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As parents, we often talk about putting safety first – but let’s be honest here, trampolines aren’t exactly the safest way of having fun. In fact, I recently walked by a house where kids would go inside, climb out through a window and jump from the roof to the trampoline below. Fun? Yes. Safe? Not so much.
At the risk of sounding a little too boring to today’s youth, this inspired me to talk about trampoline safety today. We don’t want to dissuade them from having fun and getting exercise at the same time – we just want to be sure they don’t crack their skulls in the process.
#1: Keep The Trampoline Away From Other Things
If you have a small backyard, it can be hard to put the trampoline in a safe place… and if you can’t do that, it may be better to remove it entirely. Ideally, a trampoline will be at least 9 feet away from anything a child can smack into, like a tree or a wall. This kind of ‘safety perimeter’, where there’s only grass, may significantly reduce the severity of injuries if they fall.
#2: Install Safety Pads
Many manufacturers offer safety pads that can go over the springs and stop kids from getting pinched after landing in a bad spot. It doesn’t really matter how large or small your trampoline is – safety pads are always a good idea.
As a bonus, these types of pads help to protect the springs from weathering and corrosion. You should still check the springs on a regular basis – at least weekly, if the trampoline gets used a lot – but the risks of damage are much lower when you have the pads installed.
#3: Teach Them How To Control Their Jumps
This should be obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many parents don’t know how high their child can safely jump. (Apologies in advance for all the math.) More importantly, though, a bad jump can lead to a bad landing, and that’s when kids tend to tumble off the trampoline. The solution, of course, is fairly simple – teach kids how to control their jumps and recognize if they aren’t launching correctly.
Similarly, make it clear that they should relax and take a short rest if they start to get tired. Trampolines can be an intense workout, and if they learn to pace themselves, they can have fun for a lot longer.
#4: Get A Trampoline Ladder
Trampoline ladders are small devices that allow people to safely climb in and out of a trampoline. These are ideal regardless of age since many trampolines are raised quite high off the ground. Alas, this is where safety gets a bit more complicated. Most trampoline ladders attach directly to the rim of the trampoline, which puts them in direct competition with most safety pads.
There are only two good options if you want to use both. First, you can look for a safety pad that already has holes for a trampoline ladder, then get a ladder that matches. This is the preferred method. Alternatively, you can cut a hole in the safety pad and sew more fabric over the exposed areas, creating your own place to attach a ladder.
#5: Install The Trampoline On A Proper Surface
It’s easy to put a trampoline on a concrete slab – it’s flat and big enough to hold the thing, so it works, right? Unfortunately, this is another common mistake. The trampoline should be on a flat surface… but that surface should also be good at absorbing energy and impacts. The ideal surfaces for a trampoline are wood chips, sand, and grass.
It’s not a coincidence that these are the same surfaces used in many playgrounds. There’s an in-depth explanation of surfaces – and accessibility, for children with special needs – right here.
#6: Install A Safety Net
This is a great companion for the safety pads that go over the springs, and you’ve probably seen them on other trampolines. Simply put, safety nets help stop children from falling off of a trampoline, and that’s all we need to know!
…Or so I’d like to say, but different nets may work better or worse on a given trampoline. Check to see if the trampoline’s manufacturer offers nets first, then search online to find the highest-quality alternatives. The safety of children is always the most important consideration when deciding which net to buy.
#7: Discourage Acrobatics
If you look online, you’ll find plenty of videos of people using trampolines to perform impressive stunts. This is exactly the sort of thing your children want to imitate, even though they really shouldn’t. It’s hard to stop them if you aren’t supervising them every moment… but there is one method that’s usually reliable: Offer to let them take classes.
When you get the trampoline, flat-out ask your child if they have any interest in stunts, acrobatics, and other fancy maneuvers. Make it clear that you’re not judging that desire as wrong because kids will often say ‘no’ if they worry that you’re not going to let them jump. Instead, explain that you just want to be sure they’re safe, and you’re willing to enroll them in a class that can teach them how to do stunts.
If you’re supportive, rather than judgmental, your children are more likely to tell the truth and be honest about what they’d like to do on the trampoline.
#8: Teach Your Children To Move Things Out From Under The Trampoline
The area beneath a trampoline should always be kept clear of pets, toys, friends, and anything else a child could land on. Instead of checking every time, though, teach your children to clean under the trampoline.
Most of them learn quickly, especially if you can turn it into a habit. Try emphasizing the way that landing on something under the trampoline can take their fun away. If they lose their balance, they may come crashing down in a way that makes it hard to continue, and that’s exactly what most of them want to avoid.
#9: Children Under 6 Don’t Get To Jump
Kids that are too young cannot use a full trampoline safely. This isn’t a matter of training or experience – they just haven’t developed enough to fully control their jumping. If they keep expressing interest, buy or borrow a miniature trampoline for them to use. These are far more child-friendly and allow for some of the fun of bouncing without the power of a full trampoline.
Mini trampolines also tend to come with extremely high nets, adding to the safety.
#10: Teach Kids To Land In The Center
The center is easily the safest point of the trampoline. In fact, unless they do something particularly strange, kids will almost never fall off after jumping from the middle. The edges – where there are less bounce and more resistance – are where the real threats lie.
Try to avoid making this about what your kids can’t do, though. Instead, emphasize that the middle of the trampoline has the best bounce. If they want to go high – and most kids do – that’s where they should be. As long as they have a net around the outside, they should be just fine.
#11: Go To The Doctor First
No, not before every jumping session – that would be ridiculous. Your kids should visit the doctor before the first time they start jumping, though, just to be sure that their bones are strong enough to handle the stress of a trampoline session.
If you’re expecting to buy a trampoline in the future, this can be as easy as asking the doctor about it at their yearly checkup. For added fun, buy (or pick up) the trampoline just after visiting the doctor. This can turn what’s otherwise a boring trip into something more exciting than your kids ever expected.
(Alternatively, if you can’t fit it in the car, have one parent set the trampoline up while the other gets approval from the doctor – weather permitting, of course.)
#12: Parental Supervision Is Required
Children should never be allowed to use a trampoline without adult supervision. It helps if you put the trampoline somewhere you can easily see from inside the house. That makes it much more practical to keep an eye on them without having to interrupt your routine every time they want to play.
#13: Ensure They Wear Appropriate Clothing
Finally, be sure that all of your children are wearing appropriate clothing. In general, clothes that are too baggy or have strings hanging out (like many boys’ pants and shorts) are bad because they can get tangled in the springs. Having safety mats significantly reduces the chance of this, but it’s still possible for clothes to get caught on something, and it’s better to be as safe as possible.
Trampolines are fun, but only proper safety measures will ensure they remain fun for years to come.