Making Your Health Club a Safe Space for Kids

A kid-friendly environment can make your gym feel like family, while also providing a competitive advantage to your business.

The last thing people need is a reason not to work out. Even the most self-motivated member may have obstacles that keep them from visiting your club. One of the biggest is a lack of child care services.

Not every club can be kid-friendly. Deciding whether to open up your club to children depends on member demographics, space availability, liability coverage, employee training, and other issues that come with the responsibility of inviting kids, especially preschoolers, into your club while mommy or daddy works out.

It may be worth the trouble. Offering a safe space for children at your club can create a lasting bond with your members, and give your sales staff an extra recruitment tool. And child care services could become an additional revenue stream while supporting improved retention rates.

Kids: Working Out Vs. Hanging Out

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There are really only two reasons children would be in a health club: for traditional club services (supervised training with traditional equipment, engaging in kid-specific exercise programs, etc.), or for child care services while parents use the facilities.

According to the IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, children and youth (ages 6-17) made up only 10% of core members in 2016. Adding more attractions for children, such as team activities, after-school programs, and camps could increase attendance by the younger population. Additional child-oriented programs could also encourage parents to visit their health club more consistently, knowing that their children will be engaged in programs while they use the health club’s amenities.

National childhood obesity rates continue to increase. Kids need to exercise more, but health clubs have to take necessary precautions when hosting children’s exercise programs. Allowing children to use equipment through monitored programs can be challenging. And if you have pool and spa services, you need to have firm restrictions when children are present.

“In 2001, 70% of clubs offered child care. In 2008, that number dropped to 60% of IHRSA clubs offering the service.”

Simply offering a place for children to wait for their parents can be a headache for club operators. IHRSA statistics reveal that clubs offering child care services are on the decline. In 2001, 70% of clubs offered child care. In 2008, that number dropped to 60% of IHRSA clubs offering the service.

Reasons for this trend include liability issues and the logistics of short-term child care. But there are ways to meet these challenges and provide your members with this much-needed service.

Know Your Legal Obligations

An IHRSA briefing paper, “Keeping Kids Safe in Your Club,” lays out some of the legal responsibilities you need to pay attention to, including:

  • Supervision and employee training;
  • Use of free weights and resistance machines;
  • Pairings for sports and games;
  • Use of pools and hot tubs;
  • Contracts and liability waivers;
  • Medical approval;
  • Issues surrounding suspected child abuse or neglect;
  • Issues surrounding allowing smaller children into opposite-gender locker rooms.

It’s important to stay on top of state laws regarding the presence of children in a place of business. According to IHRSA’s Executive Vice President of Public Policy Helen Durkin, “clubs with camps, child care facilities, programming for children, and/or pools and spas need to be aware of all the laws and regulations that relate directly to children in your club.”

IHRSA’s State Advocacy pages have a wealth of information on laws and regulations. And if you have any questions, you can always contact IHRSA public policy.

Getting Help from the Pros

With so many issues involved in child care services for members, health clubs may want to consider seeking help from companies that specialize in temporary day care security. Many clubs have turned to KidCheck to help them manage and monitor their in-house child care services.

KidCheck is a secure check-in system that allows parents to know the status of their children, and that they are safe and in good hands, while they use a club’s facilities. With clients that include churches, resorts, corporate facilities, health clubs, and other businesses that need short-term child care, KidCheck is designed to give parents peace of mind through its easy-to-operate digital interface.

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“KidCheck is an all-encompassing security solution that gives parents a level of control over key information needed by child care providers,” says Alex Smith, founder and CEO of KidCheck. “Through KidCheck, providers have instant access to contact information, allergy information, who's authorized as a guardian to pick up the child—everything necessary to keep the child safe and secure.” 

The technology generates matching security codes between child and parent that are used for a secure check-out. If there's any issue with the child, gym staff can instantly text message the parent, right from the system. If somebody shows up to try to claim the child, KidCheck contains who is authorized or not, and the parent can be immediately notified.

The system is completely digital and cloud-based. Parents and health clubs don’t need extra equipment to use the KidCheck system. All a club needs is an internet connection. The company also provides free training and ongoing support to gym staff using the technology.

Smith says that the product is designed to considerably help limit a club’s liability. “Insurance companies love it when gyms use KidCheck. It's a big part of your legal protection.”

KidCheck data is transferable to other locations, so if a family uses it in one place, they can sign in at another. The same information is available and remains current at any location using KidCheck.

Information is updated in real time, and fully protected by state-of-the-art security systems. “Everything is fully encrypted and protected at the highest level,” says Smith. “In the 10 years we've been in business, we've never had a security breach.”

To learn more about KidCheck and how they can help you keep kids safe, reduce risk, and efficiently manage child care services in your club, visit their website, contact them via email, or call at 855-543-2432.

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Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org