It's Never Too Early to Develop Healthy Habits: How Can Your Gym Play a Role in Children's Social Development?
My son has always been a very social kid, at least he was until Covid hit us all like a sack of wet dog food to the forehead.
Pre-pandemic, his days were always packed with school, extracurriculars and he spent most of his evenings on the soccer field by our house with the neighborhood kids.
During the 2020 lockdown, his whole world got turned upside down. His social circle shrunk down to just our small family; my wife, his little sister, and me. As you can imagine, these new limited interactions were just about as exciting as reading the quarterly financial reports for Bank of America.
But despite all this, he stuck it out like a trooper. We grew closer as a family, even with the swelling viral and political apocalypse outside.
While doing school with mom, sharing his marble towers with his little sister, or jogging around the balcony with dad, you could tell that the lack of social interaction with his peers was getting to him. We couldn’t provide the social-emotional development that he got from just hanging out with kids his own age.
So as we slowly emerged from this social dystopia, one of our primary goals was to regain the ground we lost on the social development of our kids.
Lack of social interaction affected our social and emotional development as adults and the impact has been even bigger on kids.
As gym owners, we must realize that our businesses are communal hubs for social interaction. We can create a profound effect by bringing others together as a community.
Here are some ways you can use your gym as a hub for social and emotional development for kids and open your doors to an entirely new stream of untapped revenue.
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Something Fun For The Kids
If you want your gym to become a social hub for kids and parents, offering fun activities for the kids is a good way to start. Finding sitters and paying for childcare is no easy ordeal, if your gym offers classes that kids can enjoy, this will be the number one selling point for parents.
Gym classes for kids create an opportunity for them to interact in a positive environment and are an extra incentive for their parents to justify going to the gym themselves.
Parents can feel guilty about spending their time at the gym instead of with their families. But if they had the opportunity to enrich their kids’ social, emotional, and physical skills all while working out, it becomes a win-win-win for everyone involved.
Choose classes focused on group activities, games, and music. Think about the whole family: What would the parents enjoy for their kid? What would the kids enjoy themselves?
A couple of pointers to keep in mind before starting:
Offer classes that work with their schedule. For example, late-night gym sessions would not work well as most kids have pre-established bedtime arrangements with Mr. Snuggles and The Tales of Flopsy the Bunny.
Keep your age groups within a 2-3 year difference. Playing head-shoulders-knees-and-toes might be mind-blowing entertainment for three to five-year-olds, but most ten to twelve-year-olds would sooner delete their Minecraft account.
Offer variety in your classes. Kids are not equal when it comes to likes and dislikes. Offering a variety of activities creates the opportunity for kids to see your classes as a fun place where they can do something with their new friends.
Make it Theirs
Most gyms are not the kid friendliest spaces.
As you can imagine, it would not be ideal to have kids trying to use 50 lb dumbbells and squat racks. But fortunately, bubble wrapping your barbells and dressing your trainers like Elmo isn’t necessary to make your gym a place where kids want to be.
All it takes is a small space, room, or corner of your gym dedicated just for them. Creating this space fosters a sense of belonging, comfort while bonding with peers, and that this is not just a boring grownup gym that smells like creatine and muscles.
If your gym already has kid-friendly areas, make sure these areas are clearly defined. A toddler on the elliptical is not nearly as adorable as it sounds.
Do More Than The Other Guys
How do you stand out from other gyms that already offer child care and classes? Offer more.
- Make your restrooms family-friendly
- Sell healthy kid-friendly snacks
- Create a kid-emergency station at the front desk (wipes, water, grip socks, etc.)
- Make sure your front desk staff knows how to greet and interact with kidsSet up a group on your gym social media where parents can interact with each other
F is For Family Classes
Make your gym a place where parents can bond with their kids. Naturally, parents will want to spend most of their time at the gym focusing on their workouts. Mommy needs her personal space while getting ripped.
But the idea that the gym can also be a place to strengthen family ties and enjoy time together can be a huge plus factor in determining whether their evening is spent at the gym or the Mcdonald’s playhouse.
Giving a few family classes a week provides a place where families can bond with their kids and other families.
As an extra perk, when parents find something fun for the whole family, they latch onto it like a barnacle on an old Norse ship and will want to share the news with all their parent/barnacle friends.
Offer a free trial class for new parents so they can invite their friends to family classes and activities.
Give Win-Win Rewards
Receiving rewards could be the cherry on top of this social development utopia, and the best rewards are the ones that benefit everyone.
Here are some examples of rewards that could work for your business:
Create family referral plans. For example, when parents have their spouses sign up, they could get a lower rate on their subscription.
When a family member invites their spouse, siblings, kids, it creates a built-in accountability system. It also helps them to feel more at home in your gym and creates a positive social environment (provided aunt Karen keeps her political opinions to herself)
Everyone likes free stuff. Give away free gym merch to clients who leave positive reviews for your gym or bring in new sign-ups.
The free shirt for Susan was just what she needed to replace her “gym shirt” from a team-building exercise she did back in 2003.
Not only have you gained loyalty points from Susan and her family, but now you have a walking billboard for your gym every time she heads out the door with her new favorite T.
Make it Easy
You might already be a parent or know someone who is, but one thing you may have noticed is that they literally do not have time for anything.
From “helping” their child make a lifesize replica of Abraham Lincoln to rushing to the emergency room because someone ate a refrigerator magnet, parents have limited time for anything outside of work, coffee, and keeping their children alive.
How can you make your gym simple and accessible?
To offer a simple and accessible experience, you can use software that makes it seamless for them to book classes and personal training sessions at the tap of a finger in (even when the other nine are covered in glue and barbie hair).
Make it simple for them by creating endless opportunities for accessibility. So even if they’re unable to make it to the gym because Mr. Snuggles got caught in the garbage disposal, they can still make it to the next one because they can bring the kids along too.
So as your build your hub for social development, remember that what benefits the whole family benefits you too. And you can feel good about playing a role in building the social lives of the next generation.
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