Friday, March 6, 2009

Kids' Activities - Less is Less


Tip #84 – Regarding Kids’ Activities, Less Is Less. We’ve all heard or know first-hand about the trend in our society of kids being overbooked – they take gymnastics classes, play soccer games, and participate in dance competitions. Oftentimes these activities come at a steep price - not to mention the wear and tear it puts on the driver (ahem, mom) and car from carting these kids around. Now, don’t get me wrong I am all for children learning new skills and participating in social activities. But less is more. Or in this case, less is less; that is fewer activities equals less money. We all know that; don’t we? But why do so many of us insist on signing up our children for an activity every day? Is it because we think our child might become the next Mia Hamm? Or is it because we want our child to try out every activity to see which one he or she likes best? Or is it because we hope our son will get a baseball scholarship to college? Or is it because we want our daughter to be popular among her classmates? Whatever the reason, the same goals can be met with fewer activities.

Sit down with your child and ask him or her what one or two activities he or she wants to do during the school year. And then make your child stick with just those activities. If he ends up not liking something he chose, he can always substitute a different activity the following year. By keeping a reasonable limit on the number of activities your child participates in, you will not only keep your activities fees down, but the extras that go along with activities – recital fees, dance costumes, travel expenses – will also go down. And the car expenses and craziness in your family life will also be reduced.

Your child may find she loves soccer and want to continue every season and ever year or she may decide she’d rather pursue ice skating the following year. Within a few years she’ll know what it is she likes to do and you’ll be happy you didn’t pay for five simultaneous classes to find out.

In Real Life – I need to take my own advice. Really, I do. I swore I would never be one of those mothers who signs her child up for numerous activities. I told myself that two was the limit. In fact when I spoke with a friend of mine who has older children, she advised me that her children are allowed to do two activities – an instrument (or something artistic) and a sport (or something active). And I really liked that idea. I definitely want my child to learn a musical instrument, but I’d also like for them to play a sport or do something similar.

My oldest daughter who is in first grade showed some interest in the piano this year, so we signed her up for lessons once a week at the start of the school year. And for a sport, she wanted to do dance. But then Girl Scouts was offered at her school, and I really like the scouts and have fond memories of when I was one. And then there is Hebrew School on Sundays, which doesn’t really count as an activity even though it does cost money and time. So she’s in 4 things. And her younger sister does dance as well, but of course it is on a different day than her older sister’s dance class, so that’s five activities we drive around to.

And as far as costs go, dropping Hebrew School wasn’t an option so that’s a fixed cost in my book that really falls under religious education. We found an inexpensive piano teacher ($15 per week for lessons at a cost of about $600 for the year) and a reasonably priced dance teacher ($25 per month for lessons plus about $100 in costume and recital fees for a total of $300 for the year) and Brownies is pretty inexpensive ($50 for the year plus the cost of miscellaneous activities for a total of about $100 per year). But it still adds up to $1,000 per year plus a lot of running around, and, well, all you moms know the routine. That’s a lot of money in our budget for after-school activities. I cannot imagine what that budget would include if she did even more or if we went to the expensive dance school and piano teacher in town.

So next year, we’ll do the same thing – our daughter can again pick one sport – whether it be soccer, ice skating, or dance, I do not care. But I am insisting she stick with piano for now. I don’t expect that she’ll become a great concert pianist, but who knows? And then of course, she can do Girl Scouts. How many activities do your children participate in?

3 comments:

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Laura Lee said...

It is good advice, but multiply it by four for me and it can become quite overwhelming!!

Last year, my eldest daughter (then 10) had piano & ballet ((twice each week)), my son (then 8) had piano and soccer, my youngest daughter (then 6) had an advanced gymnastics program thrice each week ((but only one activity, right?!)), and my youngest son (then 3) also had gymnastics, since it kept him busy at least one of the afternoons we spent at the gym. We were out of the house e-v-e-r-y night of the week. Sheesh.

This year, we're taking a break. We kept piano lessons, surely, but in lieu of the ballet, soccer, and gymnastics spending, we joined a Homeschool PE Club. For less than the price of one month's tuition for one child, all three older children participate in a new sport each month: swimming, fencing, track & field, gymnastics, etc.!

It was hard at first to give up those sporty dreams, but if they want to pursue them next year, I'm sure they'll pick up right where they left off.

Sounds like a Frugal Friday post in the making, eh? I better write it while I can!!

Michele said...

Laura,

Yes, I can't imagine having four in activities. Right now my youngest (19 months) is not in anything and my middle child (almost 4) is only in dance. I've heard that it gets worse as they get older. One of my sister's children is in dance, but she does 4 classes, plus costumes, dance competitions - the total cost is in the thousands! And forget ice hockey. We have friends whose son was in that - mega expensive. Unless my child shows uber talent, I will keep the activities to a minimum.