From big bouncy castles to floating keychains, inflatable toys come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. While inflatables can provide your child with hours of fun, they can also break easily and be difficult to inflate. In some cases they can even be hazardous. Understanding the components of an inflatable will help you identify dangerous materials, select an air valve that keeps the air inside the toy and make sure you have the right type of pump.
The inflatable portion of the toy is made out of thermoplastic. Thermoplastics that can be used in toys range from the low-cost polypropylene to acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, which is one of the most sophisticated -- and expensive -- materials on the market. Polyvinyl chloride is one of the most commonly used thermoplastics, but it is not environmentally friendly. Plastics used in inflatable toys can contain flame retardants, heat stabilisers, antioxidants and other additives.
All inflatable toys contain an air valve. This is the plastic piece that opens and closes; without it you would not be able to inflate the toy. Air valves are typically made out of PVC and come in different diameters. Different valve systems include the Boston valve, the pinch valve and the double lock valve. The Boston Valve is a one-way valve with two caps. The exterior cap is opened and air is pumped into it, while the interior cap keeps air from escaping. Air will escape from an unsealed pinch valve unless you pinch it closed.
The toy's trim includes all items that hang off the sealed body. This would include the metal portion of an inflatable key ring, the button nose on an inflatable doll or the plastic streamers on a bounce toy. While these items can enhance the usefulness or fun of an inflatable toy, not all inflatables include them. Any item that can be detached from the toy should be monitored carefully around young children, as they can become choking hazards.
Some toys, especially small toys made out of lightweight PVC, do not need air pumps. Oftentimes pumps are packed with the pump. Hand pumps, foot pumps and inflatable pumps are all popular. Your toy might even include a built-in pump. Different valves demand different kinds of pumps. If your toy does not include a pump, make sure you purchase one with a nozzle that fits your toy's valve.