Bring Childcare to Your Club

With most families supported by two working adults today, it has become increasingly necessary for health clubs to offer high-quality childcare. A childcare program can make a significant difference in how many working parents become and/or remain members.

For a childcare program to be successful, it must keep the children wanting to come back. Otherwise, getting the children to the club is just another challenge for parents to overcome in an already hectic life. Also, the program must be safe and professional, putting parents at ease.

For clubs looking to start - or perhaps improve - a program, many organizations offer turnkey children's services. However, club operators may also choose to do a program themselves. If you decide to develop your own program, don't overlook these areas:

Quality Staff: Finding employees may be the most significant challenge you'll face. Look for childcare professionals with experience and references. You may even find qualified personnel among your membership - college students and parents who are looking for part-time work.

Safety: Equip the childcare area with commercial-grade equipment. Ensure that the ratio of staff to children is sufficient. Cleanliness is extremely important; you don't want children getting sick.

Entertainment: Make sure you hire an enthusiastic staff who can handle difficult situations with multiple age groups. Offer a variety of activities that stress both education and health. And don't forget to make the activities fun.

Reassuring Parents: Give parents professionally designed flyers that highlight the childcare program, describing what you do and how you do it. For example, most gyms only let children in the program while the parents are working out. If your club has this policy, mention it in the flyer.

Your flyer should also emphasize your procedures for dropping off and picking up children. Check local and state regulations for childcare pickup and drop-off requirements. Clubs are not normally governed by the same laws as a regular daycare, but following applicable guidelines can add to a program's credibility.

Fees: This is up to you. Deciding what to charge can be based on many factors, such as the expense, capacity limitations, time limits per visit, etc. Before putting any price on childcare, answer the following:

What type of programming will you offer, and what days and hours will it be available?

Can you accommodate varying developmental levels and age groups?

Will the program add revenues or will it be a liability?

Do you have sufficient space available during peak hours? How much space is sufficient?

How many staff members will be required?

What type of investment will be needed for the chosen program?

How much additional maintenance will be required to keep the childcare area clean and to maintain new equipment?

By providing childcare, you make your club more accessible to working parents. However, childcare programs do more than retain adults. Youngsters who learn about fitness in a club's childcare program could grow up to be your next club members.