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What are Bouncy Castles?

Date Added: January 27, 2008 11:19:56 PM

Inflatable structure

Jumping CastleInflatable structures ( Bouncy castles) are large cold air inflatables that people (usually children) can enter and bounce around on. They have been marketed under a variety of names: Astrojump, moonwalk, bounce house, moon bounce, or jolly jump in the US, bouncy castle or inflatable castle in the UK and parts of Australia, and as jumping castles in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. They are often in the shape of a castle but can be made into a variety of designs. The walls and floor are both bouncy, like a trampoline.

The original inflatable structure was designed in 1959 by John Scurlock. He was experimenting with inflatable covers for tennis courts when he noticed his employees enjoyed jumping on the covers. [1] He started the Space Walk company to market them for children and called them Space Walks. He started out with a large air mattress. In 1967-1968, he decided to add walls. The windows were made of solid clear plastic and were enclosed like a bubble- one fan inflated the base while another inflated the bubble and circulated air for the riders.

Bouncy CastleInflatable structures were also designed by university students in England around 1961 for a fundraising event.[2]

The surfaces are typically composed of thick, strong PVC or vinyl and nylon, and the castle is inflated using an electric or petrol-powered blower. The principle is one of constant leakage, meaning small punctures are not a problem, although this means the fans need to be quite powerful; a medium-size "bouncy castle" requires a fan with a mechanical output of about two horsepower (consuming around 2 kW electrical power, allowing for the efficiency of the motor).

The term "moonwalk" has evolved as the generic term for enclosed inflatable trampolines in the US. Modern moonwalks in the US are typically supported by inflatable columns and enclosed with netting to allow air to pass through.The netting also allows for proper supervision as adults can see in from all sides.

UK and Australian bouncy castles have different specifications calling for fully inflated walls on 3 sides with an open front and foam "crash mats" to catch children who may jump or fall out of the structure.

Catch A Wave SlideInflatables are most commonly rented for private functions, school and church festivals and village fetes. Although they are aimed at children, adult castles can be hired in the UK. Because of liability concerns moonwalks are rarely rented to adults in the US. They are often used to wrestle, bounce or rumble. Recently, a theatrical group has started performing Shakespearian tragedies on bouncy castles at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (Hamlet in 2006, Macbeth in 2007).

The growth in popularity of standard moonwalks has led to an entire inflatable amusement industry which includes inflatable slides, obstacle courses, games, and more. Inflatables are ideal for portable amusements because they are relatively easy to transport and store but make a big impact when fully inflated.

Corporate Inflatables

Sometimes event exhibitors will have a bouncy castle even if the event is not meant to be fun orientated. Here the inflatable will have a company's name and phone number on it, the purpose to entice parents to a particular stand so the children can enjoy themselves.

Some inflatables are used at corporate exhibitions, with the shape instead of being used for bouncing on, instead it will inflate to the shape of a product or logo. For example, one company uses an inflatable in the shape of a giant bottle.


Some inflatables are designed to allow games to be played in and on them. These include inflatable boxing rings, water football, penalty shootouts, basketball, and gladiator duels, whereby w podiums are in the middle and the aim is to bash your opponent onto the bed below, falling off the podium.

Quad tracks are also popular and provide the perimeter for Quad bike racing.

Inflatable Associations

In order to maintain the quality of inflatables, various voluntary organisations exist for manufacturers, resellers and hirers alike.

In the US, the Association of Inflatable Rental Company Operators (AIRCO)[1] is the largest trade group for companies who rent inflatable amusements. Established in 2005, it evolved from a commercial forum on the Hullaballoo Sales website. The members determined that a cohesive trade group with standards was needed to help bring the industry together, promote safety and monitor regulation.

Safe Inflatables Operators Training Organization (SIOTO)[2] was developed to fill a void in the training of operators of inflatable games. With other operators from the Moonwalk Forum [3], Matthew Mark created SIOTO in 2005 with the safety of children in mind.

Different states have different levels of certification and inspection standards, but currently only two states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey require inflatables to pass engineering and safety standards before allowing the equipment to be rented out.

PIPA is voluntary manufacturer and reseller's organization, which has been endorsed by the government Health & Safety organisation. Despite government backing it is NOT compulsory for inflatables sold for hire purposes to be PIPA tested.

Hirers buying inflatables can ask for them to be "PIPA Tagged". This means the inflatable structure has been made to PIPA safety guidelines and has passed a PIPA test. If it passes a unique tag is put onto the inflatable specifying PIPA compliance.

Hirers can also have their existing inflatables PIPA tested.

Once an inflatable has passed a test it can be verified on the PIPA website to prevent fraud.

Other organizations are the Performance Textiles Association, AIMODS (Association of Inflatables Manufacturers, Operators, Designers and Suppliers), the Federation of Major Inflatable Manufacturers.


A giant inflatable set was made for a pending TV rollerskating show Rollerwars. This was used for the international world championships at the Birmingham NIA. An inflatable set was used as the purpose is amongst other things to wrestle other stating competitors onto the inflatable bed. The inflatable set is approximately 200 ft by 120 ft long. Highlights of the world championships are on the Rollerwars website in the External links section.

Cheaper inflatable structures, such as bouncy castles, are sold commercially for a fraction of the cost of the higher quality castles professionals use.

These structures are usually made of polyester rather than Nylon PVC and do not use a blower, instead they are inflated with a pump similar to an airbed. They do not last as long and it is illegal in the UK and USA to hire these out as they are not as durable.

However, another category of home-use inflatable has evolved, operating off the continuous airflow principal. This means that a blower pumps air into the bounce house the whole time it is in use. Pores in the seams and material allow air to escape as kids play, while the blower continues to inflate the unit.

This category has emerged as a response to a market for parents who desired to have inflatables for regular home-use, that were designed for durability.

Injury and Death

Although very rare, some children have been injured or died as a result of inflatable structures.[3]

For example in south yorkshire a boy died while using one.[4]

In another case 2 people were killed and 13 were injured when an inflatable structure took off during powerful winds. [5]

An 8 year old girl was killed and 15 people injured when a bouncy castle was caught in a strong wind and was lifted and thrown over 50 metres. [6]

Digital vs Analogue

The artwork on most inflatable structures is generally individually hand painted. Usually a qualified artist will spend a lot of time painting on the parts prior to them being assembled.

Ironically, it is cheaper for an individual artist to paint individual inflatables than to either buy printing machines or pay for a professional printer to print the artwork for a small quantity of inflatables.

For those wishing to have inflatables professionally printed, rather than painted, generally two technologies exist.

One is to use Screenprinting and the other uses digital printing machines which can print onto Nylon.

Usually, if the printing method is used then white PVC must be used and a pattern/artwork printed onto this. It is difficult, despite what many printers will claim, to match a printed colour (e.g. yellow printed on white material) with a dyed manufactured piece of material (e.g. a yellow piece of PVC)

This is because generally digital printing works by leaving small "gaps" in between dots to indicate different shades, whereas with dyed manufactured material, it is dyed and the entire material is covered during the manufacturing process.

Digital printing allows photographic quality pictures, something which is either difficult or impossible with hand painting.

Hand painted is better for durability as the paints tend to last longer in water, rain, and handling than printouts. Also it is better for "cartoon" style images, which is the norm on children's inflatables.


 1. http://www.spacewalksales.com/aboutus-how.html
 2. http://www.kwjumpythings.com/history.php
 3. A collection of inflatable ride accident reports can be found at http://www.rideaccidents.com/inflatables.html
 4. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/south_yorkshire/3380593.stm
 5. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wear/5208460.stm
 6. The Coroners report can be read at http://www.courts.sa.gov.au/courts/coroner/index.html

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



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The Inflatable Play Enterprise (TIPE)

The National Association of Inflatable Hirers

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