Have you ever had one of those dreams where you were standing in the middle of the workout floor, the summer sun pouring in through your windows, but you were the only person in the club — it was so quiet that you could hear your heart beating? Did you wake up sweating about the upcoming months and whether or not your members would still come to you when the weather was so nice and the kids were out of school?
Hopefully, once you woke up you realized that you had an amazing kid’s center that attracted stay-at-home parents and families to your gym. If you didn’t realize this, it’s probably about time to learn about the benefits of a kid’s center to make your club more appealing to those who need a place to watch their kids while they exercise.
Why You Need a Kid’s Center
A kid’s center may not actually be important to you as a club owner. Of course, if you don’t like to have families in your club and your opposed to busy summer months when the kids are out of school, you probably don’t need a kid’s center. However, if you are into having a full club all year, a kid’s center could be your most vital asset.
“I think clubs should look at opening a kid’s center because it can offer memberships to so many people that need childcare for their children while they workout,” said Carrie Krieger, the kid’s club director for the Newtown Athletic Club. “Instead of having a babysitter to look after your children while you want to get some time at the gym, you can drop your kids in the childcare center where they can get socialization with other kids. It is extremely beneficial to open a kid’s center because it can help a club market to a completely different population of people.”
Developing a kid’s center not only gives the parents a place to take their kids while they exercise, but it also creates a good example for the children. “Simply put, kids are our future,” said Julie Staley, the director of youth programs for Greenwood Athletic Club. “They can grow up with the idea of a healthy lifestyle from the beginning and hopefully pass that on to their kids. A kid’s center also creates a sense of community and a dynamic atmosphere for members.”
“Adding a new children’s play area converts a fitness center to a family fitness center,” explained Paul Bosley, the founder and owner of Youth Champions Fitness. “Clubs providing a space and supervision for parents to bring their children while they are working out, removes a barrier for any parent who has children that cannot be left alone. Typically, the service at the fitness center is less expensive than the parent hiring a babysitter, so it is less expensive and simpler for the parent. Consequently, the club now attracts parents with young children. This also creates an atmosphere where the children interact with other children, so it becomes a club for the entire family.”
By offering a wide variety of activities for children, kids can enjoy going to the club and even pressure parents into taking them. “Parents don’t feel guilty about leaving their kids in a high-quality play area,” explained Emilie Kelly, marketing and media services for PLAYTIME, LLC.
“It’s so important to keep the kids active and wanting to come back to the club,” said Staley. “Incorporate programs like martial arts, parent’s night out, basketball, holiday parties, day camps and birthday parties. You would be surprised that kids actually like to participate in the same activities as their parents — tennis, yoga, kickboxing, circuit training and Zumba. A well organized and structured youth area alone will spread by word of mouth, and the entire club becomes more energized!”
So you’ve decided to launch your kid’s center, but it’s new and you don’t know exactly how to use it in your marketing strategy. “The way we market our kid’s center is by advertising the ‘Kid’s Night Out’ and babysitting throughout the club signs,” explained Krieger. “We also send our e-mail blasts and put things on our Facebook page.”
Once children are involved in the kid’s center they will assist in marketing, but your kid’s center has to stand out in their minds. “With the youth obesity crisis, clubs have a real opportunity to start children exercising and learning about proper nutrition at an early age,” said Bosley. “There is strength equipment for pre-teens and teens. Cardio equipment for youth includes exer-gaming equipment, which is entertaining and keeps children active and moving.”
By having equipment available for teens and pre-teens it makes a kid’s center stick out to kids of all ages, as opposed to just a place to bring infants, toddlers and younger children. “If a club is in need of a play area that appeals to slightly older kids, we will introduce larger, more physically challenging pieces,” said Kelly. “A large play area will provide space for kids to run around and jump from one piece of equipment to the next, which improves gross motor skills. Play is also great for social development with other children. When space is limited, the level of activity is limited.”
However, with additional space can come additional safety measures. “I believe many clubs can make a mistake when it comes to the issue of safety,” said Krieger. “While kid’s centers in health clubs are not licensed daycare facilities, it can sometimes be difficult to have a policy and procedure outlining all issues regarding fire procedures, what to do if a child is hurt and how to handle issues of aggressive behavior between two children. It feels very important that the children are safe, and that the parents can feel secure leaving their children while they go to workout.”
If the parents don’t feel safe leaving their kids, and the kids don’t have fun at the kid’s center, neither will want to be in the kid’s center. There has to be a perfect balance of fun and enjoyment, alongside safety for the children. At Greenwood Athletic Club, Staley ensures that all camp counselors are CBI background checked, Central Registry of Child Protection reviewed, certified in CPR, AED, First Aid and Universal Precaution and Medication Administration trained and Concussion Certified.
With the right balance of safety and fun, clubs can simultaneously market to families by engaging their children. Greenwood Athletic Club has created a multitude of departments to promise enjoyment for hours to kids of all ages — Kid’s Club, Youth Activity Club, XRKade®, birthday parties, youth programs, Camp Greenwood and the new education program.
By focusing on children, clubs create a whole new dynamic. Do you have a kid’s center for your club? Have you thought about installing one, but were unsure about its purpose? Take some time to brainstorm on areas of your club that you wish had more traffic. Maybe your solution this summer is to install a kid’s center and fill the rest of your club with relaxed, in-shape parents.
By Tyler Montgomery