Am I Expecting Too Much of Gym Childcare?

Updated on April 15, 2013
L.B. asks from New Rochelle, NY
24 answers

I joined a New York Sports Club a few months ago at a time when they were undergoing a major renovation. I visited three times hoping to see the childcare room, but because of the renovations it was always closed. Then I fell for the deal they offered- join now and get two months free. The problem is the childcare room is always incredibly crowded. When I asked about their sitter to child ratio, they told me they had three babysitters, and I didn't realize they didn't mean three at a TIME. In the morning, it is mobbed with children, half of whom are toddlers, and there are two adults max. I don't even bring my one year old in the morning, because I don't feel he's safe and he definitely gets upset in all the noise and confusion. They are only open four afternoons a week, and I am available for two of those, so I go then. In the pm, they only have one babysitter, and if there are ten kids, that is considered "light." There isn't another adult who can leave the room and fetch a parent if a child is crying. And sometimes kids in the room are playing with crayons or balloons that toddlers and babies could choke on. (For the record, I spoke up about the balloons and the sitter removed them.) Also, sometimes the person in the room is some random person from the front desk, rather than one of the three official sitters.

I don't want to be hysterical or overprotective, and I really do want to work out, since I live in a tiny apt. with no space for exercise equipment. But I want to know if you moms and dads think I should just try to get out of my contract with this gym. The childcare is super cheap ($30 a month unlimited), and the gym is $69 a month. The only other gym with childcare that might be better is Equinox, and that would be about three times as much per month, so even if I were able to get out of the contract, I think that would mean no gym for me at all.

So 1) Am I expecting too much of a gym with childcare? (Mostly in regard to the very very high child to sitter ratio)
2) Do you think my complaints are grounds for asking to be released from the rest of my year of membership?

Thank you!!

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answers from San Diego on

In most cases, it's not illegal to have this many kids because of a few things.. 1, the parents are on the premises. 2, most gyms are not allowed to change diapers. 3, the kids are only there for a short time. I don't like the idea of such a mass of kids in one room. But that's the way it is.

I've given up on gyms because of the daycare situations being so bad.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I used to belong to this gym they offered childcare services, smaller location so no overcrowding in the child care center - took good care of the kids (attentive) child care was part of the price of membership and memebership was 30/mo when I attended a few years ago plus it is all female!

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answers from San Francisco on

Wow. We have a whole-family membership at a gym, and it costs us $109/month (me, my husband, both kids). The childcare portion of our membership is around $30/month as well, but there are always at least 3 adults on each side of the daycare area (it's split between under-4 and over-4) during busy times. Could you imagine if your baby had eaten that balloon and choked?? I really think you need to raise a fuss with the gym management about this. It's a HUGE liability for them to have so many kids basically unsupervised, and you can't work out knowing your child could be choking to death in the next room anyway. For sure you should be able to get out of your contract and/or they should staff up that room so there are no more than 4 infants or 6 children per staff member.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

That would be illegal in our state, check with yours.

Ratios for Center-based Care in Washington State
Age Range
Infants: (1:4)
Toddlers: (1:7)
Preschool: (1:10)
Schoolage: (1:15)
Mixed age group: ratio for YOUNGEST child in group

The ratio only doesn't apply if a parent is IN the room with them. A few gyms tried to say that "parents are on premises", and they were laughed out of court. They can't just be in the same BUILDING or PROPERTY. But actually in the room itself.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lansing on

Have never used gym care...but just from what your saying it sounds unsafe and not right. Probably why your getting a bad feeling from it. I would ask for my money back. And/or find other childcare arrangements.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

i worked at a gym childcare and no theres no child to adult ratio. i would work sat mornings and have up to 17 kids including infants by myself. i would agree if you don't feel comfortable leaving your child then i would get your money back.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

for $30 a month why not hire a mothers helper or young sitter to watch your child, they could come to the gym with you and watch your child while you work out. it seems like this would be your best option...bring plenty of fun toys and books for your child.
as for the gym child care... I definitely would not feel safe leaving my child in that situation and would not what to work in those conditions either! Even if it's a gym...summer camp...or after school program they should have to comply with child care standards set up by the state. typically it goes by age but it's something like no more than 20 elementry kids per adult and 10 or so 5-6 yrolds per adult. For toddlers and babies it's fewer per adult like 3-5. and it varies by state.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

1) No-not at all
2) Yes-they completely misrepresented themselves
The opposite of your justified "over protection" is someone who is not interested in watching your child!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Sounds like typical gym childcare unfortunately :(
I don't think they are held accountable to the same standards as a regular daycare facility, but still, try to get out of the contract if you can.
I was so disgusted with gym childcare I just started doing a variety of workout videos at home. Convenient, cheap and the only equipment required was a pair of small hand weights!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dover on

I agree with your concerns but unless they require that your reserve a spot for you child ahead of time, I don't know how they could schedule appropriately unless they were ALWAYS overstaffed (which I don't see them doing especially with the cheap cost).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

What you're describing sounds illegal if they actually advertise having daycare. Shouldn't your state have some standards? Find out what they are. I worked in a gym daycare when I was in college in Indiana, and we had a strict ratio we had to maintain, but the laws vary from state to state. We also had to have at least one person who was CPR-certified on staff at all times.

So 1) No. Absolutely, you're not expecting too much.
2) Yes, but find your what your legal rights all, find out what the legal standards are, and come prepared to fight.



answers from Kansas City on

I used to work in a YMCA in the child care area and honestly, the front desk and management folks don't give a d*** if you are unhappy. We would be swamped and we were not allowed to turn people away. My only suggestion is to figure out when the numbers are lighter and go at that time.



answers from Los Angeles on

I used to work as a babysitter in an understaffed, overrun gym childcare center. It was a zoo, I have to say. Some mornings I would be by myself, caring for 20+ children, half a dozen who were under 2. I can honestly say that it was terrible!! I did my absolute best to provide quality care for all the children, but when there was that many kids I generally just had to let the older kids amuse themselves and take care of the little ones. Which is no easy task with 6 or more babies and toddlers all crying at once. You should approach management about it. They likely will not release you from your contract based on this, but perhaps if enough people complain they may hire more staff. If the situation makes you very uncomfortable, find alternative childcare. But if your kids seem happy to go and you dont mind leaving them for an hour or so, they really will likely be fine. It is just a short period of time they are there, and lots of kids I watched LOVED having a lot of action and friends to play with. THe situation is a lot harder with the babies and toddlers, but honestly, the babies were always fine. I had some mom friends at the gym I worked at who would pop in and give me a hand if I needed it, which was awesome of them. If things got really awful, I would call front desk and tell them not to let anymore kids in the care centre for half an hour or so. Maybe have a talk with the sitters in the centre and ask them how they manage or cope when its so busy, and how your kids react when its a zoo in there. They will let you know if its too much to handle or if your kids are stressed. Hope this helps


answers from Williamsport on

Sounds like one of the annoyances of a cheaper membership. I think you would have grounds to break you contract. But I get what you're saying if it means no gym. But you can't really force them to put more adults in the room, etc. Tough call! I would keep shopping, and if you find something better, try to get out of membership. If not, it may iron out over time. It's hard to accept, but your child probably really wont' get hurt. I've had all my kids in crowded gym daycare since infancy. Annoying, but I need to be in shape for my sanity!



answers from Washington DC on

I would talk to them and say that you misunderstood that they do not have 3 sitters at the same time, but 3 on a rotating basis. Further, you were never able to verify this for yourself because they were constantly renovating the area. Toddlers should be watched in a ratio of 3 or 4 to 1 (depending on your state), and there are other limits for older kids.

If they can't put enough hands in there to watch the kids they get, then they shouldn't be running it, IMO. I wouldn't put my 3 yr old in a room with 10 other small kids and only one staffer. It sounds like they aren't even trying to meet legal minimums, which is why they are so cheap.


answers from Santa Fe on

Weird. I go to a YMCA and they have 3 childcare people at a time and they also have a limit of kids at one time. I don't remember what the number is but they will turn you away once they get that many kids. It always seems calm and reasonable in there to me. Maybe 5 kids per adult? I have never seen more than 15 kids total. The bigger kids (preschool age) all go kick balls in on open gym with one of the adults so usually I just see about 5-9 little ones actually in the child care room. How do you hold the little ones who are upset if you had as many kids as your gym allows? How do you keep an eye on them all? It sounds completely unsafe. I would not use your child care bc my daughter would get too I could try to get out of that membership.


answers from Minneapolis on

When I was 18..oh so long ago, my first full time job was in a Ballys health club, brand new location (and they were new-ish to the area as well), in the Child Center. I worked there for exactly 2 years to the date!

We were not held to what I now know to be licensing standards of any kind back then (this was 25 years ago). As a few others have said, the establishments argued and at that time did win, that parents were in the same buidling (same floor I think might have been part of it?? not sure, I was young and knew no better).

We had 4 or 5 of us who worked the morning hours, various ages. That was our busiest time, when those aerobics classes went on (think Jane Fonda get ups, with shiny butt floss leotards! LOL). One day we had just over 80 kids on one room (and not a huge one by any means!!). It was more than our normal, but for 3-5 of us, 50 kids for 3 hours was very normal. We did not change diapers or serve food, but would offer a prepared bottle (we did not make them or refrigerate or heat them), no cups or snacks. If a child wet their pants, we did not clean that up either, parents were called over the PA system or pulled off the gym floor.

I am still not sure how we passed fire codes and stuff for that many kids in one space (I remember the fire marshall coming on a busy day with probably 40 kids and 3 or 4 of us working). We DID limit the number of babies and required reservations for them, but still took 2 for every worker, so at least we HAD some standard! LOL

Sounds like things are not overly different at some of these clubs? I do think we offered pretty good care, but geeze, now as a parent, I would never bring my kid to such an over populated place!

Best of luck!



answers from San Francisco on

I don't think you're asking too much when all you want is a proper sitter to child ratio so you'll feel comfortable leaving your child there. I can imagine your LO doesn't want to go in the a.m. with all that commotion and confusion.

If I were you, I would find out what the law requires with regard to ratio of children to caregivers (like for daycare) and then armed with that information, I would ask for my membership fees back citing the fact that although you tried, you were not afforded the opportunity to view the daycare area prior to joining and that they are not compliant with the law with regard to child to caregiver ratio. I think that if they are not in compliance with the law, they will have to refund your money or let you out of the contract.

Even if they don't verbally agree, I would quit going and quit paying and let them try to sue you. I doubt they would win if their facility is not in compliance with the law.



answers from New York on

You are definatley not expecting two much and your complaints are absolutely valid, I would definately ask to be released from the contract.

I have the same issue with my son's new childcare facility.

Good luck!!



answers from New York on

I honestly would try and get out of the contract. I've been stalling joining a gym for this reason. If there is a Y near you, I would trust their child care more than a chain gym. Can you call the corporate office of NYSC and voice a complaint?



answers from New York on

What exactly is the ratio? It should be about 6:1. However, since they are not a daycare center, they don't need to follow the rules of a fulltime daycare. Childcare there is a courtesy and not their actual business. I never belonged to a gym, so I don't know what their childcare is typically like and if your gym is usual. I feel that there should be a maximum number of kids allowed in the childcare area at once. If any of the conditions there make you fear for your child's safety and wellbeing, then yes, I think that you are justified in asking for a refund.



answers from Washington DC on

I don't think you are expecting too much. My gym is far better with staff and crowding. There are still crowded times I avoid, but there are plenty of times for me to go too.

Bottom line is that you don't feel that your child is safe or well supervised or happy... so you can't leave him. You wouldn't be doing a good job as a mom if you left him given your level of discomfort. So I do think you have grounds to cancel since they woudln't show you the childcare space or may have misled you about the care (did they?). I dont' know if it is legal grounds to break a contract, but ti sounds like you have a reasonable argument.

Did you check with the county to see what child care rules are?



answers from Honolulu on

There are capacity limits
There are State Laws on capacity limits
There are State Laws on child to adult ratios.
Any person caring for children in a childcare venue, has to be background checked
and/or have CPR and First Aid certification
The gym should have a schedule of when/times childcare is offered.

Now, who knows if there are loop holes to this, per GYM "childcare" venues. And they can always say that, the parent has the choice to decide when to come. And they are not a "Daycare" childcare.

The only way to find out if you can get out of your contract, is to talk to them. And state your issue.



answers from Washington DC on

the gym I go to now has a strict guideline about how many kids they can have per hour and that is based on how many workers they have. You have to sign up a head of time and they will turn you down if it is already signed up to capacity. It still often looks mobbed with kids on certain days. It is $7 for 2 hours for toddler or 1 hour for baby. Another gym that had belonged to didn't require a sign up. They took whatever showed up. somehow they managed to corral all the like age kids to certain areas. I only left my son their once so I don't know what the other times were like. It was super cheap, like $2 a visit.

I don't know if they will let you out of your membership for this. These gyms are very fine line with their contracts, but you can try.

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