Hop Aboard for a (Tumble)Bus-load of Fun

Vancouver Tumblebus

If you were out and about at summer events in the Tri Cities this year, you probably caught sight of a new neighbour in our community. It’s bold and yellow, looking remarkably like an ordinary school bus – well, that is at least until you step inside.

My son and I first spotted Vancouver Tumblebus at Port Moody Summer Farmer’s Market. It was parked up alongside the food tents, looking cheerful and inviting. So we popped our heads inside to find out more. Oh my! Where were the rows of seats?

Trish Mandewo, owner and operator, happily welcomed us on board to show us around. The Vancouver Tumblebus is a fully fitted gym on wheels, specially designed for children 2 to 10 years old. The interior is completely refitted with crash mats, monkey bars, a climbing wall, beams and more. There’s a trampoline and even a zipline to explore. It looked so much fun with the kids scrambling energetically over the equipment.

from Vancouver Tumblebus website

from Vancouver Tumblebus website

Trish explained that she decided to start her own Tumblebus business here in Canada because her daughter had enjoyed the experience so much at pre-school in the US. Trish was impressed with Tumblebus at the time – “All the kids were so excited!” – but soon got immersed in her science career, forgetting about the magical gym on wheels.

When the family moved to Canada, Trish’s daughter reminded her about Tumblebus, noting that she hadn’t seen any around their new home in the Tri Cities. Trish did some research and eventually had her vehicle custom-made in Canada, becoming the second one operating in the country.

I caught up with Trish after her first summer season, over coffee at her local PoCo VanCity branch community meeting room.

V3H: How long have you been in business?
TM: Vancouver Tumblebus has been in operation since our official launch on February 9, 2013.

V3H: Are you the only Tumblebus?
TM: Our bus is the only one in Western Canada and it’s the 2nd one in Canada. The original Tumblebus was started in the mid 1980’s in southern Indiana by Brenda and Larry Scharlow.  The program was designed to provide fitness through tumbling instruction and fun & fitness activities to children by way of a mobile gym.  The concept caught on quickly at local schools and childcare facilities.  The Scharlows soon started selling Tumblebuses and trademark rights across the USA.  Today, there are over 300 Tumblebuses around the USA and 2 in Canada.

V3H: How do you cope with yucky spills?
TM: We do not allow any liquids or food on the Tumblebus, and kids who aren’t potty trained need to wear trainers.  Hygiene is very important to us; we use green products to sanitize our equipment after each use.

from Vancouver Tumblebus website

from Vancouver Tumblebus website

Trish and her Tumblebus have traveled all over Metro Vancouver since their official launch – you might have seen them at community events or festivals during the summer. Although there aren’t as many public events, Tumblebus is keeping busy during the fall visiting local daycares for customized gym programs. Trained instructors gently guide kids around the gym equipment for their daily activity. Family daycares are her most frequent users – “They are the ones asking ‘What can we do for the kids?’” explains Trish.

Birthday parties are also popular – these are a great option for a fun and active event without turning your house into a mosh pit or keeping track of tiny guests at one of the indoor play arenas. Tumblebus gets great reviews from guests and parents alike. Trish was especially excited to hear from parents of children with autism how much their kids had joined in and enjoyed Tumblebus parties. From feeling left out or uneasy, the children became comfortable enough to join in the activities. Trish is now working with focus groups to work on parent input and development programs, as well as partnering with the school district for after school programs.

Trish and her team also visit elementary schools, company launches, festivals and children’s camps, bringing the activity zone to you. The bus is self-sufficient with its own heating and air conditioning, so anywhere works and in any weather … which is just as well, seeing as we’re about to start the rainy season.

Vancouver Tumblebus


Stay tuned for news of a Tumblebus tour, but meanwhile you can hop aboard the Vancouver Tumblebus and check it out yourself at the following events around the Tri Cities:

  • Coquitlam Express Jr Hockey A – Poirier Rec centre Nov 17, Dec 8 and 29, 2013: 12:30 -2:30pm
  • November 22, 2013, 10:00am – 12:00 noon at Kinder Cafe 3rd anniversary celebration @ Kinder cafe on Oxford Connector, Port Coquitlam
  • November 22, 2013, 6:30 – 8:30pm at Leigh Elementary school Moms Night Out – Parent bus tour
  • November 28, 2013, 11:00am – 4:00pm at Shoppers Drug Mart grand opening, Willoughby Shopping centre.
  • November 30, 2013, 3:30pm – 5:30pm at Kids New West “National Day of the Child” celebration.
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