A.Offering some form of childcare can be a huge benefit to members. It allows their children to be nearby while the member fits in a workout. The member is coming to the gym more often, and they are potentially paying for childcare. It’s a win-win for everybody, provided that the proper rules and stipulations are followed.
First, there is a difference between childcare and children’s programs. Each state has different laws regarding daycare. They have specific ratios of adults to children among other requirements. A daycare allows the parents to drop off their child. A playroom requires that the parent be in the building. Therefore, we call our area a playroom, not a daycare. It is geared toward those six years old and under. Our goal is to accommodate our members and make it as easy as possible for our members to come to the club. We take babies as young as six weeks. That is usually the timing when doctors give mothers the OK to return to their exercise regimen. We do, however, require reservations for children under one year old. Children older than one year do not require a reservation. This way we can get a better feel for the safe ratio we need, but we cannot predict the actual traffic each day. The size of the room depends on the size of your club and your market.
Safety and cleanliness are the biggest issues. If your playroom has a great reputation, mothers will come. If word gets out that there are problems, it is hard to come back from that. How you handle snacks and food is important. With so many children with food allergies, you have to be extremely careful with anything you provide. And, if you allow it, you have to be cautious of what other children bring.
Parents are allowed to leave their child at the club if their child is in a program. When planning a program, think of the parents as well as the child. Is this a program that the parents want to watch? Then it can be one hour or less. But if it is a Junior Party, it has to be three hours so that the parent can go out, do something and get back in time.
You can also have a playroom for the 7 – 10 year olds. It needs to be separated from the little children. This area needs to be inviting to the children or they won’t want to come. Interactive games and computers are big hits. Also, if you have space for a kid’s gym or play area, do it. Remember, if the child doesn’t want to come, the parent won’t either. This age group loves programs and so do the parents. We found we are a great entry level for programs. Soccer, basketball, karate, gymnastics, day camps and school’s out camps are a few ideas. We have tennis courts and start the children as young as three — a lot of children begin tennis in this age group.
The toughest age group is the 11-14 year olds. They are too old for the playroom and too young for the fitness center. Therefore, we have offered a program for this age group to teach them about exercise and nutrition. After they pass the class, they can use limited equipment in the fitness center. If left loose in the club alone, they will get bored and get in trouble.
There is also a difference based on the type of club you run. A large multi-purpose club with gym and pool attract more families. If you are lucky enough to have tennis, then it is definitely a family club. Families stay longer at a club than couples or singles. We have members who grew up in our playroom and now they have their own children in our playroom. -CS
Answer provided by Kay Yuspeh, the founder of Elite Fitness Clubs in Milwaukee, Wisc., To have your question answered e-mail Tyler Montgomery, editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.