Doctors recommend thirty minutes of activity a day — while that’s such a small chunk of the twenty-four hours the day offers, it’s hard to find time between work obligations, homework, grocery shopping, laundry and trying to get the recommended eight hours of sleep.
Now, try adding taking care of a toddler to that list. Working out becomes less of a priority for many because of their justifiable concerns: not wanting to go to the gym after their child is asleep because it’s too late, not going in the morning because they have to get their child ready for daycare before work, not being able to afford a babysitter on top of regular daycare prices. Finding time to be active is utterly important, but for some parents, seemingly impossible.
With their patrons in mind, Marshall University’s Recreational Center, The Rec, implemented a free drop-in babysitting program, with the intention of giving their members (students and non-students with children) peace of mind, knowing that they can complete their workout while their child is being taken care of down the hall—free of cost.
The babysitting services are offered on a first-come-first-served basis, Monday – Thursday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The service is available at no cost to parents with children that are at least three months old to six years old, but parents pay $15 per sub-member, or child, over the age of six.
Chad Steen, assistant director of adventure recreation & youth programs, said babysitting services weren’t implemented for profit. “It’s not something we try to make money on,” Steen said. “It’s just a benefit we give our members in the form of a thank you for being members of The Rec. It lets us help people meet their goals and take on a healthy lifestyle. Members with kids shouldn’t have to worry about making a sacrifice they don’t need to in their workout, we pay for it as a cost of operating.”
There are two staff members on each babysitting shift, and a total of eighteen shared staff members. These staff members have passed national and local background checks and went through The Rec’s formal training. In this training, the staff is trained in normal risk management, ensuring they can quickly address both threatening and nonthreatening emergencies — from basic first aid to evacuation plans, to assessing the area and making sure it’s always kid-friendly.
The babysitting staff is a shared staff, also working summer camps, youth-related special events, non-summer holiday camps (spring break, winter break) and other outside babysitting jobs.
Since The Rec is the largest employer on Marshall University’s campus, the babysitting space doubles as a conference room, letting the employees fully take advantage of the area. Steen said the room can easily be switched from a kid-friendly room to a professional setting, and when it’s a babysitting room there are multiple child games, kitchen sets and other playsets, and a television with a Wii that has active games for the older children. The same television is used as a presentation screen for PowerPoints during conferences.
Steen said there haven’t been any problems with the service so far, and babysitting numbers keep rising, but they are currently looking to improve the space by adding more paint and photos to make the environment more welcoming to the children.
There have been 830 child-visits this year alone, making it a very popular service. Steen said they’ve recently evaluated their assessments for all programs. While in the past comments have been organic, succeeding assessments will be formal and sent out through The Rec to ensure their members are happy with their service.
Expert Advice: “Do what makes the most sense for your department,” added Steen. “I think that campus recreation in general shares a lot of similarities when it comes to mission, purpose, your values — and everyone’s location is a little different. Everyone has different facility concerns. We try to utilize the most space as we can and not have wasted potential in the facility. So do what makes sense but also what will help you strive to fulfill your department mission.”