Between work, household responsibilities, and children, it is almost impossible for parents to carve out time for self-care.
That is why so many fitness clubs are adding the option of on-site childcare to their facilities. Parents need the convenience of drop-off childcare to successfully participate in their group class or exercise routine.
At Paseo Club, we have offered Kids Club to our members for years because we know how important high-quality, safe, and accessible childcare is to parents.
But not all childcare at fitness clubs is the same. Even the best ones have drawbacks (including ours).
We know it can be hard to determine if your fitness club’s childcare is a good fit for you and your child. So, we wrote this article to give you some guidance.
In this article, we are going to discuss the pros and cons of childcare at fitness clubs and 6 top ways to vet them. By the time you have read it, you will have a comprehensive understanding of why childcare at a fitness center may be a good fit for you and your family — or not.
Pros of fitness club childcare
Convenience is the number one reason parents choose childcare at their fitness club. Childcare available at the location where you exercise saves you time and hassle. You avoid waiting for the babysitter to show up at your home or having to make an extra stop at a secondary location to drop off your kids.
Novelty is always fun for kids — whether it is new art supplies, a neat doll or animal stuffy, or a great outdoor play structure. Fitness clubs are likely going to have toys and games that you don’t have at home making childcare more exciting for your child.
Social connections for kids (and adults)
When you think about the benefits of childcare, you often think about all of the friends children make there (as well as the opportunities for them to learn important skills such as how to share crayons at the art table). And this is absolutely true.
But kids aren’t the only ones building friendships. Parents often make meaningful connections at the club’s childcare center too. Picking up your children at the same time as other parents or meeting them through your child’s budding friendship with a playmate can bring adults together. These experiences are particularly important to new members of a club.
Most childcare facilities extensively interview and vet all potential staff. Instructors are typically trained in first aid and CPR and have experience in caring for children of all ages.
Childcare at fitness clubs tend to be cheaper than hiring a babysitter. In fact, many clubs charge a fraction of the cost. This is especially true if the parent buys a monthly pass to childcare or other similar volume purchase.
Knowing your child is nearby brings peace of mind to many parents. This is especially true if the child is a baby or toddler or if they are new to the childcare facility. If your child is having a hard time getting adjusted, sustains an injury, or comes down with a fever, being able to access them in seconds instead of minutes (or longer, traffic depending) is a great asset for parents and their kids.
Cons of fitness club childcare
Though the fun of a childcare center with new toys and kids to play with is often a great fit for many children, it isn’t a great fit for all children all the time. When a child has had a long day at school or is wanting a quiet corner to curl up with their book, a bustling childcare center can be overstimulating for them. What they are often craving is home. This can lead to parents trying to get out the door to cardio class and a sullen eight-year-old digging their (proverbial) heels in. Ugh!
Exposure to illness
Whether it is at school, a friend’s house, or at the fitness club’s childcare center, kids are constantly exposed to illnesses. Though the staff at centers do monitor the well-being of their charges, it is impossible to protect your child 100% from exposure to a bacterial or viral illness. Now that Covid is around, health and prevention are at the forefront of many parents’ safety concerns.
Less one-on-one attention
A babysitter provides individualized attention to your child or children. Unless your family is particularly large, babysitters usually offer a 1:1 or 1:2 provider-to-child ratio. This means your child has more attention because the provider is not distracted by four other kids arguing about whose turn it is on the slide.
Unfortunately, childcare providers are often paid poorly and many receive no benefits. This workplace environment can lead to a high turnover rate. Having a consistent staff member at a childcare facility can create comfort and familiarity for your child. If their favorite teacher leaves after three months, it can be a tough transition for your child and can breed a sense of insecurity.
Little to no support for kids with special needs
Most childcare facilities at fitness clubs do not have staff trained to support children with developmental delays or physical disabilities. If your child has these issues, they often need to receive care at a special facility or in your home with a trained provider.
Pre-booking may be necessary
You may need to reserve your child’s spot at club childcare depending on which club you attend. This can mean that the parent must pre-plan when they want to exercise at the club. This often feels like an extra step for busy parents making it one more thing to add to the already too-long “to-do” list. This results in parents using the club’s facilities less — a loss for the parent and the club.
The top 6 ways to vet a fitness club’s childcare center
When you are looking to see if your club’s childcare center is up to snuff there are a few ways to assess their quality.
Check that the kids’ area is clean and that the toys, especially in the baby and toddler area, are regularly washed.
Watch the kids. Look to verify that they are happy and engaged in play (at least most of the time — a few tears are to be expected).
Learn what the staff-to-child ratio is. Childcare facilities that offer care to babies and young toddlers should have more teachers per child. A common ratio for staff to babies is 1:3 or 4. As children become older it can be 1:6-8.
Before placing your child in a childcare facility of any kind, always inquire about the training and expertise of the staff. Staff should be trained in CPR and first aid. Ideally, they should have experience working with children. Some staff may have collegiate-level training in early childhood education. Ask if the staff have had background checks.
Ask about their bathroom and diapering procedures. Learn if employees change diapers and assist toddlers when they need to visit the bathroom.
Confirm that the staff is at the forefront of any necessary Covid safety protocols that the county, state, or federal government mandates. It is important to know that these procedures may get updated or adjusted depending on the levels of Covid in your area.
How do I prepare my child for childcare at a fitness club?
It is normal for a child to feel nervous about attending a new care facility.
The single most important thing a parent can do is to spend time in the childcare facility with their child.
Begin with playing with your kid at the center for as little as 10-15 minutes. A few days later, return to the club and stay a little longer. Try to have the staff spend some time with your child while you are there too. Over time, your child will become more familiar with the center, the staff, its toys and play areas, and kids.
Sooner than you think your child will be waving goodbye to you with hardly a second glance, joining their buddies for a game of Go Fish.
And you can finally check out that cycle class that you’ve been dying to try!
Final thoughts about fitness club childcare
Now you know the pros and cons of fitness club childcare and have the tools to confidently assess the fitness club childcare facility near you.
If you are in the Santa Clarita Valley or are a member of the Paseo Club and would like to learn about our facility, read about why kids love Kids Club. Kids Club opened in 2006 and has helped to raise an entire generation of Paseo junior members.