I was forwarded a case series that captured a bit of data about injuries in bouncy houses and inflatables. It’s not a large study (only 21 families injured in a bouncy house were interviewed) but it sheds light on 2 things. One, orthopedists worried enough about bouncy houses that they set out to determine the risk, and two, bouncy houses do pose a real risk for fractures. Their suspicion alone doesn’t confer a problem, of course. But, validate my worry? Maybe. Change my decision? I don’t know…
The post I wrote last week about hating the bouncy house was more about negotiating my experience of parenthood than it was about the bouncer itself. What I mean is, I was writing about the internal wrestle I have with wanting to do things one way but feeling compelled (in my gut) to go in the opposite direction. You know what I mean, the parenting dynamic in which we set out to do one thing, then being tugged by instinct, we find ourselves in yet another spot. It feels typical, maybe expected, and entirely normal. For example, I set out not to use the pacifier with my first son. At hour 2 of crying, on about day of life 6, we grabbed onto that pacifier and gave it to F. Parents in my clinic will state that they meant to wait until 6 months to introduce solid foods, but once their darling 4 month-old started staring at their spoon with each bite, they gave in and grabbed the carrots. I set out not to use any television in our home. But after the second baby arrived, showing Sesame Street to the 2 year-old allowed me to take a shower. The list goes on and on and on. The ideas of how we’re going to parent and how we implement our choice are not always aligned much less overlapping. Like I said, this is normal. Being a parent helped me “get this.”
With each move against our parenting blueprint, we figure someone will have an opinion, a counter-argument, maybe even praise. Many of us go looking online for validation, reassurance, or antagonistically, information that will cause us to change our direction. Many of us don’t need reassurance, even risk evangelizing our own decisions. What works for us feels “right.” But my sincerity in belief may not be the perfect key for another family. I wonder, does this divisive-parenting-beyond-our-family hurt our friendships and community? Our respect for each other and for our unique differences? Are we simply more righteous in 2011 because of our online connections?
In the responses to the post about the bouncy house, I felt as though those that “admitted” to liking the bouncy houses felt because I was so worried, we had separated into 2 teams. How is that possible? If it were my child, I’d read the data below on bouncy houses. But I also would say, we’ll all interpret the risk, the numbers, and the worry differently. That’s up to you.
I really do want you to watch the sun set; I want to help you relax while you raise your kids. I’m searching for a sense of calm. For me, I believe data helps.
Inflatable Bouncer Injuries:
- Researchers reviewed data on children presenting to the ER between 2002 and 2007. They found that 1.1% (49/4367) of all children with injuries who presented to the ER during that time were due to injuries sustained on an inflatable/bouncy house. (I was shocked the number was this high, to be honest). Does it feel high or low to you?
- They were then able to reach 21 of the 49 families with children who sustained injuries on a bouncer. They interviewed the parent/guardian about the injury: what type of injury; was the child jumping alone or with others; was an adult supervising; how was the child injured on the inflatable?
- The synopsis: majority of injuries were broken bones in the arms (66%) and legs (34%) of school-aged boys (average age 7 years) jumping on a rented device at home. All of the families reached for the study said the device was rented and at a home. The majority of the children injured had adult supervision (57%).
- None of the children injured were jumping alone. The average number of jumpers at the time of injury was 5, with a range of 3 to 11 jumpers.
- Injuries occurred most commonly due to collisions between children (67%) and falling out of the bouncer (19%).
The case series wasn’t perfect. It’s hard to believe that I would remember how many people were jumping at the time of an injury years from now. Maybe I would because of the injury; but the need to recall information over years takes power away from the data. Further, the series was small and the outcomes for patients weren’t followed. But it’s a beginning in understanding the injury list and ways to reduce and prevent them. A commentary that accompanied the a summary of the study discussed a spinal cord injury from a bouncy house, as well.
With this data, I stand behind my list in the last post: 1. Have children jump with children their own size and 2. Have adult supervision.
There is no hidden agenda in my sharing the data. If and when you return to the bouncy house, you’ll now have more tools to prevent injury. Yet I wonder as I type this afternoon, do you think our parenting choices divide us more than they unite us? Do you have difficulty maintaining friendships with parents that choose (radically) different things for their children than you do?
Erin H. says
Thanks for sharing the bouncy house data. I fear them but so many people and families seem to love them, I, like you, am torn. And I love the way you conveyed the want to do right but also allowing ourselves to learn and adapt.
The number of injuries due to bouncy houses in comparison to all injuries seemed kind of low to me, but then I’d have to see how many of the other injuries were from the same activity. Like were the percentage of injuries from skateboarding or car accidents lower for example?
I like your paragraph of parenting ideals changing once children are actually in the picture. I laugh at all my aspirations before my daughter was born! Especially the
o tv\ and
o Disney or princesses\ rule that died out before her first year.
I don’t know many parents who have radically different parenting ideas so I can’t speak to that. I do know parents who are way more lenient than me but that hasn’t been a big deal so far except once when a parent told me that her daughter didn’t have to follow our house rules because she thought our house rules were unreasonable – but that to me was more about the parent disrespecting me and my home more than it was about parenting differences. And I have problems with parents who are neglectful or abusive but that too is less about parenting philosophy and more about big problems way behind belief systems. But the whole \to go in the bouncy house or not\ thing isn’t a problem. If someone called me a helicopter mom over it I’d just ignore them because it’s my child. Of course, my daughter has been in her share of bouncy houses but I’d rather have some mom judge me than put my child in danger if I thought the bouncy house in question was not safe.
Gayle Schrier Smith, MD says
An excellent TEDTalk this week on feeling right and what it feels like when you are wrong…(hint: they feel the same…)
A must see as we all cultivate the ability to hear our authentic inner voice and come to appreciate
1% sounds low to me. What’s the other 99% of ER visits attributed to? I also think it’s key that these injuries were sustained AT HOME. Kids generally don’t behave at home like they would in public. I don’t see my son launching himself off the side of a bouncy house like a TV wrestling star at a 3-2-1 Bounce party, that’s reserved for those special moments in the comfort of your own home, pitted against your brother, and my kids are only 1 and 3. I’m not surprised at this data and it would not dissuade me in the least from continuing to take them to bouncy places. I am grateful for the insight and advice, thanks!
Claire McCarthy MD says
The issue is really, as you point out, about parental choices—and about how we can sometimes feel judged for those choices.
It’s completely true that bouncy houses can be very dangerous. The thing is, though, there are data to show that cars are dangerous, too. Or swimming pools. Or bicycles. Or playing on a jungle gym. The really sad truth is that dangers are everywhere for our children. Unless we are going to put them in the proverbial bubble, they are going to face risks.
(Honestly, I’m not sure how I even managed to grow up, considering that as a child I never wore a helmet, swam and skated unsupervised, and spent a reasonable amount of time in trees.)
We all make what we feel are the best choices for ourselves and our children. We make them based on not just information but our personalities, our realities, our anecdotes. Every person and every family is different; the challenge comes in respecting and supporting each other in those choices.
Once the mother of an elementary-school friend of my children told me that she would never have a trampoline because it was too dangerous—and in the next breath said that their favorite family activity was riding all-terrain vehicles together (in case you didn’t know, they are way more dangerous than trampolines). This woman is a really good person and really good mom. I don’t get why she lets her kids ride ATV’s, but it doesn’t change how I think about her.
Parenthood is hard enough without feeling judged. I agree with Dr. Swanson: let’s not let our choices divide us.
There are so many things that I swore up and down I would
ever\ do as a parent that I find myself doing (or things that I promised to do that didn’t happen). It’s all about learning to parent to the particular circumstance, child, and our own abilities. Our division all comes down to an inner sense of uncertainty. With few exceptions, I believe most parents want to be the best mom or dad they can be for their child(ren). When you see someone else doing it \differently,\ it makes you doubt your own decision – especially if you are unsure about your own results.
Discipline is the area that leaps to mind for me. I have chosen not to spank, and most of my friends do spank. So when I feel as if Will (Emma is a bit young) isn’t minding me or is acting out more than his friends at a play date, I do wonder, \Am I a weak disciplinarian? Should I incorporate spanking?\ Then, I start doing research on not spanking to bolster my \position.\ It’s not about judging my friends or being in different camps at all. It’s about feeling as if I am doing the right thing for my son, when there isn’t necessarily a
ight\ or \wrong\ way to do it. I sometimes feel as if because kids don’t come with their own manual, I am kind of making one up as I go.
When it comes to my friendships, I find myself gravitating towards parents that have similar methods of parenting and our differences are mild. If I had a friend that constantly critiqued my parenting choices or parented in a way that was dangerous, then it would affect our relationship in a bad way. I was being a bit flippant when I quipped if we could still be friends in my last comment. However, your opinion on things does tend to carry more weight with me than say a random mom at a play date. You are the person that I entrust with the health and safety of my children as their pediatrician and I do respect your judgment. I will say that the parent that commented about her child becoming injured because the inflatable was too close to a wall definitely had me taking note of where the bouncies were located when we were at Pump It Up last week (Note: they were all placed well away from walls).
And that, right there, is why I do appreciate a different view and being friends with someone who might do things differently than I would. While it might not completely change how I do things (ex: We will still go to bouncy houses), it will expose me to different approaches and make things better for my kids (ex: I will now be more aware of certain hazards at the bouncy places and Will is less likely to be injured). So, it’s a win-win for everyone.
Topic request: Potty Training. Perhaps that merits a series of blog posts? I know you told a friend of mine NO pull-ups and NO diapers at night. PLEASE elaborate.
As a pediatric ER doc for 10 years, I now have a horrible ending to pretty much every beginning of a story. Tripped on the stairs and had a pencil impaled deep into the leg? Check. Toddler went to preschool fine, came home with a new symptom and presented to ER having leukemia? Check. Exploring a sand cave that collapses and leads to a teenager’s death? Sadly, check. Throw in bicycling, climbing, trampolines, playground equipment, and bouncy houses and I can pretty much tell you about a serious injury to every major region of the body.
This makes for a virtually constant tug between my desperate desire to keep my kids safe and an almost equally desperate desire not to quash the joys and challenges of childhood, including climbing trees, trying out a balance beam, and play wrestling with a sibling. My mostly-joking instructions and guidelines to my own kids are that they can break their arms or legs (because we can fix those), but they’re not allowed to get a serious head or spinal cord injury. On a practical level, this translates into no wheels underneath them without a helmet, no trampoline jumping with other kids, and no climbing above ~8 feet without some sort of safety harness.
Does this guarantee my kids won’t get a devastating injury? Nope. And to combat that very real possibility, I just love them to pieces the best way that I can, knowing that there are no guarantees that any of us will be around the very next day.
I guess my son must be in the minority because he also suffered a broken arm from a bouncy slide, however, he sustained his injury at one of the local “jumpy” business that offers birthday parties. We were having my son’s OWN third birthday when he sustained an arm fracture and we had to leave his party to take him to the ER to be casted. It was a tremendously sad experience to endure on a child’s Birthday, but we took it for what it was, an accident. Have we been back to many “Jump” Birthday parties since then? You bet. Life is to short to worry about “what if……” (within reason of course) and I encourage my kids to be safe but don’t deny them the simple pleasures of being a kid. Broken bones heal……eventually….so I choose to let them laugh and play and have fun knowing that none of us knows what tomorrow will bring.
I have three children and managed to keep pacifers out of their mouths and the TV shut off. Failed over having kids in my bed, no video games, no bouncy things, and guns as toys. I do believe boys will make guns out of anything, including their fingers, spoons, markers, legos, bananas, etc. I think gun play is on a boys chromosome just like pink twirly clothes are attached to girls. None of these things make me a better or worse parent. So far difference in parenting choices have not made it difficult to maintain friendships. I can acknowledge the difference and in my head know that I would or would not do the same thing. The deal breaker for me is middle school. My oldest will be heading to 6th grade in the fall and I am finding myself thinking about parenting choices much differently. I don’t want my son hanging out with kids whose parents will leave them alone, give them unlimited or unsupervised time on the computer, let them text whenever to whomever….The mama bear in me is rearing its ugly head. It’s a difficult dance. I find myself encouraging friendships with kids whose parents are more aligned with my parenting ideas and values. This may be wrong but I think the pressures of alcohol, drugs, early sex etc are so much scarier than a broken arm from a bouncy house.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD says
Thanks for your comment. I suspect the worries of middle and high school and then ultimately when we all have– adult children– are terrifying. And I believe that they feel more terrifying than the worries over a broken bone in the bouncy house. I, of course, can only imagine as I have a 2 and a 4 year old.
I help adolescents and their families every day with these situations, etc, particularly when they create a rift between mom/dad and child. So I see them, help create solutions and open lines of communication. But I still don’t know how they feel under my own roof.
But it’s about perspective. And makes me think of education as a good metaphor. I remember how challenging HS felt at times, how hard the expectations of some college professors, the challenge of the anatomy exam in medical school, the 30 hour shifts of residency, and then the burden of ultimate responsibility as an attending physician. And then? The responsibility of motherhood. In their own time, each step was at times, exceedingly challenging for me. With each step, I rose to the occasion adapted and found coping mechanisms and new skill to master what was expected.
I suspect you do the same with each step. Forget the pacifiers, the TV, the bouncy house…I get it.
I suppose I think of parenting like this, too. The caliber of the challenge or the degree of risk may only continue to elevate as my boys gain more and more independence, and I hope to find my way through without always struggling to catch my breath.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD says
Your wish is my command 🙂 I’ll film a video this week or next about my take on PULL UPS and those kids that may benefit from using them and those that don’t!
I have a difficult time being friends with INSECURE mothers who make radically different parenting decisions than me. They are the ones who feel the need to make (not so) subtle comments about my choices that are dripping with judgment and condemnation. I basically cut all those moms out of my life. My real friends make many different decisions from me, but we get along great, because we each trust that the other is doing what is best for their family. I have friends who breastfeed preschoolers and friends who don’t even try breastfeeding, friends who circumcise and friends who would never consider it, I have friends who are super paranoid about germs and others who obsess about tipping furniture, I have friends who are crunchy attachment parenters and others who border on Chinese mothers, co-sleepers and cry-it-out-ers… and they are all GREAT mothers. I love and respect all of them, even if some of their choices are different than mine.
As far as bouncy houses… eh. I think we all have our “things” that freak us out for whatever reason – things that make us borderline overprotective. I have had recurrent, extremely vivid, horrible, horrible nightmares about my middle child drowning (to the point that I start crying at the memory of lifting her very heavy body out of the tub and doing CPR and trying to decide whether to continue, know that she has brain damage, and hating myself for thinking about it)… I am INSANELY paranoid about that child and water, which is not really reasonable at all, considering it’s based on DREAMS. But she is also a daredevil when it comes to water. So I am always, always within a couple of feet of her when there is any water around – the tub, the ocean, a pool. I am afraid I’ll be doing this the rest of my life. I have fears about my girls being molested because I was as a child, and will probably be way less likely to let them have sleepovers than other kids. But I let them bounce in bouncy houses. I let them play on a Slip N Slide, even though I know of a teen who was paralyzed playing on one. I let them climb trees and monkey bars that are pretty high. I don’t put protective foam stuff around sharp edges in my house. I probably let my kids climb stairs more than I should when they are toddlers. I let them sled, even though I got a concussion as a kid when I sledded into a tree. I don’t want my kids to get broken bones (or worse) but I also want them to be kids. Like you said “we’ll all interpret the risk, the numbers, and the worry differently.” I think that’s really key.
The worst injury my 5 year old ever got, she was running naked and barefoot across our living room floor after a bath and just fell flat on her face – she got a bad busted lip and almost lost her top teeth. There was absolutely NO hazard involved except her body and a hardwood floor. These things happen, sometimes no matter how hard we try to protect them. So, we just all try our best – we assess risks, we listen to our gut, and we do what we think is best for our kids.
There are very few cases when the vast majority of us see parents acting so against their childrens’ best interest that we should intervene (pediatricians I’m sure see it way more, that’s part of your job). I’ve called the police seeing a family of very small children bouncing around a car without car seats and a baby in mom’s lap going down the interstate. But, honestly, that’s probably the only time in my life that I’ve felt like I had any place intervening or judging another parent’s decision.
I’m pretty opinionated and have a lot of supportive logic and data for deliberate choices we’ve made in raising our kids. I found that the insecurty (my own, others) and judgement evaporated around the time my older one turned 2. Having a second kid also knocked me on my butt. I stopped applying my OCD perfectionism on completely irrelevant parenting choices. My daughter is so grateful because she got to drink juice, eat french fries, and watch some TV.
ITA with what Vera and DS and others mentioned. I don’t judge the bouncy thing. While I wouldnt purposefully break my kids leg, I don’t prevent them from physically challenging behavior. In fact, all out hobbies before kids – miutaineerimg, snowboarding, rock climbing – involve testing physical limits and risking jnjury. My husband and I both have spine injuries (me a sprained SI joint, he a compression fracture) from risky sports. Part of our vision when we first decided to have kids was to have the kids joint in our interests. It’s fun to encourage them to scamper up trees, climb on boulders, see if they can jump off the picnic table. Kids learn a lot through pushing their limits. By modeling safety in each activity I think they will learn to have fun in responsible ways. I’ve read that kids who don’t safely test their physical limits is safe ways growing up may engage in more impulsive behaviors. So I think their is a benefit to moms and dads letting their little ones get scraped and bruised. A crowded bouncy house is an excellent teachable moment. “Do you feel safe in here?” “What might happen if there are too many kids?” “What should we do?”
My own anxiety is triggered at the 2 story rope ladder at Grasslawn Park. One day my daughtered pointed out “look mama, there arent a lot of kids, and the rope is dry. I think it’s time for me to climb it.” unlike rock climbing there is no rope and I can’t spot a 25 foot fall. A friend held my (then) 1 year old so I could stand at the bottom of the rope ladder to fret and pray. The confidence boost my daughter got from climbing that ladder lasted weeks and weeks. She was capable, strong, smart, and BIG. And I was imaging what the evening news would say if her foot slipped and she became the first fatality on the structure that is clearly not intended for preschoolers.
Jumptown Inflatables says
It is true that injuries are more prone if there are too many children in the bounce house. But if it is monitored correctly, they can be a great child entertainment tool!