What is a Bounce House?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

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.

Bounce houses may be rented for a child's birthday party.
Bounce houses may be rented for a child's birthday party.

The original inflatable was 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 their annoyance at least, and injury in worse case scenarios. The early inflatable 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.

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 this inflatable 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 attraction, 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.

Most often, only children of a certain age and size use the bounce house. Adults, especially in very small inflatables 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 house can mean kids bumping into each other, which can make for unhappy times. 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 an inflatable 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 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 the rented options.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


We've all heard the horror stories about a gust of wind taking a bounce house into the air. While this has happened, you should be more conscious of the germs that are transmitted in the houses. Have your kids wash their hands when they exit a bounce house rental.


@Drentel - We all know that when kids get together and play a few tears, scrapes and bruises are par for the course, so you should not expect anything different when they are playing at a bounce house party.

I would advise that you follow the suggestions in the article and make sure that the children are aware of the basic rules for playing in one of these inflatable structures. The adults have to do their part as well.

As tempting as walking away and leaving the kids to play for awhile might be, an adult should be monitoring play in the house at all times when a group of kids are inside the inflatable. These basic precautions should help avoid any major problems.


Never tried rent a bounce house, but I have seen kids playing in them and they seem to be popular. I haven't investigated them carefully, but I worry that they might end up being more dangerous than fun for a kids' party.


We have an annual barbeque for our neighbors and family every spring. We have been organizing the gathering for about ten years now and we have learned a few tricks to making the event a fun time.

Rule number one is make sure the children are entertained. The first couple of years, we were so focused on having enough food, drinks and places for people to sit that we failed to think that some kids might not be as easily entertained as others. A bored and fussy child can make it difficult for parents to enjoy themselves.

We have plenty of games and sports equipment for the kids to play with, but these activities are not for everyone. We have learned from our oversights. Now, we rent a bounce house each year, and the kids love it. Sometimes the kids are so absorbed in swimming (when the weather is nice enough) and other activities that the bounce house gets little use, but we have found that it is always a good backup--just in case. As the saying goes, better to have it and not need...

And, as the article explains, the price for bounce house rentals can be reasonable. We don't rent the really elaborate ones.

Post your comments
Forgot password?