How much do you spend on your kids’ activities? Is cost the major consideration — or time, or logistics (such as drop-off/pickup)? Have your kids surprised you by picking up any activities or hobbies you didn’t already have as a family?
When I was a kid, I was in a LOT of activities. Certainly almost every day after school, as well as on weekends, with some activities requiring daily attention, like piano. In fact, I was in so many activities, from such a young age, that I completely dismissed the idea of starting a new activity I was interested in (karate) because, considering I was in the fifth grade and all, obviously all the other kids would have been doing it for years and be far more advanced. (Siggggh.)
Anyway: my mom was a stay-at-home mom, and part of that privilege was not considering how much time she spent shuttling me (and my brother!) from activity to activity — let alone how much money my parents must have been paying for all of these activities over the years.
By contrast, my older son is in precious few activities — things that I did throughout my entire childhood (like swimming lessons) he’s merely dabbled in, dismissing the idea of MORE lessons with an eyeroll and an “I already know how to swim, MOM.”
In fact, I have to beg and wheedle with him to go to after-school activities even two days a week, but I keep trying to help him find a passion or hobby he enjoys doing. (Plus, if he is engaged in an activity, that means less time fighting with him over screentime!)
So I’m never too concerned about money when I sign him up for these things, assuming, even if it seems extraordinarily expensive, that he won’t dabble in it for too long. (But some of the activities are really expensive, and there’s always this concern that maybe this is the one that will stick…)
In addition to cost (and, of course, whether I can convince him to do the activity), the other main consideration for us is the logistics — what my other son’s schedule is, how far away his next activity is and when. It’s a lot to manage, particularly when neither kid will reliably sit quietly while the other one is “enjoying” an activity.
(So, for example, all those years where my brother played quietly outside while I had piano lessons, then I played quietly outside while he had piano lessons… yeah, that is a pipe dream for us at this point.) (See our older post for activity scheduling tips for working moms — I still rely on that Excel chart during summer camp scheduling…)
I don’t know, ladies, how about you — what activities are your kids involved in, primarily? How much do you spend on your kids’ activities and attending needs (such as soccer shoes and cleats, or ski helmets, or so forth)?
Related question: When you hear that an activity meets multiple evenings (or has the option to meet multiple times a week, like some sports seem to offer, from soccer to fencing to tae kwon do), do you think “great!” or “arrrgh, that’s annoying.”
(My $.02: I feel like at 5 they need more room in their schedule to dabble… but I’m open to it for an older kid who is committed to the sport… Actually, we had a great discussion a few years ago about how to know if you’re overscheduling your kids…)
Picture via Stencil.
I never really did any extracurriculars until I started a sport at age 8 and got pretty serious about it quickly. It was very self-driven. DD is only 3 but we plan to take a similar approach and not put her in any activities until she asks, and then it will probably be limited to one activity at a time (for logistical, not financial, reasons). Most of my friends have their kids in a wide variety of activities but I just don’t see the point at this age, especially for a kid who spends 40+ hours/week in daycare playing with other kids.
Boston Legal Eagle says
I think this is the approach we’ll be taking too. DS1 is 3.5 and is not in any organized activities or classes outside of daycare. We’re going to start swim lessons soon, which is mostly to learn that crucial skill early on. He’s a very active kid so I can see soccer being fun and as a good way to get his energy out, but then I hear about my coworkers driving their kids to multiple games and practices at nights and weekends, and I would like to delay that as much as possible for now! I imagine this will take up a lot of our time and money in the future, especially with two kids, but for now, we’re sticking with the activity that daycare provides.
Mallory Johnson says
Ok, all of you commented saying your children are in daycare. That is an activity within itself! Those of us without daycare feel the need to entertain our children all day long and get them involved in activities that will burn their energy up so we don’t have to. I have a 4 year d and. 1.4 year old and I feel like I’m jumping at every opportunity for extracurriculars but perhaps I’m over doing it.
We have done swimming since my two were babies and I see it as a safety thing as we spend a lot of time around water. Gradually we have added on Soccer, Cub Scouts and T-Ball. I try to have only two activities going on at any one time but that is evolving as my oldest moves into elementary school. I like to provide exposure to different things. We’re probably spending $500/kid/quarter. Ish. My youngest has enrichment options at his daycare so he has also done taekwondo, cooking and dance for a pretty nominal fee.
Threadjack but I’m just looking for some internet hugs. Just got a note that my first grader, who has been having behavior trouble at school, threw a book at another child because he was mad about something else. He’s doing the behavioral intervention program at school, we have him signed up for a kids emotional toolkit playgroup/therapy in January and we’re trying to reinforce all we can but I just feel like a horrible mother and helpless because I don’t know how to help him.
Big huge hug from me. My first grader also has behavior trouble at school and I know exactly how you feel. You’re not a horrible mother, you’re trying your best and coming up against the reality that your son is his own person and you can’t control the choices he makes.
Thank you so much for this!
Sue Ellen Salsbury says
My youngest (now 21) was in behavior intervention 504 plans most of elementary school. We’ve always said she was born with colic & still has it. She’s now an honor student at Ohio State and interned for one of our US senators. Last summer she worked for Ms. Magazine & published 8 articles in the online magazine. She has told us the conflict resolution skills she learned in elementary school allowed her to navigate roommate issues & adapt better on the job. She’s applying to law school. Sometimes what seems awful when you’re in it turns out great from the long view. It did for her.
Emily S. says
We pay for Soccer Shots at daycare for our oldest at $103/8 week session or $309/year. She also does dance at the YMCA for $90/session; we’ve done one session and signed up for the winter session. She and little sister are going to do a 3-week holiday kindermusik class at $40/session. We’re going to sign little sister up for parent-child gymnastics in January for $75/month (she needs a safe place to climb and swing!) We’ve done 2 sets of swimming lessons at the YMCA with each girl, at about $60/each, and need to do more, but why does everything happen on Saturday morning from 9-10:15?
when i was younger i know i did some kind of gymnastics and dance class, but don’t remember exactly. between my sister and i, at least one of us tried just about every activity on the planet – piano, karate, horse back riding, ice skating, soccer, basketball, softball, theater, tennis, art classes, etc. my parents both worked, but a lot of these activities were located across the street from our school at a community center and for a good chunk of my elementary/middle school aged years my mom managed to convince an employer to let her work what was supposed to be a full time job, on a more flexible schedule. i have 20 month old twins and so far no activities. at some point i know i need to start swimming lessons, but with twins we have to do them at a time when both parents are able to attend since the parent has to get in the pool, and maybe around 3 or 4 i’ll have them try soccer or dance. at this point, i just don’t want to have to be some place at a certain time on the weekends and there are so many community activities i’d like to be able to take them to.
It’s all about logistics for me, and I not even sure what we pay because money is never the limiting factor. I’m in favor of kids trying out tons of stuff, but I have a hard limit of 2 weekdays with a kid activity that DH or I need to get them to. It’s OK if DH and I are taking different kids different places on the same day, I just need to preserve some days as activity-free. If an activity is during preschool or at the elementary school, cost is irrelevant. Our YMCA preschool does swim lessons as part of the curriculum, and offers tennis at an extra cost. My kids do both. Similarly, I’m happy to pay for my older kid to do karate, or coding, or whatever right after school and then head to aftercare when it’s over. I feel pretty lucky that my kids have these opportunities that don’t impact my work hours!
For the activities we’re responsible for, we pick activities that more than one kid can do at the same time (gymnastics or ice skating is usually the winner). Once my middle child is in K, I’ll sign the older two up for swim lessons and use it as my workout time, right now oldest’s swimming skills are coasting from summer swim camp. I also need to work in piano lessons somehow. I prefer to avoid weekend activities, and if we must, I like them as early in the morning as possible to keep the rest of the day free for family adventures.
Right now, all 3 kids (and I!) have ice skating lessons on the same night, and oldest has one additional night of hockey practice, most weeks. He also has hockey practice at 6:50am on Saturdays, which is my husband’s responsibility. Previously, we had the younger kids in gymnastics on the night the older one had hockey practice. I know this kind of consolidation probably won’t work once they’re older and have stronger opinions about their activities and want to take them more seriously, and we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.
The monthly activity fees are the worst — $180-$250 a month for 3-5 practices a week, of which we might make 1. Swimming lessons are regularly $25 for a single class. Skiing lessons are like $500 for 5 sessions, which is insane.
Wow! We pay that much for our kids to do full day ski school on vacation, but I guess I assumed that it would be cheaper if you were a day-tripper and not kind of held captive at a ski resort.
Mercifully, where we plan to go on vacation, there is a teeny tiny bunny hill run by the local town government, where a kid’s day ticket is $10 and an adult’s is $15. And that’s it for our skiing this winter! (Money is very tight; we’re moving and husband will be in unpaid training for two months.) Fortunately, that’s all a 4yo really needs. The idea is to bumble around, get used to skis, and play in the snow.
My kids do taekwondo regularly, one night a week and on Saturday morning. I resist most attempts to go another day a week, instead having the kids practice at home with my husband (who is a former instructor). Occasionally my kids play soccer, but that is really more than I prefer (older kid as practice during the week, then both have a game on Sat or Sun). Other than that, they do nothing unless it’s offered during afterschool.
Our monthly spend on our kid and their activities averages $600/month. The number also includes most other kid activities, equipment, subscriptions, camps, etc, but not school/after care costs. The big cost is travel soccer which necessitates several out of town tournaments each season. With hotel/food/fees, we are looking at $400+ for a weekend. We’ve got one kid which makes this more doable both in time and cost.
We’re starting an add-on dance class at daycare that will line up with starting right before baby #2 is born, I think it’s $140 for 8 or 10 weeks. My thought was that it would be her special thing when the baby is around…we’ll see. We also do a parent and me swim class for the same cost at the Y (not members) for a few reasons – to get us out of the house, she loves to swim and we like the early water exposure. She’s 3 and obviously hasn’t asked for any of this. We’ll likely keep swim going and add anything if she asks in the future.
We pay for soccer shots, which Kiddo does at school instead of after care. I think that’s about $240/semester for once a week lessons, although he’s missed a bunch for some therapy appointments.
We tried taekwondo earlier this year, but (a) he was pretty nervous and didn’t want to participate, and (b) logistically, it was really hard to make it to two classes per week, which is what they encouraged us to attend. That would have been about $150/mo, I believe.
I gave Kiddo the choice between taekwondo and swim lessons, and he chose swim lessons, but I haven’t signed him up yet and probably won’t until after the holidays because of all the holiday events in December. We used to go once a week for a monthly fee of $85.
I have 3 kids. All three are in dance (the 6 year old has 1 class, the 11 year olds have 2 classes and 4 classes respectively). That’s roughly $400/month plus recital costume fees (they were $550 all in) and recital fees (around $200?). The youngest does swim lessons ($80/month for a weekly lesson) and plays rec soccer (only like $60/season). My son (11) does taekwondo through school (so only $100/season), and my daughter (11) is going to start that too. He also does after school archery club, and they are both starting a writing competition and attend a Harry Potter club. So, logistically, we have an activity every weeknight and on Saturday afternoons. The school-associated ones are pretty easy though–they stay after, and our nanny picks them up. Even for dance, our nanny can get them ready and even drop them off if necessary, so it’s not too bad.
For a couple months in the fall, they both did the fall musical, which made logistics an absolute nightmare. During soccer season, we also have games on Sunday–just having Sunday freed up now that soccer is over is amazing.
My son wants to add piano lessons, which will be roughly $160/six week session. I have no idea when we will slot those in. My daughter wants to play golf for the school team next year, and I can only imagine what those practices will look like. Honestly, having an after school nanny is a lifesaver because we have help in getting them to things. My older two are super into signing up for new things right now.
Rayne of Terror says
My oldest is a freshman in HS and he does clarinet lessons weekly, and during the course of the year he does marching band, scholastic bowl, debate club, & track. This is way less sports than he used to do but once you are in high school the commitment level goes way up for activities and he had a sports injury that resulted in two surgeries in 2019. Over the years he’s played baseball (at 9 years, his longest running sport), hockey, basketball, and wrestling. He has also done both acting and backstage for school plays. My youngest is in fifth grade and he does hockey (5 months, 2x a week, costs $450 total) and baseball. Fifth grade is when school sports begin, so the opportunity to be on the wrestling, basketball, and track team are coming up. Also school plays begins in 5th grade so he will be in the Wizard of Oz over the winter. He has beginner trombone lessons weekly. We live in a rural area and unless it’s a school activity, it is 30 minutes away “in town” so the driving is our limiting factor. We keep our kids in parks & rec sports, not travel league, to keep the costs and driving down.
Rayne of Terror says
What do things cost was the question though: Oldest – clarinet lessons $20 week, marching band $250, scholastic bowl $50, debate $60 plus $400 for a suit, track don’t know yet but at least $50 to the school and $80 for new shoes. Youngest – hockey $450, hockey equipment at least $15 a month, baseball $60, trombone $20 week, any school sports will cost $50 plus new shoes. Plays are free.
My son is in hockey and it is expensive and time consuming… But he and my husband love it! My son is 5 and this is his third year. Fortunately we rent all of the equipment now, but when we have to start paying for it I know it is going to get a LOT more expensive. He also take a dance class once a week. Previously we have done soccer, t-ball, swim lessons.
My daughter is 2 and she just started dance class. She wants to play hockey too, so we will see when she turns three if she is still interested. Dance is reasonably priced at this point, although I know it can get more expensive as they get older.
I like they idea of them trying lots of things. My kids want to do everything, so we have to pick and choose what works with our schedule. Sometimes I feel guilty that we can’t make more work time-wise. My husband and I both agree that cost doesn’t matter (within reason) as long as our kids enjoy the activity.
Mary V Bellamy says
My children are now 5 and 4. For me, it comes down to more logistics issues. Originally, I put them in weekend activities because I couldn’t handle the thought of trying to do weekday. That backfired, as we weren’t able to take any trips over the summer because every Saturday morning was booked with either swimming or gymnastics. We do only one activity per kid at a time.
My oldest is now in karate. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but it’s offered at her school, so I really don’t have to do anything other than pay. It works out to about $15/per class. The only other activities at her school are non-physical (chess, Legos, art, Hindi), and we really try to get the kids physically active.
My youngest is currently in gymnastics. (~$180/9 classes) She’s not doing great at listening and has been asking about dance, so I may switch her to that next session. As soon as she is old/heavy enough, I plan to take her to rock climbing, because she seems to be part mountain goat.
My next big goal is to try to carve out time/$$$ to actually do some activities for myself.