Of all the money I’ve spent on the children since they were born, the purchase that’s given me the most bang for the buck is probably my trampoline. (It’s neck and neck, actually, with the $600 I spent four years ago on a ’99 Plymouth Voyager as my backup van, but I’ll write about The Green Lantern another day).
I got the trampoline for $150 just over a year ago from a friend of a friend who was trying to get rid of it on Facebook. It retails for double that, but used ones are everywhere: like boats and Bowflex machines, it seems every other family who buys a trampoline gets a quick case of buyer’s remorse after they use it a couple times and lose interest.
We are not one of those families. Fortunately, all three of my kids still enjoy jumping on that thing every day; Mia’s almost 13 and her interest shows no signs of abating. When they come home from school, the first thing they do is go out and jump for 10-15 minutes.
Hell, yesterday Mia filmed a slow-motion musical.ly of Ezra jumping up and pulling his pants completely off in mid air, followed by putting them back on in the next jump. Which is…well, yeah, that’s definitely optional, not required by any means, but hey, it keeps ’em busy.
When we have sleepovers, the trampoline is the main attraction and diverter of children away from the inside of my house.
And the health benefits! In the past year, my kids have easily burned tens of thousands of calories jumping on that thing. It’s the ultimate stealth exercise. If I asked them to go running around the neighborhood with me, 99% of the time they’d run screaming into the nearest hiding place on the property. But I don’t even have to ask them to jump on the trampoline, and they do it for a half hour anyway.
That the trampoline is a legit calorie-burner was news to me. Until I bought ours, I don’t think I’d ever jumped on one before, and it just seemed like goofball entertainment. But not only did I find out that it’s a great way for a 43-year-old man to twist his ankle or pop his knee or tweak his shoulder or neck, I also got off the thing after five minutes of jumping and found myself huffing and puffing a decent bit, and I’m not in the worst shape in the world.
Did I mention it diverts children outside? It does. It diverts them outside and straight out of my hair.
After a year, the injury count from the trampoline is still zero. Plenty of occasional bangs, bruises and crying, mind you, but all from temporary pain, not injury. Nothing wrong with a little pain now and again.
The trampoline also makes our house extremely easy to find. Whether it’s the pizza guy or the plumber or a new school friend trying to find our house for the first time, the task is made dead-simple when all you have to do is say “it’s the house with the big-ass trampoline in the front yard.” Found instantly.
Another side benefit of a trampoline is that it allows for instant “camping” in the front yard. Let’s calling it “tramping” because I just can’t resist not calling it that.
Our family’s outdoorsy-ness extends to hiking, but not actual camping. Not even glamping. Walking a secluded mountain trail is cool with us; buying a tent (that I probably can’t put together because I suck at putting things together), loading it up along with food and driving an hour into the middle of nowhere and then having three kids freak out about whether every little noise is an approaching bear — none of that is appealing to us.
However, we can throw sleeping bags and blankets on the trampoline and be sleeping under the stars in 60 seconds. And be 30 seconds away from indoor plumbing, and the refrigerator, and away from mountain lions and bears and ticks and whatever else is out there. And still watch Netflix over wifi, if so inclined.
So if you’re looking for a cheap and entertaining way to get your kids to move their bodies a bit more and to skedaddle them out of the house, hit craigslist in your town and find a trampoline. Some of the best money I ever spent.