Babysitting at Yoga Studios
To a toddler, Child's Pose isn't the opening of a home practice—it's an invitation to a horseback ride. While parenting offers countless opportunities to be present, it doesn't afford much time on the mat. Finding a yoga studio that offers free babysitting can restore balance to frazzled parents, benefiting both parents and children.
Here are some considerations for studios implementing an in-house babysitting program.
Paid Versus Free Care
To staff the childcare service, use work-study students, or designate one or two parents as coordinators for the service. Charging a small fee covers administrative expenses, but you might also consider offering free babysitting as a gesture of support for your clientele.
At Triangle Yoga in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the sitters—many of them grandparents—consider the service karma yoga. In exchange for their time, they receive free classes from the studio's instructors, some of whom use the babysitting service themselves. Everyone benefits from the arrangement, which supports both individuals and the community.
A Time and a Place
Mid- and late morning classes are usually best for parents of young children. Bikram Yoga in The Woodlands, Texas, offers child care six days a week during a 9:30 a.m. class. Jen Ballew, codirector of the studio, explains that mothers attend weekday classes after dropping older children at school. On Saturdays, she says, "both parents can come to class."
If your studio has two practice rooms, such as a larger and smaller studio, children can play in one while class is held in the other. In a smaller space, a child-proofed office will hold a few children.
Remember that sound carries in an empty, wood-floored space, and screaming children become a distraction—nonparents won't appreciate the noise, and parents will cringe at hearing their own kids. Caretakers should plan quiet games or muffle the sound by spreading out yoga blankets.
Simplify the babysitter's job by asking parents to bring children in clean diapers, and specify that they should already have eaten. Snacks can cause trouble by making a mess, and many children have food-specific allergies.
Also be sure your space has been childproofed: outlets covered, loose cords bound, sharp objects placed out of reach.
Stock Your Space
You can find blocks and puzzles at thrift shops; or stock some art supplies, such as crayons and reusable office paper. Consider drawing on your studio's community to keep the children occupied. At Bikram Yoga in The Woodlands, children are often treated to special activities. "We have yoga videos we show them, and one of the moms, a kids' yoga instructor, will [sometimes] come and teach a class. Another mom comes in on Saturdays—she's an art director at a school, so she has projects for the kids every Saturday," Ballew says. Such activities focus children's energies and keep everyone happy.
Keep It Small
Keep the number of children reasonable. Emily Gretz is the owner of Crofton Yoga in Crofton, Maryland, which offers babysitting daily. She suggests limiting babysitting to "two babies under one and no more than eight kids total." Ask students to register their children in advance, either online or by phone, so you can provide staff to watch them. Make sure the dates and times of babysitting offerings are clear on your website, so you won't have to turn away hopeful mothers who show up on the wrong day.
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