ensuring the safety of your child begins with purchasing from a good manufacturer. Here are a couple of safety tips you should keep in mind when shopping around:

  • Ensure the bounce house comes with clear instructional information. The bounce house must contain detailed operating guidelines. If the manufacturer doesn't provide an instruction booklet, then ask if it's available online.
  • Look for recalls from this manufacturer.  If there was a recall, then it's likely their entire inventory was fixed too.  Just to be safe, when you receive your inflatable, check to see you didn't get an old version.
  • ​Beware of suppliers that make vague safety statements and claim there have never been any accidents with their products.

Safety Guide For Parents

Nothing is more important than the safety of your child. Keep these important safety guidelines in mind when deploying a bounce house:

  • ​Supervise kids playing in and around the bounce house at all times.  If you can't, deflate the bounce house.
  • Follow all the manufacturer's recommended guidelines. Pay close attention to anchoring and how many children are allowed in the structure at one time.
  • If you have children who are under the ages of 6, supervise their playtime on the bouncy house at all times. For younger kids, opt for bouncy houses designed for toddlers.
  • Don't let kids of different age groups into the bounce house at the same time. A 10 year old falling on a toddler could cause injury.
  • Don't let adults or older kids play in the bounce house if they are too large for it.  Follow the manufacturer's recommendations.  Some bounce houses can accommodate adults but inform yourself first.
  • Don't let kids climb the outside walls.  This could topple the bounce house.  Kids may also fall off and hit the ground.
  • Don't leave the bounce house inflated when not in use.  Kids might want to sneak in and unsupervised play isn't recommended.

Maintaining Your Bouncy House

If you want the bounce house to last for a couple of years, you'll need to pay attention to proper maintenance. Don't worry, it's not that time-intensive or difficult.  However, it should be performed regularly.  Here are a couple of tips:

Clean The Bounce House

If your children will be using the bouncy house every weekend, you'll need to keep the main bounce area clean.  Kids running in and out of the structure will track in dirt.  The best way to clean is with a vacuum.

Cleaning the bounce house.

​Once you've vacuumed the bounce area, you can get rid of stubborn dirt spots by scrubbing them with soapy water and a soft brush. Take special care when choosing the cleaning formula. It's best you contact the manufacturer and ask for a recommend a cleaning solution.  Not cleaning dirt spots can lead to stains.

Cleaning the bounce house won’t just prevent it from accumulating dust, it's also important for safety.  Dirt and debris could get into a kid's eyes.

We recommend cleaning a bounce house after every event.

Sanitize The Bouncy House

Washing the bounce house with soap and water is good practice, however, you'll also need to sanitize it every so often. You'll find a variety of sanitizing fluids on the market but some could damage the inflatable house's fabric.

Some rental business owners use products designed for cleaning and sanitizing wrestling and gymnastic mats.  These products tend to be compatible with bouncy houses.  To be sure you won't damage your bounce house, test the solution on a small area.

Sanitizing is a simple process.  Spray the entire unit, especially corners, and wipe off the excess with a cloth. This will prevent the bounce house from becoming a germ haven.

Dry Completely Before Storage

Once you're done washing and/or sanitizing the fabric, allow it to dry completely before storing it away.  This prevents mildew growth or cleaning products pooling in spots. To accelerate how quickly the inflatable dries, you can use a leaf blower until all the wet spots disappear.

Of course, water parks need to be dried after every use.  Folding a wet inflatable structure will cause mildew growth and unpleasant smells.  In the long run, this may even stain the fabric.

Don’t Use The Bouncy House If It Loses Air

Deflated bounce house.

If the bouncy house suddenly starts to lose air, it's time to get the kids to exit as quickly as possible. Young children may not realize that the bouncy house is losing air so be vigilant.

Jumping inside a bouncy house that's losing air can cause damage to the fabric.  The tarps aren't supported by a cushion of air anymore and the extra 'give' could cause a tear.  The extra slack in the material can also cause damage the seams.

A deflating bouncy house can also lead to injuries.  Without a pressurized air cushion, a child on a downward jump could hit the hard ground.  The safest thing to do is to get everybody out and fix the problem.

Some additional tips include:

  • Remove sharp objects from children's pockets.  Think keys and pens. These could puncture the fabric or lead to dangerous injuries.
  • Teach kids not to push one another when playing in the inflatable structure.  Rough housing could cause kids to bump into another or worse, be thrown out of the bounce house.
  • If the bounce house has walls, teach kids not to bounce against them.  This could cause the whole structure to topple over and result in injuries.
  • ​Ensure that kids have taken off their glasses, jewelry and footwear before entering the bounce house.  This could cause damage to fabric or worse, hurt another child.
  • ​Don't let kids carry bottles, food and drinks inside the bounce house.  This may result in messes that you'll have to clean up afterwards.  A glass bottle or cutlery is also a safety issue.
  • Set up the bounce house away from your houses windows, gazebo, greenhouse, tree branches and fence. Setting the bounce house too close to these can lead to dangerous damage to the structure or injuries.
  • Don't forget that kids may also run around the bounce house when playing.  Try to set it up so it's far from any obstructions.

Additional Kid's Party Ideas

Buying a bounce house is a great way to create lasting memories.  But as you know, there are many aspects to a great birthday party.  As parents, we know this can sometimes be overwhelming.  We figured we'd give you these extra ideas to get your inspiration going:

Hire A Magician

Young kids love magic tricks and will be fascinated by a magician. A magic show is also great for settling down kids after they've eaten sugary foods like cake.

Find Fun Party Games

You can find so many fun party games on the internet these days.  Our go-to resource is Pinterest.  It's an active social media platform that lets others share their findings.  Why go through the effort of sorting through hundreds of pages on Google when other parents did the work for you?

Buy or Make a Piñata

Need a smashing hit for your kid's next birthday party? Consider a Piñata. Aside from purchasing a store-bought one, you can also make one with your kid out of papier mâché.  Piñata are great at building up hype during a party.  Kids know that at some point, goodies will come bursting out.  They also go well with bouncy castles.  Get the kids hyped up on candy and then expend their energy.

Hire a Clown

If your child isn't into magicians, consider hiring a clown.  Like party magicians, clowns have specific skills.  From balloons, unicycling, juggling and even pies in the face, there's a perfect clown for your kid's party.

Give Goody Bags

What better way to thank your little guests for showing up to the birthday party than handing them out an exciting goody bag?  Pack the gift bags depending on the theme of the party and the age of the kids. Some cool ideas include candies, stickers, temporary tattoos and crayons.  Don’t worry, the gifts don’t have to be expensive. Kids are more thrilled at the idea of receiving something than the actual item.  The dollar store is a great place to find items for a Goody Bag.

Conclusion

In short, even the best planned kid’s party can be made better.  Consider a bouncy house.  Not only are they safe, they get the kids moving and spending their energy in a positive way. Hopefully, this article has provided you enough information about these fun inflatable structures.

Leave a Comment: