Trampolines are a great way for kids to get out some energy, and most kids will spend tons of time jumping on a new trampoline! They are great for outdoors during the summer, and indoors during the cold winter months.
Not only are they great fun, but physical and occupational therapists use trampolines to provide children with proprioceptive input, encourage rhythmic bouncing (which research suggests might help with language development), build strength, and get them engaged in a fun whole-body activity!
Over the past few decades, several safety advances have made trampolines much safer than they used to be. For instance, new safety net placements and handle bar additions have reduced injury risk especially the smaller ones for toddlers and bigger kids aged 3-7. Of course, like any sport activity (bicycles, soccer, lacrosse, and the list goes on), there are always risks of injury, even with trampolines that seem very safe. Always supervise your kid on a trampoline, and never let more than one person use it at a time. For the Mayo Clinic's statement regarding trampoline use, including how to use trampolines safely, see here.
Types of Toddler and Big Kid Trampolines.
Over the past few years we have tested over a dozen different trampolines. Some designed for toddlers ages 2-3 or so, and others designed for bigger kids aged 4-7 or so.
The toddler trampolines usually are smaller, provide less of an elevated bounce, and have an attached handlebar with padding to ease kids into learning how to bounce on their own. These are very low to the ground (usually 4-6"), and use either springs or bungee cords to hold the jumping surface onto the frame. Our boys have never fallen off one of these (knock on wood!), even in the beginning, and they are not the most coordinated boys in the world! But they have succeeded in bouncing the trampoline into oblivion and breaking the bungee support cords, and we will talk about this issue when we review individual units below.
The "big kid" trampoline includes safety netting (attached to the inside of the springs), a slightly larger and more elastic/bouncy jumping surface, and is a bit higher off the ground. These usually have a weight capacity between 80-100 pounds, and kids can jump quite a bit higher than on a toddler trampoline. They are a good option before stepping up to a larger and more dangerous trampoline that allows kids to bounce too high for their own good (and your and your insurance company's sanity). They are also still small enough to typically fit inside, for instance into a play room or finished basement area. As they get larger, they are too big and are left outside all year round.
Here are the new 2016 Reviews!
Toddler Grab-bar Trampolines, best of 2016
1. The Original Toy Company Fold & Go Trampoline, about $90-100. Click the link or picture and there are usually 2-3 color options. This trampoline has a cute blue/yellow/red color pattern and is basically tied for first place with the Bazoongi, you can't really go wrong with either of them. It folds up into a really compact footprint that can fit in a small closet or trunk, which is a big plus. It has no metal springs, instead using a series of heavy duty elastic straps. While bungee cord attachments tend to break after 8-12 months of heavy use, these elastric straps have proven themselves far superior, lasting for several years. We also thought this was one of the easiest trampolines to unfold and set up in our test living room, and liked that it used 6 instead of 4 legs to increase stability and safety. It also felt very sturdy and well built. It also has the highest weight limit we could find, coming in at 150 pounds (!) so even mom might be able to have some fun! Now for the fun parts: it has a 36" diameter bouncing surface, has a great bouncy elastic to the trampoline itself while still being firm enough to prevent kids from jumping too high. This trampoline ended up #1 on our list for three reasons: first, it uses the elastic straps rather than the unreliable bungee cord, second it has a very high weight limit, and third because it feels very sturdy with its 6 leg design. The only downfall, like some others, is that once your kid gets heavier they might put more weight on the handlebar and make the back of the trampoline lift off the ground during jumping. While we highly doubt it would ever actually tip over, once your kid gets a bit bigger (60+ pounds) you might want to consider putting a little weight on the back legs (like a dumbell or bag of sand/rocks).
2. Bazoongi 48" Little Bounce Bouncer, about $90. Comes in purple, blue, or green colors. This is a great, reliable trampoline for toddlers with a very high (about 100 pounds) weight limit and decent size bouncing surface (4 feet wide). Though that doesn't mean adults should try jumping on one of them, for risk of tearing through the jumping surface or breaking a spring! This trampoline is #2 on our list because it uses springs rather than the heavy duty elastic straps to attach the jumping surface to the frame. Bungee cords tend to break after about 8-12 months of use, and while the straps seem to be the best, springs tend to better stand the test of time and hard use. Note however that springs do pose a pinching hazard, so keep that in mind. Parents report that it's well-made, sturdy, doesn't allow kids to bounce too high, and it has a nice padded handle - and the entire handle is padded rather than only the top like on most other units. The only downfall of this one is that we've noticed that once your toddler reaches about 30-40 pounds, and they are a hard jumper, the back of the trampoline can lift a bit off the ground during big jumping. We haven't seen any reports of it tipping over, but this of course can be concerning, and some parents have attached something heavy to the back of it to prevent it from lifting off the ground.
3. Little Tikes 36" Toddler Trampoline. About $50. A cute, reliable, portable, sturdy option for little kids. It uses a unique webbing material rather than springs or bungee, which is a safer and more reliable option. Parents report that it's very easy to assemble, has a firm bouncing surface that gets more flexible with time, and they love the nice wide handle. The weight limit is relatively low on this option, topping out at 55 pounds, and the size of the bouncing surface is smaller than the Bazoongi option. Parents also report that the foam on the handle tears/rips easily especially if your toddler likes to bite. Like all the others, parents report that the back will lift off the ground with more aggressive jumping. Overall, parents think this is a great trampoline, and a great option for a little first-time jumper. Coming in at the cheapest spot on our list, this is a good bang-for-the-buck trampoline for the little ones; but realize that toddlers will grow out of it pretty quickly given its small size, low jump profile, and low weight capacity.
4. Galt Folding Trampoline. About $80. This is the most common choice of physical and occupational therapists, because it's relatively compact (about 2.5 feet wide bouncing surface), sturdy, folds flat for storage, and kids can't jump too high on its relatively rigid bouncing surface. It's also fairly reliable, and the company is decently responsive when something happens. What will happen? Most likely, the bungee cord holding the jumping surface to the frame will break after about 8-12 months. This is not unique to the Galt, it also happens with other bungee-based trampolines. That's why they sell replacement bungee cords online! Of course, we wouldn't suggest trying to replace the bungee cord yourself: we tried it and got so frustrated after a couple of hours that we completely gave up. Also, just like with the trampolines above, parents report that it has a tendency for the rear legs to lift off the ground during aggressive jumping. You will notice that it is somewhat plain looking, and smaller, but it's a good utilitarian trampoline option. Weight limit is 77 pounds.
**Not recommended: The One Step Ahead Trampoline. This company is terribly unresponsive. Our trampoline broke after about 6 months of use and they didn't reply to a single email or phone call for warranty repairs. We do not recommend their products.
Here are the Big Kid Trampoline Reviews - New for 2016
Big Kid Netted Trampolines, best of 2016
For these reviews, we focus on trampolines well suited for kids about 3-7 years old. We do not review trampolines with a jumping surface larger than 6 feet wide due to safety hazards associated with letting a little kid jump really high on those super-springy trampolines. We also only review trampolines that have netting attached to the inside of the springs to prevent little legs from going down into the gaps between the springs. In general, the Skywalker and AirZone options tend to be the sturdiest and most reliable, though you might want to consider a bouncy house instead (see #3)!
1. Skywalker 60" Seaside Adventure Trampoline. About $80. This comes in two different themes, the other being a zoo animal theme. This trampoline is suggested for kids aged 3 to 7, and has a 100 pound weight limit. One of the best things about this trampoline is that it has a 360-degree handle around the inside perimeter that kids can hold onto when they first start jumping and build their confidence. This unit uses a bungee cord rather than springs, so there's no pinch hazard - but bungees do tend to wear out and break a bit faster than metal springs. Parents report that it is sturdy, well constructed, and lasts for several years. The only downfall is that it can be tricky to put together because the instructions that come with it are quite terrible. But once you figure that out, you'll be well on your way to years of fun!
2. Little Tikes 7' Trampoline. Expensive! About $200. This is the direct competition with the Skywalker Adventure trampoline, and the SkyBound Super 7 (another great choice to check out!), and it does a very good job competing. It is more expensive and more substantial (about 2' wider diameter jumping area). This is for slightly older kids in general, without the cute pictures or the wrap-around handle, and a bigger jumping surface width. It does have a slightly sturdier base of support given the curvature of its legs. Overall, it's a well constructed trampoline and a good second option to the Skywalker, albeit much more expensive. This has overall very durable construction and a strong bounce surface.
3. My Bouncer Little Round Castle Bounce House. About $150, perhaps the best $150 you'll ever spend! OK, this is technically not a trampoline! We're breaking the rules, but this is a bouncy house with a center bounce area that behaves a lot like a trampoline. This is very likely the safest way to get your kids to bounce out their energy, with inflatable rather than rigid pole sides that kids can bounce into and off of, and a net to keep them contained. Parents love this unit because it's like having an expensive inflatable birthday party right in your own house! It also comes with everything you need - including the front slide, pump/blower (inflates in about 10 seconds!), basketball hoop, and tie-down weight bags. The vinyl is very thick and high quality. Maximum weight is 150 pounds, so this will last your family for quite some time. (See our reviews of other bouncy houses here.)