Some of my best memories from childhood involve a giant rectangular death trap in my backyard: my trampoline. I vividly remember the Christmas Santa dropped that sucker in our backyard, and my childhood was never the same.
We played crack the egg and begged my dad to double bounce us — and my dad is a big guy. We had no pads covering the springs, and certainly no net. And there were times when we dangerously flew off the trampoline, landing near concrete and fences in my backyard.
No parents sued us. No waivers were signed. No bones were broken. But we all survived to tell the tale.
Our trampoline was even complete with its rusty metal springs that luckily never gave any of us tetanus, but certainly kept us on high alert so that our tender legs didn’t accidentally slip through (they so did) and sustain injury (luckily not too much).
For the past couple of years, we’ve been debating getting a trampoline because we know the risks. Just about everyone I know has a horror story from a trampoline incident. I have neighbors whose kids have broken their legs and relatives who broke elbows, but my husband and I went for it this year and got our kids a trampoline for Christmas. It was my idea, but I got my husband — the medical professional — to say yes anyway.
Trampolines are a risk for sure, but they are also just about a million times safer now than when I was a kid. I almost laugh at how dangerous they really were when I was growing up, and how ridiculously safe they are today comparatively.
But the American Academy of Pediatrics actually says that parents shouldn’t own a trampoline at all. Yikes. According to their report, 98,000 injuries happen because of trampolines every year. But here’s the thing: They also report that 50,000 kids go to the ER because of skateboards and scooter injuries every year. My kids have those too.
And according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2013 they reported that approximately 192,000 kids went to the ER for bicycle accidents. Should I take away the bicycles too? No, that would be just bonkers.
I know trampolines aren’t “safe,” but they are definitely safer than when I was a kid, and despite the risks, here’s why we still went for it.
This is the number one reason for me. I had hours of fun on that trampoline with neighbors and friends. We played, and jumped, and sometimes peed our pants from laughing so hard as we injured ourselves on rusty coils. We took catnaps in the sun and had gossip sessions about boys we liked. There were attempted sleepovers that usually ended with us sneaking in late at night, and I learned how to do my own little gymnastics routines out there. Sprinklers set up underneath during the summer months turned it into a slip ‘n’ slide, and it provided hours of endless free entertainment.
My Kids Aren’t Staring at a Screen
Parents today are constantly battling screen time, and a trampoline is something that gets my kids outside and off the screens. It also attracts friends to come play in the neighborhood.
Kids need exercise like they need water to drink and air to breathe, and a trampoline is a fun way to get physical exercise without my kids even realizing they are exercising.
We set up rules for jumping on our trampoline to help make it even safer. Our rules are pretty simple: We limit how many kids can be on at a time, and I also make sure that I’m watching while they jump. We make sure parents in our neighborhood give their permission before kids jump, because lawsuits and stuff. And with a net, pads, and mom watching, yes, accidents can still happen, but we could also lock them inside and not let them ride bikes either.
I worry so much as a parent, but the truth is, you can’t live your life in fear. If parenting has taught me anything, this is it. And you certainly can’t put those fears on your kids. Yes, our risks are greater by owning a trampoline, but our kids are having the time of their lives jumping on it, and I just don’t see the harm in that, especially when there are numerous activities our kids could get injured from every day.
The ironic thing is, just two months after buying our kids a trampoline, my daughter broke her arm. And guess what? It was on a trampoline. The ironic part, though, is that it was at gymnastics, not in our own backyard.
So my point is this: You can’t wrap your kids in bubble wrap. Although there are times that I’d really, really, like to consider how this could be done because I love my kids fiercely and have a 5-year-old who has no fear. But the memories they are going to have on that giant “death trap” in my backyard, are worth every penny. And possibly even a broken bone.