Kids' activities

Extracurricular activities, extra costs

After-school and weekend activities can help your kids learn new skills as well as build new friendships and experiences.

Here is how to help your kids flourish and learn through extracurricular classes without paying a fortune and turning you into a part-time activities coordinator.

Choosing an activity

Depending on what your child is interested in, they could take lessons in art, music, dance, sports or even community and youth group activities like scouts or brownies. With so many activities on offer the choice can be overwhelming. Especially when you are on a tight budget and need to limit the number of things they can do.

Here are some tips on choosing the right activity:

  • Just ask them - Ask your child what they think they would like to do.
  • Observation - Observe their play and see where their strengths lie. Do they like drawing or sports or dancing?
  • Ask other parents - Find out from other parents in your child's class what their children are doing and what they enjoy. Perhaps your child can join in an activity with a classmate.
  • Do online research - Check online to see what activities are on offer in your local area.
  • Call around and ask questions - Once you have narrowed down the type of activity you can call local businesses offering the classes and ask some key questions: Are the instructors properly qualified to instruct children? Is there a suitable ratio of adults to children? What facilities do they offer for the activity? What are the total costs?

Give it a trial run

Before committing to a season or term of payments and spending money on a uniform, take the time to visit the venue and let your child try out or watch the activity. Some activities like dance will let you trial a class before committing to it.

When your child trials the class you'll be able to see if they enjoyed and joined in with the activity and if the class was pitched at the right level for your child.

If you're still unsure about the class, check if the activities can be paid one lesson at a time, and ask if the club or organisation will refund your registration fee if your child withdraws from the activity after a few lessons.

Check your kids really like it

Make sure you don't enrol them in too many activities at once. Start them on one thing at a time so you can work out if they really love the activity or just tolerate it.

A good test of whether they really like it is if they are happy to practice the activity at home. For example if they like piano lessons but refuse to practice then maybe they would be better suited to another activity.
The same goes for sports and dance activities.

Case study: Lucy's music lessons

Young girl learning guitarLucy was thrilled when her school offered music lessons to children interested in learning to play an instrument. Her parents agreed for Lucy to rent a guitar from the school, and to pay for one lesson at a time. After a few months, Lucy complained to her parents that she didn't enjoy playing the guitar, and would be happy just to sing with friends in the school choir instead. Lucy was very happy learning to use her voice with the school choir, and Lucy's parents were glad that they hadn't bought Lucy a guitar, and that they hadn't paid for the full term of guitar lessons.

Activity discounts

Once you know your child wants to commit to an activity, you can save some money if you sign up early, at the start of the term or season. Some activities also give discounts if you enrol a second sibling.

Smart tip

When your child is just starting out in a new activity, you can save money by using second-hand gear until they're sure they want to continue.

Ask if the registration fee covers the cost of your child's uniform or costumes, and if there are any additional costs to pay, such as weekly referee costs if they are learning a team sport or production fees for an end of year concert.

If your child shows particular talent in an activity, then you could consider looking into scholarships. Some schools offer academic scholarships for students who are star performers in music or sports.

Create a family budget and add the cost of activities to work out what it is really costing you per year.

Budget planner

While it can be exciting to get involved in extracurricular activities, watch out for activity overload: you'll recognise it because your child will show fatigue, and you'll also be tired and stressed from taking them from one activity to the next.

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Last updated: 18 Oct 2017