When it comes to the joy of a young child, few things are as endlessly entertaining as jumping. Jumping over things, jumping on things, jumping off things, jumping in puddles; it’s all about the jumps. It’s no wonder that trampolines and bounce houses are two of the most popular children’s entertainment toys. Though calling them “toys” is a little odd. Installations, perhaps? Play structure? However you choose to refer to them, we’ve heard it all.
If you want to set up one of these for entertainment, you need to decide which one. We’re here to help you make that choice. Let’s talk about bounce houses and trampolines through the lens of various concerns you might have.
First, let’s talk about maintenance. Trampolines generally don’t require a lot of maintenance. If you’re leaving it set up all year ‘round, you may need to take special care to brush snow off of it in the winter if you live in a snowy area. Trampolines are pretty simple; they’re a frame, a series of springs, a jumping mat, and a net. Over time, springs can break, the jumping mat can tear, and the frame can break, but it’s very easy to go over each with a simple visual inspection. Replacement springs and even a jumping mat are easy to obtain, as well.
Of course, many people don’t do this simple maintenance, and their trampolines grow more and more dangerous with every passing year of sun, rain, and environmental damage.
A bounce house, meanwhile, is more maintenance intensive. These devices require an electric hookup to inflate, which means everything from the cord to the air pump to the hoses to the house itself needs to be inspected and maintained. Bounce houses are made of fairly durable material, but they can tear, especially at the seams, and need repair in order to stay inflated.
More importantly, a bounce house can’t just remain in place for weeks, months, or years at a time the way a trampoline can. A bounce house needs to be turned off, deflated, rolled up, and stored when not in use. That means it’s much harder for a tired parent to want to deal with when a kid wants to play.
It’s worth noting that bounce houses are generally rentals, and trampolines are generally purchased, so this point is kind of moot. More on that later.
Ease of Casual Use
So how easy is it to set up and get running any time a child wants to jump?
With a trampoline, it’s generally fairly easy. Most people simply assemble a trampoline once and leave it set up, allowing kids to go and play on it any time they want. Sometimes it’s disassembled for the winter, but trampolines can be used in the winter just as well, so that’s not always the case.
The only real risk here, aside from poorly maintained equipment, is the mess a trampoline can accumulate over time when left outside. Dust, dirt, leaves, and other debris accumulates on the mat and can make the surface more abrasive, dirtier, and less enjoyable. Even rainwater can accumulate and make the experience less pleasant or less enticing for a kid.
On the other hand, a bounce house requires setup and teardown every time a child wants to use it. It needs to be hauled out of storage, unrolled, plugged in, inflated, and inspected before it can be verified safe for the child or children who want to use it. Knowing kids, half the time their attention has wandered to something else and they’re no longer interested by the time all that is done. Then, once they’re done, it needs to be deflated, rolled up, and stored away again.
The trampoline wins here. It’s easier and more casual for a child to just go outside and start jumping than to have to wait for an inflatable to be set up for them. If you intend to purchase instead of renting, trampolines simply need to be covered and cleaned occasionally.
Safety is a contentious issue between doctors and jumping fans. Pediatricians often find themselves fighting against jumping recreational toys, because of the injuries they see every year.
Any toy has the potential to injure a child. Between trampolines and bounce houses, which is safer?
Trampolines are pretty dangerous, all things considered. Years ago, when they were simply large open bouncy surfaces, the risk of landing on the rim or flying off the edge to hit the ground was very high. These days, modern trampolines have netting around them to prevent that. Dedicated children can still find ways to injure themselves with their play, but it’s less likely than it was before.
Bounce houses, meanwhile, are generally much safer. Often, they are enclosed, and the walls are made of inflated material just like the floor, so it’s easier to bounce off them safely. There’s less risk of becoming tangled in netting and injuring oneself. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, though.
Every year, there are tens of thousands of injuries across the nation stemming from both kinds of devices. Jumping as an activity is inherently risky because even just landing wrong can twist ankles or break bones. In extreme cases, injuries can result in permanent loss of function and in very rare cases, even death.
Of course, that’s no different than just about any other kind of play. Children die from swallowing toys, children die from riding bikes, children die in freak accidents all the time. It’s tragic every time, but it’s not a reason to fear every kind of entertainment.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find specific numbers for injuries to determine which type of installation is safer. Given that bounce houses come in hundreds of different shapes and sizes, it likely depends a lot on the kind of inflatable you get, as well. Trampolines are generally considered less safe, though, for two reasons. First, they make use of a steel frame, unlike bounce houses, which are purely supported by pressurized air. Second, without the safety net, a trampoline can send a child flying to the ground in a dangerous way.
The key, of course, is to not let injuries happen at all. Supervision is the name of the game.
Frequency of Use
How often is your child going to want to use their jumping playground? With bounce houses, it might seem like a high amount, but a large part of that is the surroundings. Most bounce houses are attractive because they’re large, impressive, and colorful. They also tend to be set up for special occasions, like parties and fairs. Trampolines, meanwhile, aren’t that “special” and adorn the back yards of millions of houses across the nation.
Children are more likely to just want to go out and play on the trampoline than they are to wait for a bounce house to be set up for them. Given the option, a bounce house would probably be more fun for an afternoon, but it’s definitely more of a special occasion thing rather than an everyday thing.
Bounce houses also have the concern of out-growing them. Small bounce houses that are suitable for young children only work for a few years before the kids get too big to play on them. Trampolines, meanwhile, can be fun and suitable for children and young adults alike, so long as they don’t misuse the equipment or surpass the weight limits.
A trampoline is likely to win out in the battle of casual, frequent use, but a small bounce house can get plenty of use for a couple of summers before being retired.
Cost is, of course, always a concern. How much does it cost to buy a trampoline or a bounce house? And how much does it cost to rent one instead?
Trampolines can vary in cost depending on the brand, the accessories, and the size of the trampoline. Small single-person trampolines and jump pads, like the 4-foot-wide jump pads for small children, run under $100 to buy. Larger trampolines (the kind that are 15-20 feet across with netting and all) can range from $250 to $500 to buy. Some of the more advanced models, with built-in basketball hoops and other accessories, can be as much as $900.
Renting a trampoline, we generally see prices that work out to be about 1/10th of the cost of the device to rent it for a week. Pricing varies, of course. Some places are rent to own, and others rent by the day or by the hour. Still, if you want to rent long-term, it will be generally cheaper to buy.
Bounce houses, meanwhile, run a very, very wide range of prices, because there are thousands of different designs. Small bounce houses designed for small children under the age of 5, usually safely enclosed, small, and with accessories like a small slide or ball pit, run around $200-$400 to buy. Larger and more complex bounce houses, with larger slides, water features, or more surface area, can be $500 to $900.
The trick is that the bounce house you buy for your back yard, and the bounce house you see at the county fair, are very different devices. If a child has their heart set on the huge castle they saw at the fair, you’d be looking at a commercial-level bounce house, which can easily be $1,500 to $2,000 or more. Very large, ornate bounce houses can be $5,000. There are even massive slides that run over $15,000!
There’s also the added cost of the electricity necessary to run the air pumps that keep a bounce house inflated. Trampolines don’t have that kind of added cost.
Renting a bounce house has fairly broad pricing as well, usually depending on factors like transportation, size, and duration. You’ll usually end up renting for a few hours or a day, and it can range anywhere from $10 per hour to $250 per day.
For a single child, capacity can be an interesting discussion. A small trampoline can be suitable for one person, or up to four or five, depending on the size of the device. A bounce house can range from space for 1-2 small children to 5-10 people for larger and more spread out installations.
Trampolines are also harder to use when more people are using them unless those people are coordinating their efforts. Bounce houses, meanwhile, can be chaotic but a ton of fun when more people are using them.
Really, though, it comes down to factors like how many friends your child has to bring home to play, and is a pretty personal determination we can’t help you with.
Renting or Buying
The primary decision at the forefront of many parents’ minds when looking at something like a trampoline or a bounce house is taking care of it. The costs, the need for storage, maintenance; it’s all a factor. Often, then, the conversation boils down to renting versus buying.
Trampolines are a fixture of thousands of households throughout every city in America. You can see them peeking out from back yards and above fences throughout the year. These people are clearly not renting their trampolines, and indeed, buying a trampoline is the more common of the two options.
That’s not to say that you can’t rent a trampoline. It’s more common to be able to rent bounce houses, but there are companies all across the nation that offer one or the other, or even both.
Bounce houses, meanwhile, are rarely purchased, unless they’re small versions. Unlike a trampoline, which you can leave set up in the yard for months at a time, a bounce house requires storage and care. More importantly, in order to use a bounce house
In general, buying a trampoline is the more effective use of money, time, and space (compared to purchasing a bounce house instead of renting one). It’s more expensive to rent compared to the overall cost of buying one, especially if you expect to get more than 1-2 years of use out of it.
Conversely, it’s generally better to rent a bounce house. They mark special occasions and they’re expensive enough to buy that renting makes sense. Moreover, the setup, teardown, and storage concerns of a bounce house are more than most parents want to deal with. Renting just makes sense.