Author Topic: kids' activities - where to draw the line  (Read 5833 times)

WestchesterFrugal

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kids' activities - where to draw the line
« on: March 10, 2014, 10:45:15 AM »
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« Last Edit: March 23, 2014, 09:14:52 AM by WestchesterFrugal »

Gin1984

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2014, 11:04:34 AM »
LOL, you just reminded me I wanted to sign my DD up for swim classes.  It is a parent and infant class for $30 for 6 weeks.  When I called I was told if I come in a get a "residents" card ($7 per adult for two year), the class was $24.   I think that is worth it, if I find anything else interesting to put her in, in the next two year.  Will be checking it out tonight.

James

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2014, 11:19:04 AM »
We live in northern Wisconsin so the pressure to do something like hockey can be pretty high. Unfortunately the cost of a sport like that is very high, along with football and other sports with high equipment costs. For us we simply didn't give them the option, and they never begged for an expensive sport so we got a bit lucky in that regard.

When my daughter was younger she wanted to take gymnastics, and we figured that would be a great sport. It teaches strength, flexibility, balance, etc and doesn't have a lot of equipment involved. Then we found out the cost of lessons, they were outrageous. We had already promised it and signed her up, so we let that play out over a few months. She got the bug out of her system and agreed to "take a break", after which we just never went back to it.

Sports that worked well for us were things like soccer, swimming, basketball and baseball, but it can vary a lot based on what is available and at what cost in your area. As a final note though, if one of my children showed real promise and drive in a sport that cost serious money I wouldn't turn them without consideration. Football is ridiculous, I wouldn't pay for my kid to play that, but there are some great sports out there that I might foot a bigger big to involve them and let them see if they can become great at it. My local area does a lot of curling and that can be expensive but might be worth it. Crew can be expensive but is great overall body conditioning and exercise. Biking would be perfect, I would buy my older child a good quality racing bike if they showed skill in that area. But many sports are money and time sinks that really don't do a lot, especially when there are other sporting options at a fraction of the price.

For your example of skiing, for us it would be very expensive. The closest place is 45 miles and lift tickets are very expensive. I think a better option would be cross country skiing which is cheaper, a better workout, and less dangerous. Having said that, we do take the kids downhill skiing enough to learn it, and I agree it's a very fun sport that is hard to teach later in life.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2014, 11:24:02 AM by James »

Gin1984

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2014, 11:21:56 AM »
We live in northern Wisconsin so the pressure to do something like hockey can be pretty high. Unfortunately the cost of a sport like that is very high, along with football and other sports with high equipment costs. For us we simply didn't give them the option, and they never begged for an expensive sport so we got a bit lucky in that regard.


When my daughter was younger she wanted to take gymnastics, and we figured that would be a great sport. It teaches strength, flexibility, balance, etc and doesn't have a lot of equipment involved. Then we found out the cost of lessons, they were outrageous. We had already promised it and signed her up, so we let that play out over a few months. She got the bug out of her system and agreed to "take a break", after which we just never went back to it.


Sports that worked well for us were things like soccer, swimming, basketball and baseball, but it can vary a lot based on what is available and at what cost in your area. As a final note though, if one of my children showed real promise and drive in a sport that cost serious money I wouldn't turn them without consideration. Football is ridiculous, I wouldn't pay for my kid to play that, but there are some great sports out there that I might foot a bigger big to involve them and let them see if they can become great at it. My local area does a lot of curling and that can be expensive but might be worth it. Crew can be expensive but is great overall body conditioning and exercise. Biking would be perfect, I would buy my older child a good quality racing bike if they showed skill in that area. But many sports are money and time sinks that really don't do a lot, especially when there are other sporting options at a fraction of the price.
There is a three year old "tumbler" gymnastics through our town which costs $38 for residents.  That might be worth it, if she wants to try it out. 

MayDay

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2014, 11:45:13 AM »
We debate this a lot.  For starters, we have a few "lines in the sand". 

1.  No football, hockey, or soccer headers due to concussion risks.  They can play soccer as long as they and their coach are ok with no headers.
2.  No travel teams, at least not until middle school age. 
3.  No super competitive sports (in our town baseball is crazy).  This is mostly to avoid asshole parents and also because our kids are not the most athletically gifted so we don't want them to feel crummy about not being awesome.

So far for us (kids age 4 and 6) the parks and rec department and the local YMCA have been a. Great source of cheap activities.  They both do swim lessons and gymnastics at the y (not 12 months a year, we go on and off based on their interest and the season).  We tried soccer for DS but team sports are not his thing.  Both are retrying t-ball this year just for fun, but we won't continue next year when DS would have to move up to coaches pitch, which gets crazy competitive. 

Our biggest dilemmas so far have been this:  DS has special needs including physical delays.  Therapeutic horseback riding was suggested.  40$ per lesson!  I ended up trading barn cleaning for the lessons but I don't know if that will last forever.  He loves it, and it helps him, but we may have to make some tough decisions.  Also, DD now desperately wants to take lessons.  #2 is that DD is super social and active, and honestly loves doing ALL THE THINGS.  It is hard to say no when she has so much fun.  Even though they are all cheap low key activities, doing three at a time adds up. 

Looking forward, I am willing to spend for music lessons (I am not capable of teaching myself).  The swim lessons will end in a few years as they are making great improvements.  I have no problems saying "no" if either of them are asked to move up to competition/travel levels but at some point it may be the only choice.  We are also planning to get into scouting and/or 4-H as I perceive those to both be fairly inexpensive.

Noodle

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2014, 12:57:53 PM »
Our parents required swimming lessons (for safety), piano lessons (because they felt strongly about musical literacy), and Sunday school (or, as we got older, other church-related activities of our choice. But we had to do something on Sunday). Other than that, they left us to pick what we wanted to do with the caveat that if you started it, you had to finish out the year/season etc. By high school, one sibling and I were very aware that the selective colleges we wanted to go to would look at extra-curriculars so we were motivated to pick some things. The other sibling had a really beautiful voice so he was in-demand by the music/drama teachers. We were lucky enough to attend in a district which felt strongly that with a lot of kids in rural poverty, it was very important to keep costs for extra-curriculars low or non-existent--especially since those were an important way for (especially) the non-academically inclined to see the world outside town and learn about different life options. We did some fundraisers for trips but I don't remember being asked to pay for a lot out of pocket.

In your shoes, I would financially prioritize a) activities that meet family values and b) activities that children specifically ask to do. If it's something that is "fun but costly," for little kids I would look around to see if there is a cheaper alternative that meets the same general need (for instance, singing in the church children's choir instead of the city children's choir with a participation fee). For big kids, you could tell them what the time/money budget it is and let them decide.

tmac

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2014, 01:17:57 PM »
We have a policy of one weekly activity per kid at a time. None of the kids is athletically inclined, so at the moment, we have music lessons for two of them and art classes for the third. None of the activities are too spendy for the family and we share the interests, so they're family activities as well.

In fact, gotta head out to take our youngest to his bagpipe lessons. :)

lackofstache

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2014, 01:29:43 PM »
We try to do as much as we can with our kids; they both like creating art so we draw, paint & screen-print. We all ride bikes and go to races, which usually has a free kid's race. We've given them swimming lessons and are prepared to get them in piano lessons as well. They can each pick a sport and we'll help them, but they'll never get the most expensive gear. My parents paid for guitar lessons and baseball, I paid for snowboarding and the guitars. I like that arrangement.

greaper007

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2014, 01:55:50 PM »
So far, I like to keep the monthly kid extracurricular stuff under $50 or so a month for both of them.   Beyond that I start to see a diminishing return for being a stay at home dad.    I like to include lots of season passes to museums and the zoo in that.   When they're older I'll probably throw in a theme park pass too.

TrMama

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2014, 02:14:38 PM »
One of my criteria for paying for kids activities/equipment is, "Is this an activity they can also enjoy socially as an adult? Is this an activity we can do together as a family now?".

If yes, I'm more likely to bite the bullet. If it's something like figure skating where it's unlikely they'll do it "for fun" as an adult and it's a tough one to do as a family, then it's probably not going to happen. This is the logic my parents used with my brother and I and I think it's worked out well. The goal is to end up with kids who like being active and aren't afraid to try new sports.

So, as a kid we skiied as a family all winter, every winter. We hit the swap meet to exchange outgrown used gear for bigger used gear and I always had to wear a boys snowsuit so it could be passed down to my little brother.

Now that I have my own kids, we don't live within a reasonable distance of a ski hill so we don't do that. However we can bike year round and have a fleet of bikes in the garage.

payitoff

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2014, 02:30:01 PM »
we have a YMCA family membership for $74/month, we all go exercise on Saturday mornings, kids go swimming class, dad swimming, mommy yoga-ing -- on other days kids signs up for tumbling classes, wide world of sports, arts & crafts alternately, these are all free with the membership, swimming is about $45/per child, and $32 on winter months, im planning to move them to karate when they turn 6, so this will replace the swimming lesson budget.,  cheapest i have ever found in LA.

its the only thing we spend for kids activities and we get to exercise too, best part is they also have a kids room where you can leave them for 2 hours while you workout for free.

« Last Edit: March 10, 2014, 02:33:12 PM by 2wakefulFlea »

RootofGood

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2014, 02:43:41 PM »
We don't spend a lot on kids' activities (like sports or music lessons). 

Over the last year, we have spent money on kids as follows:
Summer camp - $53/wk all day camp offered by the city parks and rec. 3 weeks x 2 kids.  They go swimming 1x week and a field trip 1x week.
Roller skating - $4 for a 3 hour session.  We go with friends.  Maybe 6 times in the last year.  No lessons, they learned on their own with a few tips from me.
Swimming - we bought a 30 admission punch pass for the kids and adults.  $60 or so.  We try to go once a month to the city's water park.  It's probably more like every other month.  We did lessons in the past (one kid passed, the other failed).
Engineering after school program - build robots and rockets and stuff like that - $5 for 6 weeks. 


That adds up to maybe $450 per year. 

You might note that we skipped organized sports, dance, cheerleading, ballet, gymnastics, and music lessons.  The kids stay pretty busy with the activities we already pay for, and we do plenty of other typically free things, too (museums, parks, tennis at the parks, hikes, backyard campfires, visiting friends, playing outside, play dates, library, travel).  How do families have time for all those other organized activities? 

The odds of my kids ever being professional athletes or well-paid musicians is pretty low.  I suppose I could step up the outlays and spend a ton of money in the hopes that I would find the right activity to enroll my kid in, and hope they enjoyed it and excelled at it.  I just figure with all the free or cheap alternatives, they'll get enjoyment out of life with the options they have available today. 

We might put them in soccer or martial arts at the rec center, as these classes tend to be moderately priced and they can walk to the activities.

How much you spend on your kids for classes and activities is a personal question.  I tend to fall on the side of "there's too many free skills and activities that are just as important as the paid activities".  My kids like painting, paper crafting, sewing, and fashion design, for example (which happen to all be free or dirt cheap).  If I put them in organized activities all the time, they would spend little time on their current interests and a lot more playing travel soccer, or swim team or whatever I stick them in.  Would that enhance their skill set, make them more employable one day, or boost their quality of life or enjoyment?  I don't think so, but I understand if some disagree. 

Thegoblinchief

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2014, 03:38:28 PM »
I don't care for a lot of structured kids activities. If they express an interest in something, sure, we'll look at doing it, but so far they're happy with mixture of school time at home, gardening, biking, etc.

Pressure to do stuff increases a lot when you're in a regular school versus homeschooling.

crumbcatcher

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2014, 04:31:25 PM »
Maybe I'm lucky (it's debatable), but Little Crumbcatcher's preferred activities happen to be ones that can end up making him a lot of money in a good career someday.  He's a budding game designer and spends more time than I'd like working on game development. I have to push him to get outside to do anything else.

That means that the things he wants to do, like classes and software, are rather expensive.  I've gotten him into some free kids' coding activities, and he works through free tutorials like nobody's business, and he has gone really far with freeware and software demo versions and SDKs.  So, this year I spent a goodly amount of money on a two-week all-day game animation summer camp with a local technology college, and last year he did a game design camp at the state university.  Both have great programs for up-and-comers, but they are expensive.

I also managed to get him some spendy professional software in a student/teacher edition (that still has full functionality - woot!), which felt like a major score ($600+ for each app vs. $200 for ALL apps).

I'm not saying these things to brag on my kid or the fact that I dump an assload of money on him, but to share that in some cases "kids activities" can be viewed as investments in their future. Those little green soldiers are going to work for him before he is able to hold down his own job to pay for tuition.

Where do I draw the line?  First, I will pay for only one camp per year, even though I know he'd rock all of them if money were no object. Also, he has to demonstrate to me that he is actually going to work with the things that he wants, like the software. We approach it like venture capital - what are his plans for my investment?  What is he going to do with it?  He has to build me a prototype and show me what he wants to develop. He has to show me his project.  I figure it's good practice for when he wants to build something in the real world later.

Also, depending on what it is, he will need to have some skin in the game and use some of his savings for it. (He prefers to use his savings for the annual conventions like PAX and SRGE.)

If, when he finally gets to college, he decides he wants to go into underwater basket-weaving, I'm going to have heart failure. That'll be quite a facepunch.

MayDay

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2014, 06:32:10 PM »
Crumbcatcher, you crack me up.

I think the "can you do it as an adult, can we do it as a family" is a good question to ask.

I spent the afternoon sitting on the deck enjoying the sun and knitting while the kids swang and played in the sandbox.  Meanwhile my neighbor practiced first baseball then tennis with his same aged kid. I was watching him thinking "man that looks miserable. I am so glad my kids are happy playing and I am not out there playing catch or trying to hit a tennis ball". 

I have this idea in my head of us doing family activities but the reality has fallen short. Trying to teach a little kid a sports skill is exhausting. I hope it gets better in a few more years. So far all we have had luck with everyone enjoying is biking and hiking.

lizzzi

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2014, 06:48:22 PM »
The three non-negotiables that we insist on--and fortunately the kids like these activities so far--are 1. Swimming lessons.This is a must for safety. 2. Piano lessons. For basic musical literacy. Once they can read music, they can quit if they hate it. Or they can quit piano and start another instrument or voice, if they prefer. 3. A foreign language. Fortunately, our elementary school offers cheap Spanish lessons starting in Kindergarten, so that one is fairly convenient. Past that, it depends on a number of factors--we don't want them over-booked--and it will be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

mamagoose

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2014, 06:57:26 PM »
I'd love to put our daughter in activities that we could do together. I've always wanted to take golf lessons and piano lessons, no reason why mommy couldn't learn a new skill too right? I have zero interest in learning to play soccer but I'd entertain taking karate/ballet with her if she was into it. Lately we've been thinking that having a kid is a great reason to get us into new hobbies too since you can only run so many half marathons before even that gets old.

Gray Matter

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #17 on: March 11, 2014, 05:14:54 AM »
I have found that we don't spend much on activities and that is mostly because I can't stand the thought of running my kids around every day of the week.  So my policy is, they don't have to do anything other than swimming lessons (which they took for a few years, but are no longer taking). 

That said, if they want to do something, they need to make a case for it.  I am perfectly willing if they are serious about it.  So far, they have dabbled in a few things, but nothing has really taken.  They get to try a fair number of things via summer camp, which we use as daycare in the summer (along with a nanny so they're not in back-to-back camps, which I have found leads to burn-out.)  At this point, they seem content to spend a week or two doing something (karate, soccer, fencing, chess, history) without turning it into a major time- and money-sucking year-round activity.

They take band lessons and a second language at school--I'm grateful for that!

Kaminoge

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #18 on: March 11, 2014, 05:47:23 AM »
I've always felt lucky that my parents let me try out all sorts of things as a kid. It's so much easier to explore new activites then than it is when you get older. The rules were only one at a time and that if I started something I had to see it through... knowing that made me more thoughtful about what I asked to try.

Some of the things were probably a bit costly and didn't stick (6 months of horseback riding mainly taught me I didn't like horses half as much as I thought I did) while others, like skiing (despite growing up in the tropics) have continued to give me pleasure all the way through adulthood.

If I had kids then I'd want them to at least try a musical instrument (despite the fact that I was forced to take piano lessons and hated it - at least I know it wasn't for me), skiing, tennis and swimming. Tennis in particular I've found useful to have a certain basic level of skill as an adult - it's a good social game.

MountainFlower

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #19 on: March 11, 2014, 12:05:22 PM »
You HAD to bring up skiing, possibly the MOST un-mustachian hobby out there!  LOL! 

We're spending a small fortune this year on lessons and lift tickets for my 4 and 6 year olds.  They absolutely love it and it will be something that our family will do together forever. 

We're also in swimming lessons, but they are very inexpensive.  We don't do anything beyond that right now. 

I would like to teach my daughter piano, but she gets very frustrated easily by me, so I'm not sure how that will go.    For now, I just wait for her to ask for a lesson.  I could have taught her how to ski too, but I knew it wouldn't go well.  I feel really bad about this.  I feel like my grandmother wouldn't have had these kinds of problems; if she decided to teach her children something, they would learn it.  So why is this an issue for me, this inability to teach my own kids?  <sigh>




Indio

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Re: kids' activities - where to draw the line
« Reply #20 on: March 11, 2014, 07:16:38 PM »
Playing an instrument reasonably well has always been a priority for me. As for other activities, karate because they should know self defense. They will continue this until they are black belts. Tennis because it's a good workout and you only need one other person to play with you. Golf is one of those corporate bonding exercises that I will encourage them to do as they get older, but not while they are young.