When our children were small we took them to a Fourth of July fireworks show. One of the features of this show was a bouncy castle. Unfortunately, another feature of the day was wind. We had to hold the castle up twice to get the kids out safely when it tried to collapse on them. The first time we were assured it wouldn’t happen again. The second time we didn’t buy the theory of the owner.
What is a bouncy castle? There are many shapes and sizes for these air filled vinyl favorites. Some allow children to jump up and down inside sort of like on a trampoline. Others are giant slides. All of them are held up by air and should be tethered to the ground.
Injury statistics: A child is injured enough for a trip to the emergency room once in every 46 minutes in the United States because of bouncy castles. The statistics show that between 2008 and 2010 the rate of injuries doubled. The injuries can include the collapse I mentioned above, children landing on each other in the castle, falls and in some cases having the entire structure blow away in the wind.
Are they regulated? While there are calls for regulation, there are no real laws that apply only to these party favorites. The closest thing to regulation is a law suit filed in California because the bouncy castles contain lead. Some countries do have regulations or are working to set them up.
How to protect your children: First, make sure that the owner of the company has a good safety record. Lawsuits should be a matter of public record and a history of them could indicate a lack of proper safety considerations.
It’s a good idea to ask for referrals from other parents. This will give you a chance to make sure nothing untoward has happened with the company in the past.
When the castle is being set up, make sure it is tethered adequately. This is extremely important if the weather is windy.
Watch for signs of collapse before allowing children into the castle or to climb up the slide. If the air flow isn’t sufficient, the entire thing will sag or droop. This is a good indicator that a problem is likely.
Talk to the owner about the possibility of lead in the product. The owner may not know, as this isn’t common knowledge. In fact, even those testing the castles were a bit surprised to find the problem. If you have doubts, you may want to consider another type of entertainment for the kids.
The most important thing you can do is to watch the kids using the equipment. The other parents helped us keep the house from collapsing completely until all the kids were out. If we hadn’t been there, who knows what might have happened?