For many moms, being able to get to the gym for a workout isn’t always easy. As much as we would love to be able to hit the gym a few times a week, childcare is often a factor. Finding a gym that offers childcare is like hitting the jackpot for many parents because it allows them to get in some exercise and to have a little bit of time to themselves, but before you drop your children off and get ready to hit that treadmill, parents really need to know if their gym daycare is safe for their child.
PAST PROBLEMS AT GYM DAYCARE
Just recently an Indianapolis area woman went public with her health and safety concerns regarding her local LA Fitness Kidz Klub where she was employed as a childcare worker. Katie Lyman took to Facebook to complain about the unsanitary conditions of the childcare area as well as the number of children admitted to the kids club at any given time, regardless of how many employees were working.
Other parents have reported similar incidents, such as children being bitten and parents not being notified, and gym childcare areas not separated into areas for infants and toddlers and older children. In 2015 it was reported that a toddler was able to wander outside of the childcare facility at a Gold’s Gym where she was found by a man near a busy road. “They didn’t even know she was missing,” the toddler’s mother, Amber Katko said at the time.
REGULATIONS AT GYM DAYCARE
The issue with gym childcare centers is often caused by government regulations or lack thereof. Katie Lyman soon discovered that childcare facilities in Indiana that care for children less than four hours per day and not in consecutive days, like athletic club childcare facilities, are exempt from the rules and regulations that govern other childcare facilities. A 2013 article by USA Today showed that 12 states grant license exemptions to childcare centers with short-term care, according to Child Care Aware of America. Eight additional states exempt centers from licenses if a parent is located on the premises.
This means that many gym childcare centers are exempt from the traditional childcare laws enacted in their state, leaving many parents frustrated and without legal recourse should something happen to their child.
“It’s up to the gyms, and some do a better job than others,” Michelle McCready, a senior policy adviser at Child Care Aware of America told USA Today. “The provider may not know the child or routine health and safety measures.”
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SAFE GYM DAYCARE
This doesn’t mean that gym daycare as a whole are unsafe and you won’t be able to work out again until your kids are teenagers, but it does mean that you’ll have to do some due diligence. Before leaving your child at any gym daycare make sure you spend some time there first. Ensure that it’s clean and the toys are in good repair and the children are being properly supervised. Ask what the training requirements are for those who are working in the daycare such as background checks and whether employees are required to have CPR and first aid training.
You’ll also want to ask about the bathroom and diapering procedures and whether the employees will be changing diapers and helping toddlers when they need to visit the bathroom. Parents need to be comfortable knowing whether childcare employees will be changing their infant’s diaper or bringing their child to the bathroom.
WHAT’S THE RATIO OF KIDS TO ADULTS IN A GYM DAYCARE?
Parents will definitely want to check out what the parent to caregiver ratio is at any gym daycare and ensure that there is a policy in place. The Office of Personnel Management says that the ratio of children to caregivers depends on the age of the children in care. They recommend that there be one caregiver for every three or four infants under 15 months and one caregiver for every three or four toddlers under the age of 28 months. As the children get older there can be fewer caregivers assigned to the children, but there still needs to be a manageable number that parents are comfortable with.
Some daycare centers make you reserve your daycare spot ahead of time which eliminates parents arriving only to find out the daycare is full and can help you plan their day. This also allows the daycare to ensure they have enough qualified staff working to meet the demands of their clients. Parents will want to ask about these policies ahead of time so they know there will always be enough staff on hand to supervise all the children in the daycare at all times, especially if they have an infant or toddler.
TALK TO YOUR CHILD
Obviously, if you have an infant you won’t be able to ask your child if their time at the gym childcare is fun or not, but if you have an older child make sure to talk to them about their time in the childcare. Ask them about the other kids and if the employees are attentive and if they enjoy their time there. Ask them if they feel safe and supervised while they’re there, and if you don’t feel good about it there’s no harm in looking for another gym that has childcare you feel more comfortable with.
Not all gym childcare centers are the same, and some are very, very good while others are lacking. One thing is for sure, and that’s that all gym childcare centers are not created equal so it’s up to you as parents to ensure that you are fully vetting them before leaving your child. Gym daycare can be a safe, fun and happy place to leave your children while you workout, but it’s up to you to determine that.