[Note: Over a year and a half after this article, kids are still having wild fun on our trampoline with zero serious injuries. See this article for more.]
We just installed a trampoline at our house, and it’s been a great success. Every day, at least one group of neighborhood kids visits to play with my kids on it. One day, we had four different groups come to play on it, and it’s the middle of the winter! I think the trampoline has finally enabled us to reach a goal I’ve been aiming at for the last year: to make my yard into a neighborhood hangout for kids.
In short, a trampoline is the best kid-magnet feature you can install in your yard. I should know – besides a trampoline, I’ve installed a huge playhouse, a swing set, a huge whiteboard, a sandbox, a fountain, and a basketball hoop in my yard.
In this article, I’ve compiled a few lessons I’ve learned for purchasing, installing, and managing a trampoline:Where to Buy?
There are a lot of choices of companies to purchase a trampoline from, and unfortunately, there are no obvious brand names. Companies that I found that seem good (I didn’t buy from these, but I spent time on their web sites and called them) are: JumpSport and FunSpot. These are conventional trampolines. JumpSport emphasizes its innovative spring technology, for getting safe and high bounces, while FunSpot sells heavier duty trampolines that, one would guess, last longer and support more weight.
Also, I looked into the SpringFree trampoline, which can be purchased online or at your local Costco store. I have read great reviews of this product, which is touted for its very safe design, but I believe that this added safety may come at the expense of strength and durability.
I decided to choose a firm not in this list because I chose an in-ground design – see below.
Rectangular or Octagonal?
From these trampoline companies’ web sites, it seems that octagonal trampolines are better sellers than rectangular ones. I don’t understand why this is the case. I chose a rectangular design because a rectangle fits in the layout of my back yard better than an octagon. If you think about it, all spaces in your yard are rectangles because your yard and your house are both rectangles. When you try to fit an octagon into a rectangular space, you waste space in each of the rectangular corners.
Above Ground or In-Ground?
The vast majority of families install trampolines with the frame resting on the ground, so that the trampoline surface is about three feet above the ground.
I decided to install our trampoline in-ground, so that the surface is at ground level. It was a tremendously consequential decision, and I would recommend that everyone who can pay the additional cost of installing an in-ground trampoline to do so. Here are its advantages:
- safety: The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons published a list of recommendations for trampolines, and one of these is that they be installed in-ground. They are safer than above ground trampolines that are surrounded by nets for two reasons: first, they have no hard poles to fall into, and second, nets get old and tear, especially if they’re exposed to harsh weather.
- accessibility for kids: Any kid who can walk can walk on to our trampoline. Getting on an above ground trampoline requires climbing a shaky ladder. This enables my two-year-old to get on our trampoline a lot more.
- spontaneity: Anyone who’s in our back yard can step on to our trampoline instantly. Kids can play games that spill over from our back yard lawn to the trampoline seamlessly.
- easy for adults to help kids: Adults don’t have to climb up a shaky ladder and squeeze through a narrow net opening to help kids on a trampoline. Thus, it’s a lot easier to help young kids who are just getting used to a trampoline.
- good social atmosphere: Kids and adults who aren’t jumping on the trampoline can sit around it and talk to those who are on it jumping. With an above-ground trampoline, there is nowhere comfortable for people to sit who aren’t on the trampoline jumping.
The downside to an in-ground trampoline is cost. In order to install one, you need to have a hole dug about three feet deep, and you need to install some sort of retaining wall all around the edge of the hole to keep it sturdy. I had a landscape contractor do this for substantially more money than the cost of the trampoline (about $2,000 delivered).
Also, if you decide to go this route, I suggest that you buy a trampoline design that is customized for in-ground installation, rather than buying an above-ground trampoline and lowering it into the hole. I bought the in-ground design from WeBounce and I’m very happy with it.
Enhance the Area Around the Trampoline
In order to be a hangout for kids and their parents, a trampoline needs to be surrounded by comfortable seating. As I mentioned above, the seating will enable social interaction between jumpers and non-jumpers if the trampoline is in-ground. I have beanbag couches lining two sides of our in-ground trampoline. Even if the trampoline is above-ground, seating will provide comfort for those who aren’t jumping. For instance, jumpers need to take a rest once in a while, and parents who don’t jump with their kids at all may want a comfortable place to sit.
The other important thing to consider about the area around the trampoline is that it is where jumpers fall if they fall beyond the outer perimeter of the trampoline. Since in-ground trampolines typically have no surrounding net, in that case the area around the trampoline must be entirely soft to cushion a fall. My in-ground trampoline is surrounded on two sides by thick pads and beanbag couches, on one side by grass, and on another by soft playground wood mulch.
Start Them Young
My 5-1/2 and 2, and they can’t jump very high on the trampoline. That makes it very unlikely that they’ll get hurt on it right now. So, they’ll get a lot of experience on it before they’re old enough and strong enough to do any real damage to themselves.