Inflatable waterslides and bouncy castles are becoming increasingly popular children’s gifts. You can find several models on the market ranging from simple bouncy castles to inflatable combos, playgrounds, and even water play areas with slides, climbing walls and other fun features.
To help you make an informed choice about what type of inflatable to buy for your children, we have created a comprehensive guide that covers both - the technical and financial aspects of purchasing inflatables, as well as their different uses and tips for ongoing maintenance. Read on to know more!
Table of Contents
The criteria for choosing a bouncy castle
Four key criteria can help you select the right bouncy castle. They are:
Before you find the perfect bouncy castle, you must consider how much space is available for its installation. Keep in mind that the bouncy castle of your dreams may not fit into your garden, which will end up frustrating you and your children!
Something worth considering is that inflatables need not be permanent; that is, they can be temporarily set up in areas such as the terrace, parking lots, or garages. The place where you set up your inflatable structure depends on two conditions:
It should be flat and even. Sloping grounds are not suitable.
It should be free from obstacles and easily accessible.
When you have determined where you want to set up your bouncy castle, you need to measure the selected area and calculate whether or not it will fit there. When calculating, ensure to include a margin of safety of 2 meters all around the bouncy castle, which allows it to be easily accessed.
Themes and Designs
Considering your children will be the main users of the bouncy castle, it’s perhaps worth including them in this decision! Of course, they will have fun in any inflatable structure, but some may appeal to them more than others, so make sure you consider their tastes to ensure that they will spend more time using it.
From forts and castles to inflatable pirate ships, including aquatic play areas and blow up ball pits, inflatables manufacturers offer several models that satisfy all kinds of tastes. There aren't really any rules here… You know your kids better than anyone, so pick a design that will make them happy!
Operation and options
An important factor is to make sure the model you select can easily be set up and stored. If you have to spend hours setting up every time your kids want to have fun with their bouncy castle, you will likely get bored quickly. So, choose one that can be mounted quickly and easily, and that is easily stored.
It is just as important to check that you have all the accessories you need to use your bouncy castle. In particular, a turbine, pump, or fan that will allow you to inflate the structure, weights which will stabilize it in the event of windy weather, and a repair kit to take care of small tears, will all come in handy.
Choosing a bouncy castle according to your budget
When deciding upon your budget for a bouncy castle, it is important to understand the elements that contribute to the pricing of various inflatable structures:
You need to ensure that your chosen bouncy castle follows the safety standards set down by the European Union. Often, the manufacturers of these products charge a slight premium for the added safety, but it is wiser to pay for a manufacturer who follows these standards. This is because your children’s safety is at stake and you should always avoid non-compliant products to protect them as much as possible.
Thinner materials and seams reduce the upfront cost, but they also reduce the lifespan of your bouncy castle! Check with the manufacturer for any guarantee to ensure that your children will be able to enjoy their inflatable for longer. You should also enquire about refund and return policy, should your item be damaged after first use.
The larger an inflatable, the higher its price. This makes sense since it is directly proportional to the amount of material used and the work involved. To avoid getting cheated, just make sure you check the dimensions indicated by the manufacturer.
It goes without saying that a multi-purpose inflatable playground with water cannons, a climbing wall, a basketball hoop and slide costs more than a simple small bouncy castle with a bounce area, so decide on which features are most important to you (and your kids).
This is a point that many buyers overlook and realize their mistake too late. Buying a bouncy castle without a turbine renders it unusable, and it is absolutely essential to check that the price indicated includes both, the inflatable and a suitable fan. Likewise, accessories such as the pegs for fixing to the ground, the repair kit or the storage bag, if not essential, are very useful to have.
For larger groups of children
If your children's happiness is important, then you can offer them a gigantic inflatable house, where they can have fun with their friends and enjoy countless activities, such as a two-lane waterslide, a climbing wall, or a basketball hoop.
For smaller budgets
As mentioned earlier, while you may want to save some money, don’t compromise on quality to save fifty pounds. Ensure to pick a bouncy castle that complies with European legislation to guarantee your children’s protection.
Less than 300 euros
The best way not to exceed your budget is to choose a model with reduced dimensions, and which offers fewer features. You can pick a small bouncy castle for 3 children for less than 300 Euros, which comply with European Standards and come with all the necessary accessories.
Less than 400 euros
At this price, you can access several models with more generous dimensions that offer a multitude of other activities, such as blow-up ball pits, inflatable houses, and more. These inflatables are generally intended for 3-4 children, which is ideal for most families.
For those willing to spend more
For those who can spend a little more on their children, you are spoiled for choice! You can buy most types of models at this price point, including those with fun features like inflatable waterslides, pirate ships, bounce houses, and much more.
Less than 500 euros
Even with a budget of 500 euros, you can already buy your children a grand inflatable with a water play area, inflatable swimming pool, water cannon or waterslide. Your children will have everything they could possibly want to have fun this summer!
Less than 600 euros
In this price range, you can get inflatables of huge dimensions, with a total play area exceeding 12 square meters and more. These multi-activity structures are most often designed to accommodate 4 to 5 children at the same time and can be the main attraction during birthday parties.
Six practical questions to ask before making your choice
Ask yourself these six questions before buying a bouncy castle, and if you have a clear answer, then choosing the right model of inflatable for you will be child's play!
Where will I install the inflatable?
This is the first question to ask yourself because it allows you to determine the maximum dimensions of the bouncy castle you can buy. If you have a gigantic lot, this is not a problem, but for most gardens, it is an important point to consider.
What is my budget?
It may seem obvious, but with unlimited resources, you can afford any kind of inflatable you want to buy. However, in the real world, it is necessary to establish a budget to determine what type of inflatable you can get for your children.
Who will use it?
Knowing how many children, and how often these children will use the inflatable is important to consider. Try to be realistic and think beyond special occasions. After all, it is not every day that your child invites a dozen friends to his birthday, so you may not need something so grand for everyday use. The majority of models are intended for 3 to 6 children at the same time, for children aged between 3 and 10 years.
What materials should you buy?
This is perhaps the most difficult technical aspect to grasp because it is a question of finding the best compromise between lightness and resistance. The strongest materials are heavy and make the inflatable structure difficult to transport and install. The lightest materials are more fragile, and the risk of tears increases, reducing the life of the bouncy castle. Currently, the best weight-solidity compromise, among various non-toxic materials that are safe for children, is laminated nylon, a material that is both ultra-light and very resistant.
What time of the year will the children use it?
Bounce houses and castles can be used in any season, while inflatable waterslides are much more popular in the summer. Some inflatable pools can be filled with balls to prolong their appeal even through the winter, while some structures should not be used in rainy weather. The climate of your place of residence can therefore influence your choice of an inflatable.
Who will install this inflatable?
It’s not always that you have 4 adults available to spend two hours installing a giant inflatable. Even 10 minutes spent setting up an inflatable castle on your own when returning from work can be tiresome. Again - be realistic and don't just think about a special occasion. The vast majority of inflatable structures for individuals are designed to be installed by a single adult: some in a few minutes, others take a little more time, so consider which you prefer since you will likely have to invest some time in setting it up.
Different types of inflatable waterslides and pools
Did you know that there are different types of inflatable pools? From simple plastic structures that are filled with a water jet in summer to multi-activity water playgrounds and inflatable waterslides that can be used all year round? Here is a little overview.
The ball pool
Unless you live in tropical climates, the pool is usually reserved for sunny days... unless it can be filled with something other than water! Ball pools, made popular by children's play centres, are the ideal solution for your little ones to have fun all year round, even when temperatures make it necessary to bundle up before you get out of the house.
Many inflatable models today offer mixed-use; swimming pools and paddling pools can be filled with water in summer, and balls when it is cold outside. It is an ideal solution for your children to have fun all year round.
The water pool
When your thermometer exceeds 30° and the heatwave settles in, wouldn’t it be nice to have a pool in which your kids can beat the heat? Even parents appreciate being able to cool off a little at the height of the summer!
For children, inflatable pools offer the possibility to play outdoors without risking heatstroke (provided of course, they are protected from the sun), as well as to enjoy various activities like waterslides and pirate ships with water cannons. What’s more, all children (and not just children) love to slide along a waterslide and enjoy the thrill of gaining a little speed safely. It's a pleasant sensation that never fails to trigger laughter, even among older children!
Here are three reasons why you should choose an inflatable structure with a slide:
- It's safer. Most falls do not occur when the child bounces, but when he gets onto or gets off the inflatable and is not careful. An inflatable entrance or exit slide eliminates this risk, as the child slides, rather than has to climb on.
- It's more fun. That's the main argument... sliding on a slide is fun no matter what age you are! So why deprive yourself of it?
- It's no more expensive. The price difference between models of bouncy castles with and without slides is often negligible - sometimes even non-existent. It has become such a common feature and so highly requested that manufacturers often tend to include it automatically, at no extra charge.
The inflatable waterslide
Another advantage of inflatable slides is that they can be used all year round - summer and winter. Nothing prevents you from having fun sliding when temperatures drop, as winter sports enthusiasts would tell you. And unlike pure waterslides, inflatable slides can be used even without water, which allows children to have fun in all seasons, without the risk of getting cold.
Different types of inflatable playgrounds
Nowadays, there are so many different models of inflatables that it is impossible to list them all. So instead, we will content ourselves with introducing you to the most famous of them!
The bouncy castle
The simplest and most common model, a bouncy castle is an inflatable that allows children to bounce safely in a contained area. The bounce area is surrounded by a protective net that prevents them from falling outside the inflatable structure, while the ground is designed in such a way that there is no risk of getting a foot or hand stuck anywhere. You can usually gain access to the play area via a small slide.
Inflatable pirate ship
Children love pirates, but this is not the only reason why this model is popular! This water playground offers children a climbing wall that gives them access to the “captain's tower”, from where a slide leads directly to the pool located at the bow. And of course, to defend themselves against attacks, the inflatable pirate ship is equipped with a water cannon, which adds to the fun!
While in principle the same as a bouncy castle, bounce houses are centred around a safe bounce area for children. What’s more, bounce houses often have other ancillary activities, such as a swimming pool, a slide, targets to train your aim, and more, to keep your kids thoroughly entertained.
The most popular inflatable models
Inflatable play areas are real multi-activity centres for little ones. Whether they love the water or not, most types of play areas usually offer around 4 to 8 different activities, such as a waterslide, obstacle course, climbing wall, tunnel, basketball hoop, or a swimming pool, so there is truly something for everyone!
Although the dimensions of these multi-play inflatables are larger and they require a little more space in the garden, they are the best way to keep children occupied for hours.
Types of gardens and soil, coatings
Bouncy castles can be installed in most types of gardens, but not in all kinds. Before buying an inflatable, it is wise to ensure that your garden is indeed suitable for one.
Take available surface area into account
It is important to distinguish between the space available for the installation of your inflatable and the surface of your field. For example, a sloped lot is not a suitable space, as the bouncy castle may tilt. Similarly, the land must be free of obstacles, whether flowers, shrubs, garden lamps, or trees. Once you have determined the space available for your bouncy castle, it is necessary to consider a safety margin all around, so that children can move freely around the structure.
Best types of flooring
The ideal surface for installing an inflatable is a lawn, which is both flexible and does not risk damaging nylon. Sometimes, however, a wooden or smooth tile terrace is just as suitable.
You can also set up a bouncy castle on stone slabs, an asphalt parking lot, or a gravel courtyard, although these rough floorings are not the most suitable. To prevent them from irreparably damaging laminated nylon, it is then recommended to use a protective plastic tarpaulin (PVC or other) that is placed between the floor and the structure. Soil or ground with too many roots, branches and other obstacles are not ideal.
Top tips on caring for your bouncy castle
For a bouncy castle to last for years, it is advisable to take care of it and ensure regular maintenance. Here's how you can go about it.
The most common repairs
More than 90% of the problems of an inflatable are related to a puncture, whether it is due to a cut, a scratch, or a notch. This is a problem as serious as a puncture in a bicycle wheel, and as simple to repair. Moreover, an inflatable is repaired in the same way as an inner tube: by applying a patch. To fix it:
- Find the spot of the puncture.
- Remove the stone, thorn or bug that is responsible for it.
- Clean the area and lightly scrape it with fine sandpaper.
- Apply the glue provided with the patch.
- Place the patch and let it dry.
All this takes only a few minutes, especially if you use a repair kit, which most genuine manufacturers provide free of charge with your inflatable.
How to (re)inflate a bouncy castle
To reinflate your bouncy castle, you need a fan, usually called a turbine. The power of the latter varies according to the model, with the largest structures obviously needing more power. Normally, you don't have to worry about where to get one, the fan being provided with the bouncy castle you bought.
In some cases, the puncture may be due to a cut too large to simply be repaired with a patch (mowing the lawn along your inflatable structure is not a good idea), but this does not mean that the damage is irreparable.
All you have to do is sew the edges together, using thread and a needle. While it may take a little time, it is extremely simple. Once the cut is repaired, you can then repair it as if it were a simple puncture, using a patch large enough to cover the entire seam well.
Regular cleaning for top hygiene
This is a point that is often neglected and can drastically shorten the life of your inflatable. It is important to properly remove all twigs, grains of sand, and other dead leaves that can accumulate and cause nylon wear. Similarly, it is useful (essential in the case of aquatic structures) to clean your inflatable playground from time to time with a disinfectant solution and to let it dry well to avoid the appearance of mould.
Store your inflatable structure well when it is not being used
Bouncy castles are intended for outdoor use but should be stored indoors, preferably in the storage bag provided for this purpose. Weather, UV rays, dust, birds and other small animals with sharp claws can damage nylon, so it is advisable to tidy up your playground when children have finished using it. It takes less than 10 minutes, so it’s worth the effort each time!
Who are BeBop inflatable structures for?
Any individuals with a garden and young children can enjoy the benefits offered by BeBop inflatables. They are designed for the safe enjoyment of children aged 3 to 10, and their simplicity allows a single parent to climb them into the garden for a few minutes.
BeBop bouncy castles are not intended for professionals working in the rental of inflatable structures, or fairgrounds. On the other hand, they can be used by cottages, restaurants or bars that wish to offer their customers a playground for their children.
BeBop - premium bouncy castles for your garden
BeBop is one of the pioneers of bouncy castles and other inflatables for private gardens. A leading brand on the European market, BeBop offers quality products, constant innovation, a catalogue of many models, fast delivery, and excellent customer service – benefits that have won over tens of thousands of happy customers.
If you had to take away only two things from this guide, here is what you need to know so that you and your children can enjoy your bouncy castle in the garden:
- Make sure that the dimensions of the model you like allow you to install it safely in your garden.
- Avoid products that do not meet European safety standards.
By following these two tips, you are sure not to make a mistake when choosing your model.
It’s best to balance the model that will make your kids the happiest with a model that provides all the necessary accessories for them to be safe and protected. Now, all you have to do is watch your kids have fun!