New WA Rules Forbid Bouncy Houses and Trampolines

By Amy Radil

Kids in daycamps and childcare programs in Washington are spending less time airborne these days. New state regulations forbid childcare providers from using trampolines and inflatable bouncy houses. State officials say the rule change was based on safety concerns. But doctors say bouncy houses don’t pose the same risks as trampolines.

When you watch kids bounce or slide on gigantic inflatables, the emotion that comes to mind is: glee.

Seattle third-grader Ryan Jansen goes down a giant bouncy slide. Jansen bounces with gusto, despite having had a pretty bad experience on these things last summer.

Ryan: “I was bouncing really high and then a girl pushed me and then I fell out and then I broke two of my toes….”

She broke one toe on each foot. During summer vacation.
Ryan: “It ruined my whole summer. I had to use crutches and I had two boots.”

Bouncy house slide. From Amy Radil.Ryan admits she was bouncing in a structure intended for much younger children. Doctors say when kids are so excited, it’s not fair to expect them to supervise themselves. State officials say they’ve been increasingly concerned with the risks posed by trampolines and bouncy houses.

Amy Blondin is the spokeswoman for the state Department of Early Learning, which oversees programs for school-age children as well. In their latest rules her agency banned childcare programs from using bouncy houses or trampolines.

Blondin: “That was our decision on that, and I have, I’m not aware of any pushback on that.”

Jane Ronngren of the Boys and Girls Club of King County says the rule change makes sense to her. Although the club has used bouncy houses before.

Ronngren: “There have been programs in the past that have done, say, end-of-the-summer carnival celebrations.”

Ronngren says they can still have carnivals, but they won’t include bouncy houses anymore. The new rules took effect before the club planned its summer programs, so Ronngren says it shouldn’t affect kids too much.

Ronngren: “They’re not even going to see that that was an option this summer, and they’ll see what the other great options are, and they’ll sign up for other reasons.”

Amy Blondin of the Department of Early Learning says there’s one more aspect of the new state rule:

Blondin: “The same childcare licensing rules apply whether you’re in the facility or out on a field trip.”

So no more bouncy house field trips. That’s bad news for owners of the big indoor bouncy playgrounds. One owner said he only heard about the new state rules after they’d gone into effect. He said hosting field trips is a big part of his business.

He believes bouncy houses are being unfairly lumped in with trampoline centers, which have drawn warnings from doctors.

Woodward: “There’s a specific fracture called a ‘trampoline fracture,’ which is a fracture of the proximal tibia that we’ve seen a lot of.”
A lot of broken legs.

Dr. Tony Woodward is the head of the Emergency Department at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Woodward has written whole studies of trampoline injuries.

Woodward: “We recommended 20 years ago that the AAP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, lead an effort to try to ban backyard trampolines because the risk of injury was pretty remarkable. I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, that we’re actually going to ban some form of entertainment or fun.”

Maybe no ban, but there have been lawsuits. The owners of the Sky High Sports trampoline center in Bellevue filed for bankruptcy in January after they were sued over injuries. That center is now closed.

Dr. Woodward never let his kids use trampolines. But bouncy houses were different.

Woodward: “You know, I think the bouncy houses, having been in a lot of them and my kids spent a lot of time in them, I think if they’re used with the right number of children about the right age, I think they’re okay.”

So no big kids or grownups bouncing with little kids. And make sure it’s not too close to a wall.

A study in the journal Pediatrics last December found that bouncy houses are sending more children to the emergency room. The author said the reason could be that bouncy houses are attracting more kids.
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