Ann Gilbert, director of fitness for Shapes Total Fitness for Women, leads a team of more than 350 fitness professionals. She is a well-known presenter and has received the IHRSA/ACE Trainer of the Year award. For the past 10 years, Gilbert has served as a faculty board member for the Shapes Academy, an internal educational resource for continuing education. She can be reached at annfitt@verizon.net.

You can implement children’s programming in your adult facility with a strategic plan of action. The benefits of adding the programming outweigh any of the challenges. Adding children’s programming makes sense for most adult clubs for several reasons. It can provide a potential increase in member retention, increase non-dues revenue and focus positive public attention for taking a stand on rising childhood obesity in your area.

Here are six steps for starting children’s programming at your club:

1. Ask your membership for input. Most club owners find success with children’s programming through their present member base first. Ask for member support and establish a program schedule that addresses members’ needs. Educate your members by sharing statistics about childhood obesity and/or inactivity in club newsletters, e-mails and on your Web site. Empower your present member base by taking a stand and becoming a resource for those wanting answers about the lack of programming for kids in the area.

2. Recruit the right professionals. Whether you recruit staff for the children’s programs from your current staff or hire from outside your club, make sure you choose professionals with the passion and patience to be the “fun” directors of the club. The children’s workouts and programs must be focused on fun rather than the science behind body movements. Hire for the personality and train the skill.

3. Invest time or invest in toys. Many club owners find that taking inventory of the equipment you have in the club will decrease the initial expenses associated with implementing a new program. Kids circuits can easily be set up with a few stacked steps, a couple of hula hoops, a jump rope and a hip hop CD. Other club owners can increase interest in children’s programming by purchasing gaming devices or sports-specific equipment. Those clubs with pools, playgrounds and empty group fitness studios have ready-made kids programming options available to them. Swim lessons, Saturday morning boot camps (while parents run the tracks) and street dance lessons are easily added to schedules as members get used to working out with their kids.

4. Price your programs as you would small group training sessions. Most club operators who offer kids options with this pricing have found success. Month-to-month options or a punch-card system are popular and often sold as add-ons from the menu of services in adult clubs. Many clubs also design packages for siblings or have a referral system for those who bring a friend.

5. Offer popular programs, such as parties, socials and gaming nights. Creating revenue opportunities from the unused pool, the empty group fitness studio or the front room social area will increase gross revenue from non-dues sources. Advertise the pool as the coolest party place in town, and ask sales reps to demonstrate gaming devices in your waiting areas. Get the hottest hip hop or salsa teacher to give Saturday afternoon lessons when fewer members are historically in the club.

6. Reap the benefits of kids programming. Members are asking for them and kids are in need. Get the toys out, and the toddlers will come.