Temperatures here in the Windy City are COLD as they are in much of the country. While lots of snow days have made for a series of pretty-as-a-postcard winter wonderland scenes, they have also been a challenge for a JA mom like myself.
There are only so many movies you can watch, and only so many indoor activities you can do at home before the novelty wears off. While snow play is fun, our kids can only handle it in limited doses, as the cold can tend to make JA symptoms worse.
So what's a mom to do when she has JA kids bouncing off the walls?
Let them bounce.
Last night we had the opportunity to visit Jump America, an indoor trampoline park in our area, (disclosure: I received free tickets in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own) where I could literally let my kids "bounce off the walls."
Trampoline parks are a new craze sweeping the U.S., and can be found all across the country. Please note, if your child has ANY form of JA, check with their rheumatologist first before planning an outing! While some kids with JA may be cleared to participate, others with subtypes that also affect the muscles (like Juvenile Myositis or Juvenile Dermatomyositis) or those currently taking coritcosteroids as part of their treatment plan may risk additional injury so it is crucial to check with the doctor first.
Although both my kids were experiencing mild JA pain, neither were flaring and both were cleared for activity. With all the winter weather, everyone was already bouncing off the walls, so off we went.
It was a Saturday night, and it was also "Family Fun Night" at Jump America so it was very, very crowded.
Lines to sign in @ Jump America
Admittedly this was hard on my kids. As any JA parent knows, standing for any length of time is far harder on a JA kid than moving around…especially on a hard surface. My recommendation is to visit the trampoline park's website prior to your visit, and make sure you have already filled out the waivers in advance. Even completing them ahead of time, our wait was 40 minutes on such a busy evening.
After we worked our way through the line, we watched a 3 minute safety video.
Then we got to the good stuff. Let the bouncing begin!
main jumping area, with "referee"
The kids had a great time. Despite the fact that it was crowded going in, the facility was large on the inside, and "refs" made sure a safe number of kids were on all of the trampoline areas at all times. Some of the features had lines to get on, but they seemed to move fairly quickly. There were areas just for younger jumpers, and others for teens. Jump America had a good mix of general jumping areas, dodgeball courts, foam pits and basketball. My kids enjoyed the attended dodgeball courts the best.
An hour was plenty of time for my more severe JA kiddo, while my milder JA kid and his friend were still going strong after two hours of jumping. Since they were cleared to jump, I felt good about giving them an opportunity to exercise in a fun way, since docs are always encouraging JA patients to move. The trampolines were also a great way to exercise and have fun with less impact than on a hard surface. I won cool mom points for a fun evening out, but I was also happy that the entertainment was "just what the doctor ordered," in more ways than one!
If you have never been to a trampoline park with your child, I would recommend trying it out for a short time during non-peak hours if possible. Jumping can be a little pricey, so until you know what your JA child can handle, it might be best to try a short session with off-peak rates. If they can handle it and love it (like mine did) most facilities offer a multi-visit discount plan. Jump America offers a 5 hour card for $50, and has also offered deals through Groupon and US Family Guide.
All in all, it was a great time and my kids were asking me when we could go back before we even left the building. I'm not sure if I would brave a Saturday Family Fun Night again, but there was a "Teen Night" event that ran from 8:30pm to close (directly after Family Fun Night) that was a little less wild, and would have been perfect for my guys. With so many discount codes and specials, I would choose to bring them back for more fun (and exercise!) on other occasions.
Truthfully, this was one of the most fun ways that we could have chosen to "follow doctor's orders" and keep the family from bouncing off MY walls in the middle of winter. Despite a few snafus in the beginning, the evening ended up being very enjoyable, and we look forward to going back.