The design of my house and garden are pretty child friendly and because of this when arranging play dates my house is usually the meeting point when me and my friends with children decide to have a "home" play date. In order to keep my own children and those of my guests happy our garage is not boasting a collection of "outdoor toys" which I bring out to keep the children entertained and save my house and possessions from being abused. One of the exciting purchases I made was the ELC Bouncy Castle.
***ELC Bouncy Castle***
The ELC Bouncy Castle is a small sized inflatable castle suitable for use by 3 children at a time (and will support up to 100kg of weight). You then have the option to purchase an inflatable pool and bridge to use alongside the bouncy castle which makes this suitable for more children to use at one time. The bouncy castle on its own is around 1.7m by 1.7m square and 1.8m high when fully inflated. The pool and bridge when inflated are 1.7m wide and takes up a space of almost 4m in length when attached to the bouncy castle.
The pool and castle come with a puncture repair kit.
The bouncy castle comes in two colours the blue or pink. The pink is completely pink both the bottom and sides various shades of pink perfect for little princesses. The "blue" version which I purchased is more of a unisex multi-coloured option. The sides of the bouncy castle are orange and attached to 4 green towers with a blue floor. These colour options also apply to the pool and bridge which consist and a green base with blue sides and an orange bridge.
The bouncy castle and pool and bridge are available as a package or can be bought as separate items from ELC. Purchasing separately the bouncy castle costs £40 and the pool and bridge costs £20 however if you buy as a bundle you can purchase both items for £50. This is quite a high price but a similar price to other garden toys.
The castle comes in a small rectangular box and the inflatable castle is very neatly packed and vacuum packed into this box. As soon as you take the castle out of the box it becomes almost an impossibility to get it back in here. The bouncy castle comes with instructions regarding inflation and assembly. The bouncy castle has various inflation holes which it is advised to use an electric battery pump. ELC sell these for £20 however I already had one of these from Argos which cost me around £10. Firstly you should blow up the base of the castle and the tower. This takes around 45 minutes to do fully and is a long laborious task. You then should inflate the front section above the towers which takes around 10 minutes. The 3 sides of the castle take around 7 minutes each to inflate then require tying onto the castle towers to create an enclosed space. The instructions state the castle takes 1 hour to fully inflate but I feel to inflate fully it is nearer 1 hour and 20 minutes.
The pool takes around 20 minutes to blow up each of the four inflatable sides and the bridge takes around 5 minutes and then requires tying into place. Assembly is a trauma in itself and made more difficult if you do this in front of your children who attempt to help or climb onto the toy. I can honestly say after around 1 hour into inflation I had lost the will to live and extremely frustrated at the bouncy castle.
Once assembled the bouncy castle and pool are ready to use. The bouncy castle has been blown up 6 times now and every time without fail I have to test it out first. After all I have spent so long blowing it up. I was quite surprised at how bouncy the inflatable actually is. It is not to the level of large scale bouncy castle but still enough to burn off excess energy, so a great way for parents to encourage children to tire themselves out.
When using alongside the pool and bridge I fill this section with plastic play balls. But have used both sections separately and you do not need to inflate both sections the main benefit of doing so is that it creates a larger play area.
Something I do love about the play area; the bouncy castle in particular, is the look of enthusiasm when children see it assembled. When it has been inflated for my boys and also when my friends' children have visited there is a rush to jump on the castle. Children can bounce reasonable high but the sides of the castle keep them enclosed.
I feel when using the castle in particular you do need to ensure children have adult supervision. For younger children under 2 there is no reason as to why children can't use the castle providing they can stand and support themselves. My boys were 14 months and had just started walking when using the castle. They had no problems bouncing and getting on and off the castle but I did feel I needed to ensure they were able to climb off the castle safely rather than attempting head first. I also did not use the bridge on the first few occasions as my boys were quite unsteady on their feet and felt this would encourage them to trip or fall. The castle is only around 30cms off ground level but for younger toddlers this is quite a fall.
Even with older children you do need dome supervision as the castle can cause quite high spirits. My friends little boy who is three seems to get very excited and wild and bounces and has tried to throw himself head first into the ball filled pool. When using with children of mixed ages you do also need to take care. Unlike larger fairground sized bouncy castles, children have to bounce quite close to each other. I find that when my friends enthusiastic three year old is bouncing it is probably better that two children of his own age are bouncing with him or just one younger toddler because of flailing arms and legs. Whereas 4 under 2's can quite easily bounce together quite safely.
A downside to the play area is that it is quite large when both sections are used together therefore you do need some space in order to use this toy. The area you need is long rather than wide but in my opinion it is advisable to have clear space around the castle and pool in case children fall. I use this as an outdoor toy but have also used the bouncy castle indoors (fortunately just for my boys not my friends high spirited three year old). My living room is large enough to do so but again it was essential to have clear space around the castle.
I have always used both items on grass (or laminate flooring when used inside). After 6 uses I have not suffered any punctures which is impressive since a few mothers at the toddler groups I go to have told me they have suffered punctures with this toy. Using on hard ground with small stones around would really increase the risk of punctures, as would allowing children to bounce on the castle with shoes on. I have a strict rule of no shoes on the castle. The inflatable is made from quite a thick rubber but not as thick as larger bouncy castles.
When we are finished with the castle and ready to deflate I wash any marks or scuffs of the castle with a baby wipe. The task of deflation is also some task and even if you use an electric pump to deflate you are looking at a task of over an hour which again is laborious. Mr Lools has more patience than I do but even after he has spent over an hour of deflation, the castle (and pool) are still always double the size they were when they came out of the original box due to trapped air. It is impossible to get the castle back to this size.
For children this is a brilliant toy and I find that my own children and my friend's children will bounce on the inflatable castle for hours. Used with pool it creates a large sized play area for a number of children and toddlers and keeps them all in one place.
From an adults perspective you do need to supervise especially if like me you are allowing children under 2 to play on the toy. For £40 (or £50 for the complete play area) I think that is reasonable value for money. My friend paid £90 from Asda for a similar sized bouncy castle which makes this a cheap option. However as a parent this is a toy which causes a feel headache to inflate and deflate, taking over an hour to inflate the castle alone and a similar time to deflate.
Durability wise we have suffered no punctures but the castle is placed on the grass with a very few of sharp objects or stones around (and children not wearing shoes). Other friends who have placed this on patio or hard ground have commented they have suffered punctures.
A toy children will love and parents will eventually hate (even if they do have a few sneaky bounces first).
I bet there’s not many of you reading this, that can’t admit to the odd sneaky bounce on the large inflatable’s at the fair ground or local fair is there? NO, stop sniggering, I mean the bouncy castles silly!! If you have kids you watch them forlornly as they jump and fall, bounce, go giddy, and generally just have an all round damn fine time. You toy with the idea of getting on with them in the vain hope that the large muscularly challenged man with the moustache (who takes the money) won’t notice, or will allow you to have a quick jump! As soon as you begin to take off your shoes and sneak on, he gives you a stern glance, and you retreat in embarrassment declaring loudly “I just wanted to check little Johnny was OK” Never mind that little Johnny stopped being in need of parental help on a bouncy castle years ago, but that’s beside the point. Until a few years ago, if you fancied a bounce in your garden (ahem) you were limited to having to hire a bouncy castle for roughly £50 a time or getting Granddad to lie down in the garden whilst the kids jumped on his belly. Obviously this isn’t much fun for child or Granddad, mainly because from the kids point of view, you don’t get very high, and from Granddads, he would be feeling decidedly green after a few near misses on his nether regions. These days, there are a few bouncy castles on the market that you can buy for home use. ELC’s 4 in 1 bouncy castle is a fantastic yet affordable one for your garden. The set comprises, a swimming pool, the castle, and a squirting dragon!!! All the pieces come separately in the box, and so it is very, nay VERY time consuming to blow up. The set will have roughly 12 different parts to blow up. The set comes with a foot pump, but trust me… you really want to invest in a mini generator (Argos £20) it will probably take just as long to blow up, but you won’t be as knackered! The instruct
ions say, that using the foot pump to blow up all the apparatus will take roughly 1 hour. BOLDERDASH, RUBBISH, and other words of dismay! I attempted to use the foot pump and 1 hour later, I had a very, very sore foot, one rather limp turret and 11 other pieces still needing to be inflated. This was last year and I hadn’t yet realised about the Argos generator, so my solution was to go to the garage at the top of my road, flutter my eye lids and ask the gentlemen if they wouldn’t mind blowing it up with their tyre hose! Luckily they agreed, and thus saved me several more frustrating hours with my foot pump, although please don’t ask how I got it back to the house (blown up) as I haven’t quite yet recovered from the scene to this day! J The bottom of the bouncy castle is the part that will take the longest to blow up, (over an hour if using the generator, two hours + if using the foot pump) the turrets are attached to the base, but they inflate separately, and the sides are not joined, but hold to the turrets by string. A slide going down from the castle to the swimming pool (again attached by string) is also separate to the castle, and you can choose to have either the bouncy castle up, or the swimming pool without having to join them both up, or to have them both out at the same time. ( a good tip is to put a LITTLE bit of baby oil on the slide, as it does tend to get a little dry) The castle is H154cm x W182cm x L398cm, and is quite strong, although I wouldn’t advise any adults jumping TOO hard on the base of the castle, as it wasn’t intended for adult use and if you jump even slightly high, you can actually feel the ground! (however, don’t let that stop you nipping on now and again) There is a puncture repair kit included, which comes with the plastic in various matching colours, which is handy if you get more than one puncture and it blends in well. Two new additions to this castle from last year,
are the drawbridge feature, and the squirting dragon. The drawbridge is simply one of the edges to the castle that can fold down in a drawbridge fashion for easy access to the castle, and the dragon can be situated anywhere near the swimming pool with a hose-pipe in it providing the splashing spout! (all well and good till the inevitable hose-pipe ban comes in) If you are thinking of buying this brilliant toy, then the main points to remember are: The foot pump is adequate but will take you a long time to achieve the maximum inflation, so it’s worth investing in a small generator. It will take a long time to deflate by hand, and therefore the generator is also handy, as it sucks air out too! The material is not as sturdy or strong as those at fairs, so be careful, check for anything sharp on the ground before you lay it out, as it will puncture. The strings that attach the loose parts to the main base can come undone quite easily, so if you have young children (or indeed boisterous older ones) it’s worth keep checking that they are still tight. If they come loose the sides will fall off, and your child may fall off whilst bouncing on the floor. It is quite large when all put together, so you will need a fair size garden, or to not mind having a small garden that is entirely taken up by the toy. The Bouncy castle once erect will start to deflate after about a week, so if you are going to put it up, think about the weather long term, it’s really not worth the effort to put it up for one day. Finally it costs £50, happy jumping people!
This bright bouncy castle features drawbridge, slide and pool guarded by a water-spurting dragon. Features safety valve. Includes free foot pump. Dimensions: H154cm x W182cm x L398cm.