Kids and trampolines go together like butter and toast, but I still wondered if they were exactly safe for my littles.
After all, even a small trampoline in the house had been the cause of my second-born cutting open his forehead on a nearby piano when he was 18 months old. This made me wary about the big backyard kind of trampolines, as well.
But my kids all loved the trampoline and it seemed to be great exercise for them. Even in the winter it got them out to spend time in the sunshine and fresh air.
So are trampolines really that unsafe for small children?
The American Academy of Pediatrics says backyard trampolines are not safe for children. They recommend children use trampolines only during adult-supervised training for gymnastics or other sport. 100,000 emergency room visits per year are due to trampoline injuries, including sprains, strains, fractures, and lacerations. Children under six are just as likely to get injured on mini trampolines as they are on full size backyard trampolines.
This news is not looking good for kids who want their parents to buy them trampolines. But there are safety rules that can mitigate the cons and let us focus on the pros of trampolining.
Researching the Benefits of Trampolining
There are pros for backyard trampolines.
For instance, research has also shown that trampolining is great for neurological development, especially of the vestibular system that governs balance. Since I’m a neuroscience student, I was excited to learn this.
In my research, I also learned that trampolining is beneficial for kids who struggle to focus in school or who may suffer from symptoms of ADHD. The trick is to start the morning with trampoline exercise and then resume about 90 minutes into academic work.
This connection between exercise or play and memory and focus is still being explored in studies.
Trampolining is great exercise:
- It builds core muscles
- It offers a low-impact workout for your joints
- It burns calories faster than running or stationary cycling
Astronauts even use trampolines to regain bone strength after hanging out in zero gravity for too long and losing bone mass. What kid doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of an astronaut?
Rules to Keep it Safe on the Trampoline
So how do we get these awesome benefits safely?
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that if you’re going to use a backyard trampoline, you hold fast to the rule of one person on the trampoline at a time.
Use cushions and padding as much as possible:
- on springs
- underneath the trampoline
- around the edges
- Rebounderz.com even recommends helmets, elbow and knee pads
You’ll also want to have adult supervision at all times to enforce the next rule: no flips or somersaults. That’s a tough one because it’s often what kids naturally want to do when they can jump so high in the air.
It makes sense. On a trampoline, you feel like you’re flying. It’s one of the mood benefits of the trampoline, that the weightlessness actually triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin, a feel-good hormone.
Because of this impulse of every normal kid (not to mention adults) to do tricks on the trampoline, trampoline use should always be under adult supervision.
Future Gymnasts Need Trampolines
Maybe your child is going to be the next Simone Biles or Nina Derwael, gold medal gymnasts. You definitely want to be supportive of your kids’ dreams, right?
If this is the case, professional training is important. Ask your child’s gymnastics teacher if they think having a backyard trampoline available will help with his or her practice.
It’s probably not important for your child to start at the age of 2, or even 6, with trampoline training. But if you’re planning for the future, here is one idea to avoid getting a backyard trampoline:
Use a trampoline park. Trampoline parks are becoming more and more popular as a means of recreation for families. Some have rules like no flips, but others do not.
Using a Trampoline Park
You may find that a trampoline park is a nice solution to your child’s desire for the bounce. There are more trampoline parks in cities than ever before and the number is growing.
Trampoline parks usually have multiple rectangular trampolines connected wall-to-wall and cushioned with padding over the springs, so they are likely a degree or two safer than a backyard trampoline.
One study attempted to answer the question of whether trampoline parks are safer for children than backyard trampolines. They found that trampoline-caused injuries at recreational facilities are increasing, probably simply because there are more trampoline parks.
A handy bar graph connected to their study shows that in 2014, the latest date included in the survey, trampoline park injuries didn’t even match 10% of the trampoline injuries from backyard trampolines.
This suggests that trampoline parks are relatively safer.
There are hygiene concerns with public recreational facilities, though. Everything has its downside.
If your child is part of a team or gym, they may have their equipment needs met by them. This is probably the best and safest option for your future gymnastics superstar.
They’ll get training in an organized environment with safety protocols and constant adult supervision already in place. The only downside to this is the cost. It’s a lot more expensive than a backyard trampoline.
More Common-Sense Rules for the Trampoline
If you’re like us and decide to have a backyard trampoline, accepting the safety risk because because you want the benefits, you will need to have rules.
All the rules stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics make sense, but here are some common-sense things you may not have thought of before.
These are all things my husband and I have actually had to worry about.
You know those times as a parent when you can’t believe you have to tell your kid to stop eating the silly putty or some other crazy thing?
This list is like that:
- Don’t let your kids put gravel on the trampoline. It can cause injury and, additionally, isn’t good for the mat.
- No toys on the trampoline. Ever. (One ER visit for us happened when my kids were jumping with nerf guns and one punched a hole in my third-born son’s forehead. It’s always the forehead!)
- If you’re going to ignore the one-person-at-a-time rule, at least be aware of weight differences. If a really light person is on the trampoline with a much heavier person, the chances of injury from being “bounced high” greatly increase. (That’s my personal injury story of bruised ribs and my brother’s best friend’s poor head.)
- Take off any glasses or jewelry before jumping. These things can poke holes in people at high-speed and high-impact.
- No jumping from the roof onto the trampoline.
I’d love to see your list in the comments.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, childhood is dangerous. Kids are curious and during the very early years, they are very accident-prone.
A child can find a way to get hurt on stairs, in trees, even on a playground designed for him. Coffee tables need padded corners around two-year-olds, and electrical outlets need rubber covers.
While raising five unruly boys, bubble wrapping the kids seems like a great idea at times. My husband and I have jokingly/not-jokingly, suggested our toddlers wear helmets just to walk around the house.
Should you let your two-year-old jump on a trampoline anywhere? That’s really up to you. How much risk are you willing to accept?
Are you confident in your ability to implement common-sense safety guidelines that will decrease risk for your family?
At least now you have the pros and cons to inform your decision. Good luck!