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What is a Bounce House?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2014
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A bounce house is an inflatable structure that is often seen at children’s birthday parties, county fairs and various festivals. The bounce house can range in shape from a simple enclosed bouncy area, to large “houses” of several styles. For instance, a bounce house might be a castle, might have more than one story or level and could feature a bounce slide. These structures are very popular with children (and with some adults too), and were first developed in the late 1950s.

The original bounce house is a stripped down version of today’s incarnations. Initially, the first bouncy surfaces of this type weren’t even enclosed. This was not a good idea, since children could easily bounce themselves off the structure to annoyance at least, and injury in worse case scenarios. The early bounce house was meant to reproduce the sense that the person using it was walking in space or on the moon. In fact, the first manufacturer, John Scurlock, called his bounce houses Space Walks.

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Space Walks were popular from the get go, especially with the focus on the Space Race. The initial bouncing structure was little better than a large, high inflatable mattress. Of course if you’ve ever inflated a mattress and have children, you already know that this alone is enough to provide entertainment for hours. Walls for the Space Walk weren’t added until the latter half of the 60s, and by then, you’d see the bounce house in the US mostly called the Moonwalk, especially after 1969.

Usually the bounce house has a much tougher exterior than your average inflatable mattress for camping. It’s made of thick layers of rubber, vinyl or nylon. Since bouncing can quickly deflate the bounce house, you’ll find most are constantly refilled with electric fans. These may be plugged in or may be powered by portable generators depending on the location of the bounce house.

Most often, only children of a certain age and size use the bounce house. Adults, especially in very small bounce houses can quite easily bounce themselves into an accident. So can children; collisions are common. It’s wise to restrict the number of bouncing children to the recommended amount by the manufacturer, and remove any children seized with a Tigger-like impulse to improperly bounce into others. An overfull bounce house can mean kids bumping into each other, which can make for unhappy times in the bounce house. If you’re using a bounce house at a fair or festival, a well-supervised one is the best choice to avoid collisions and improper use.

If you’re considering renting a bounce house for a child’s party, prices will range on rentals. The more elaborate the house, and the longer the rental, the more likely you’ll pay upwards of 200-500 US dollars (USD). A simpler bounce house can be a less expensive choice, and some can be rented for less than 100 USD. You can buy small “consumer” bounce houses, but these are not manufactured with the same standards as are the commercial ones. They will not exhibit the same durability as a rented bounce house.

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