Bounce houses rank right up there along with balloons as one of my least favorite party elements. At the risk of sounding like an old codger, “those darn things are just plain dangerous!” No matter how many precautions we take, there always seems to be at least one child who ends up in tears. But, kids love them, they come in every theme and configuration possible, and in the great scheme of things they are relatively inexpensive entertainment. So for all of these reasons, I must concede that they are a pretty significant party staple, and something I must therefore embrace, even if it is begrudgingly.

But that won’t stop me from sharing a bit of insight on those dreaded behemoths in the hope that you can avoid some of the pitfalls that come with renting one of these inflatable monstrosities.

1. Check out the company you are renting from – make sure they are reliable. I personally have gotten into the habit of telling the rental company that the party starts two hours before it actually does, just to make sure that the jumpy is set up in time. Make sure you have a contact number for the person delivering the bouncy, and call them two days in advance to confirm their arrival.

2. Make sure you have enough room for the jumpy. Don’t try and shove the thing into a driveway with the access only from the street. Kids are prone to fly out of these contraptions with the G-force of small jets, so make sure there is room surrounding your jumpy and that it is secure (I’ve actually witnessed a bounce house that moved a total of 10 feet due to the undulating motion created by its bouncing captors). Make sure the area is flat; there’s nothing more unstable than a bouncy on a hill!

Some bounce houses are just too big|sophie-world.com

3. Make sure you’ve got enough power. These babies just keep getting bigger and more powerful. Some can take upwards of two whole circuits to run efficiently. Make sure that if you are plugging the bouncy into your house that there is nothing else plugged into that circuit, or ask the company to supply a generator for the blower. Make sure that they bring one with enough power. It should be their responsibility to know what they need, however, you can never assume anything, so always check that the generator you are renting has enough power to power everything.

4. If you have big kids and little kids, consider getting two jumpies, or set time schedules so that only little kids are with little kids, and big kids with big kids. The sheer force of a normal 12-year-old boy colliding with a 2-year-old peanut in braids would make car crash test dummies wince!

5. Man the jumpies. Have a responsible adult or teen watch the jumpy for the following:

  • No shoes
  • Number of people jumping (each jumper has its own limits)
  • Age of kids jumping (mentioned above)
  • If there are slides or other such obstacles, that only one person is sliding at a time
  • That the exit path is clear
  • Don’t let kids run “up” the slide when someone else is coming down

Place a mat at entrance for shoeless children|sophie-world.com

6. Place a mat or tarp at the entryway so that kids can remove their shoes without getting dirty.

7. Be very careful if you are using a jumpy in the rain, or with wet guests. Nothing is slipperier, or can cause a bad fall quicker, than a wet jumpy.

8. Watch out for deflating jumpies. This is actually quite serious and can happen for any number of reasons, such as…

  • Popping a circuit (this can happen if someone accidentally plugs another power-zapping appliance into the jumpy’s circuit; this can happen when people don’t realize that separate plugs are on the same circuit.
  • The generator runs out of gas or turns off
  • The air blower gets disconnected from the power, or the actual tube gets twisted or compromised.

9. Have parents of little ones stand close to the entrance. Nothing is more fun than watching that little 2-year-old bopping around like a piece of popcorn, but sometimes this can be too much for little ones. Make sure that a parent is close by to coax the child out safely.

Warn the parents, bounce houses are dangerous|sophie-world-com

10. Make sure that parents realize that there are dangers associated with jumpies. Accidents can happen. They still may glare at you when their child bursts into tears, but they can’t say that they weren’t warned.

11. If you’ve hired an entertainer – turn the bouncy off when they are performing. Nothing can make an audience lose focus faster than the lure of what amounts to a giant air-filled pillow.

I hope I haven’t taken all the fun out of your party or discouraged you from renting a jumpy -- I just speak from years and years of experience! I’ve found that as long as you plan for the worst, nothing happens, which is exactly what you want. As the Boy Scouts say, “Be prepared!”