Opinion: Why I Hate Bouncy Castles

Filed under: Opinions

bouncy castles illustration by chris healy

Kids gotta bounce. Illustration: Christopher Healy.

Bouncy castles, moon jumpers -- whatever you call them -- oh, how I wish I could take my family to a street fair or an outdoor festival without seeing one of those inflatable behemoths.

From the moment they enter our line of sight (actually, we usually hear their roaring air-blower engines long before we make visual contact), the children start panting with excitement and my heart sinks into existential ennui.

One of the reasons I dread these things is the magically entrancing power they seem to hold over children. There is no way to avoid it; your kid will beg to go in. So you pay the gouge-errific $5-a-ticket charge and get in line behind every other child in your major metropolitan area.

The headphone-wearing teenage operator of the bouncy only lets in a handful of kids at a time, which leaves you plenty of time to hear your kids complain about how slowly the line is moving. And how hot it is, because they always manage to situate the bouncies in the most shade-free spot available.

As there is that five-kids-at-a-time occupancy limit for the bouncy, your child will inevitably reach a point at which he is sixth in line. When he tries to climb in, the operator will stop him with a grunt and tell him he's got to wait for the next round. This will not go over well.

Then, when your child finally is allowed to enter, he'll be followed in by four cotton-candy-fueled tweens who are all thrice his size. The older kids will use the inflatable amusement as their own personal mosh pit, and you will be able to do nothing but wince each time your kindergartner gets flattened.

And then it's over. Even though each prior group seemed to have a good 10 minutes or so in the bouncy, your child will get the "time's up" call after about 90 seconds. This will not go over well.

Despite your children's over-the-top eagerness to get into the bouncy, post-bounce, you will learn it was not as much fun as they had imagined. They will complain it was too short, too rough and, occasionally, too slimy. Having been so utterly disappointed by the experience, your children will then immediately beg to get back in line and give it another go. They just know it will be awesome the second time around.

Do we really need these "inflatable amusements" at every outdoor event? Shouldn't we be able to have fun at a fair or festival without flailing around in a netted room with an unstable floor?

The next time I attend a big holiday celebration in the park with my family, if we could only avoid spending half the day waiting for and then complaining about (or healing from) the bouncy castle, I believe we'd have a very different and far more enjoyable experience. But try telling the kids. This will not go over well.

Related: If You Build It, They Will Play: Fantasy Playhouses

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.