Bounce houses are a fun and entertaining way for kids to spend hours at a party, event, or gathering. Unfortunately, they facilitate wild physical activity, and this can cause injury. It’s important to keep safety in mind any time you’re allowing children to play.
Bounce houses are not inherently dangerous above and beyond any standard kids play. They’re one of the safer options, in fact, but they can be used improperly. With that in mind, we’ve put together this safety guide for bounce houses, large and small, for kids of all ages.
The number one tip we can give you for keeping your children safe while playing on a bounce house is supervision. Children are clever; they will think up numerous ways to play in a bounce house that put themselves or others at risk of injury, simply because it seems like a fun thing to do at the time. (Some people never grow out of this attitude.)
Make sure that at least one parent is supervising children who are using a bounce house. Ideally, this parent is watchful, not distracted, and has a close-by, clear view of what is happening inside the bounce house. It’s also beneficial if this parent has first aid training and can administer aid in the event of injury, from bandages for skinned knees to appropriate actions for a broken bone.
This is doubly important for children under the age of 10, who do not typically have enough foresight and awareness to understand the risk of actions they take. We all know that small children sometimes seem invulnerable to the bumps and scrapes of living, but they aren’t, and it gives them a false sense of safety when doing dangerous things.
Ensure that the Bounce House is Properly Set Up
When you rent a bounce house from us, we come and handle the setup to make sure that it is properly installed, tied down, inflated, and safe to use. We’ve all heard horror stories about gusts of high winds pulling a bounce house away and injuring children, but this never happens when the bounce house is tied down properly. We can also provide supervision for some games and inflatables.
If you’re renting from another company or purchasing your own bounce house, you will want to learn how to properly set it up and tie it down to make sure you minimize the risk of injury. The instructions for this will vary depending on the inflatable, so talk to either the rental company or the manufacturer.
Check for Insurance, Registration, and Legality
Inflatables often have specific laws at the state, city, or municipal level governing how and when they can be set up and used. Many such laws apply primarily to companies renting such inflatables, but others apply to individuals who use them, regardless of who owns them. It can be worthwhile to talk to your city representative to see if they have any insight into specific laws and regulations or can help you locate any that might be applicable.
We’re based in Texas, and as such, we’re very familiar with the regulations for our area. In fact, we even wrote a post about it. If you want more insight into the laws relevant to Texas audiences, feel free to give it a look.
In general, if you’re renting an inflatable from a company, you want to make sure that the company is registered and insured. How you look up that information will vary from state to state.
Ban Prohibited Items
A key part of bounce house safety is making sure that nothing gets inside the bounce house that shouldn’t be there.
- Anything sharp. Sharp items are not just a risk to children, they are a risk to the integrity of the bounce house itself. Damage to the bounce house can cause worse problems and worse injuries.
- Food and drink. Food can be a choking hazard. Food is also messy and a spilled beverage can be a slipping hazard in an inflatable. It also requires cleaning and can cause problems with your rental company later. Some harder pieces of food can also be dangerous, like small chicken bones.
- Hard toys. Anything that could hurt if you land on it should be banned from the bounce house. This includes blocks, dolls, dart guns, figurines, and other toys.
- Jewelry and glasses. Jewelry can be a hazard if it catches on something inside the bounce house, and sharp jewelry can cut the surface of the bounce house. Jewelry such as earrings can get caught and tear skin, necklaces can choke, and glasses can break.
It’s important that whoever is supervising the bounce house checks over all children entering the inflatable. Children love to smuggle contraband where they shouldn’t, regardless of the safety concerns, so be thorough.
Monitor and Restrict Activity
Bounce houses are designed for jumping and bouncing. Somersaults, flips, and other forms of roughhousing and horseplay can be dangerous to limbs and joints. Most bounce house injuries come from inappropriate play, so make sure whoever is supervising is able to keep an eye on the activity level and put a stop to anything excessive.
Take Shoes Off
Shoes meet the criteria of several other rules on this list. They’re hard and hurt when landing on them. They turn a hurtling child into a dangerous object to other children. They can damage the bounce house, or get caught more easily than a foot in a sock. They can also track in dirt and rocks, which can further be hazardous within a bounce house. Make sure any child entering takes their shoes off before climbing through the entry-way.
Place the Bounce House in a Flat, Open Location
Different bounce houses will have different requirements for the space they need to operate properly. Larger inflatables often require large open spaces with not just horizontal, but vertical clearance. Make sure your chosen area doesn’t have low-hanging tree branches, power lines, or other hazards that could get in the way.
A flat location is essential for safety. A yard is ideal, where the ground is slightly softer than pavement. A parking lot or driveway can also work, so long as there are places the bounce house can be tied down nearby.
You also want to make sure the open face of the bounce house is both protected and open. There’s always a small risk of a flying child exiting through the entrance at high speed, though care should be taken to avoid this. Making sure the entrance is open also prevents access issues if an injury occurs or if a child simply wants to exit.
Choose a Bounce House of Appropriate Size
The age and number of children participating in your event will determine how large a bounce house you should rent, or if you should rent more than one. Smaller bounce houses have smaller capacities. Remember that there are bounce houses for children of nearly all ages, from toddlers with small, toddler-friendly bounce enclosures, to other options such as larger inflatables and obstacle courses meant for pre-teens.
In some cases, it may be better to segment your audience to ensure that the appropriate groups of children are playing at an appropriate activity level. Larger kids tend to be more active, but smaller kids want to have fun too. Allow certain age groups access at a time, or rent several inflatables for different age groups and make sure only the appropriate age group has access to it.
Limit the Number of Children Playing
Most bounce houses have a relatively low capacity. The ideal for safety is a single child at a time, though of course, the children might want to play together. Depending on the size of the bounce house, you may want to limit the capacity to two, four, or five children at a time. Larger bounce houses and inflatables can allow more than that. Be sure to consult with the instruction manual, the manufacturer, or the rental company for appropriate capacity information.
If there are going to be older children at your event who might want to join in the fun, but who are getting too large for a typical bounce house, you might consider renting an inflatable obstacle course or slide for them as well.
Determine Activity Level by the Youngest Child
Another good guideline, especially when you have mixed-age children playing, is to let the youngest determine the appropriate level of play in the bounce house. Older, larger children tend to be much more vigorous with their activity, and that can jostle and injure smaller children caught in the same inflatable as them. If you can’t separate them, supervise them to make sure that the youngest is not in over their head.
Determine Water Use
Some inflatables are designed to be used wet, such as water slides. Others can be wet or dry; some slides and many bounce houses fit this category. In these cases, you should decide ahead of time whether you’re going to allow water or not.
Water-based activities can be fun, especially on a hot summer day. On the other hand, a bounce house needs to be dried out completely before it can be deflated and stored, otherwise, it can cause mold and mildew problems.
If you’re renting a bounce house, make sure to talk to the owner as well. They may have specific rules about whether or not water is allowed in the bounce houses, and will want to be aware of what’s going on in their bounce houses regardless.
If you’re allowing water, consider foam faux water balloons rather than items like real water balloons or water beads. Simply put, the cleanup on anything disposable is much harder.
Be Aware of Weather
Bounce houses need to account for the weather when you’re using them.
On hot summer days, you want to make sure you shade the bounce house, moisten it, or otherwise do something to cool it. Some exposed surfaces of a bounce house on a 90+ degree day can get very hot, and that can be a burn risk for children.
If the forecast calls for rain, make sure your bounce house is allowed to get wet, and that it’s safe when used wet. Not all bounce houses are designed with water in mind, and you may need to deflate and store your bounce house before the rain hits.
Storms can be dangerous for a variety of reasons. Lightning is a big worry, though bounce houses getting struck by lightning is very rare. More pressing is the risk of wind. High winds can threaten a bounce house, no matter how well it is tied down. If the weather turns, make sure no one is playing in the bounce house, and deflate it if possible. Even an empty bounce house can be a hazard if it comes loose and flies into someone.
In general, you never want to have an inflated bounce house when winds are over 25 mph. Many bounce houses are only rated for 15 mph winds, too, so keep an eye out for the rating of the bounce house you’ve been using.
General Safety Applies
As with any event with children involved, things can go wild very quickly. Supervision is usually the key, but you may need to be strict with punishments if violations reoccur. It’s all up to your parenting style, of course; even if you hire us to supervise your event, we aren’t going to discipline your children for you.
Most safety rules for bounce houses are easy, to sum up.
- Keep an eye on what kids are doing, and don’t let them do anything dangerous.
- Make sure no foreign objects make it into the bounce house and remove any that do.
- Be sure to take down the inflatable in the event of high winds or inclement weather.
- Follow and respect any local laws or regulations; they’re in place for a reason.
Other than that, it’s not difficult to run and enjoy a bounce house.
Do you have any preferred safety tips that we may have not listed? Be sure to let us know down in the comment section!