I can’t believe the new school year starts in a few weeks!!! We struggled to find the right summer camp to put Little Monkey in this summer and only last week did we slot her in a two week acting class at Ryerson. Figuring out which activities to enroll kids in is tough because there are so many factors to consider…we ponder so much and then just end up doing nothing more often than not. I know so many kids in my inner circle who are rushing from one activity to another and it freaks me out a fair bit. Over scheduling definitely doesn’t sit well with me. I recently attended an event with TD and we chatted about extracurricular activities and how best to budget and narrow down the many options.
Disclosure : This post is in partnership with TD Canada Trust but, as always, opinions are TOTALLY ours.
According to a recent TD survey, four in ten Canadian parents with children under 18 years old spend $1,000 or more on extracurricular activities per child during the school year and half of them find budgeting for these activities stressful. It was no surprise learning that 50 per cent of Canadian parents limit the number of, or don’t sign their kids up for, extracurricular activities due to cost. I mean just the two weeks of acting classes cost us $525 (I usually find reasonably priced options but the hubs was in charge of the summer camp)! I know the benefit of signing the kids up for extracurricular activities, but I also know that I’d much rather save the money for our monthly travels. As a kid I was over scheduled and my parents signed me up for ballet and piano classes and in between we had tuition classes for Arabic and Elocution. I was also a Girl Guide! I’m not sure how my working parents shuttled us to and from all these classes but it happened like clockwork.
Living in downtown Toronto, I’m always trying to find options that are in our vicinity or those that offer transportation services, mainly to save us some commuting time. I’ve also lucked out by finding some free or nearly free options. Remember your child may be the one enrolled in the class but the entire family is involved in some form or another, so think about how each of the options affects every member of the family. As we gear up for a new school year and contemplate on the additional classes we want to enroll Little Monkey in, here’s some tips I picked up from the TD team and parenting coach Terry Carson.
Tips For Choosing Extracurricular Activities
- Choose activities that interest the child, not the parent. Ask your child what they want to do and hold them accountable if they decide to drop out or lose interest half way through the program.
- Ensure the activity is a fit for your child’s age. Look for activities where kids are the same age as your child as they can quickly get discouraged if older children in the group have an advantage over the younger ones.
- Create a budget and stick to it. Evaluate additional expenses that may crop up as part of a program and ask the instructor for a full outline of tools, fees and gear (all those hidden costs!!) that will be required prior to making the commitment. Also, add 5-10% for incidentals and use an app if budgeting freaks you out. TD has some great articles on budgeting.
- Chat to kids about the investment and explain it to them in terms they can understand. For example, one month of activities is the same cost as 30 gourmet ice cream cones.
- Match up the schedules and determine which activities are conveniently located and timed to fit your family’s current schedules.
Tips For Finding Affordable Activities
- Check out the local groups and chat with other parents at the playground. We randomly stumbled upon a program during our visit to the playground and Little Monkey enjoyed a whole week of camp FOR FREE!
- Community centres across Canada offer a wide range of extracurricular activities for free or a small fee. These are usually the most economical classes on offer and a great way to test your child’s comfort level for that activity.
- Look for free or affordable community events you can participate in that are hosted by local stores, museums and the city. For example, TD Tree Days is a family-friendly event taking place in communities across Canada this September and October, which helps green urban spaces by giving people the opportunity to plant trees.
- Ask if you can try out activities before you commit or negotiate a trial period to see if the program is a fit for your child.
- Free play is just as great for young kids. Gather the local parents and organize a few play dates.
The best tip I received from the veteran moms is to only choose activities that interest the child. I know my parents FORCED piano lessons on me and despite over eight years of practice (and exams!), I still cannot play all that well. Little Monkey is a whiner and usually starts complaining a few classes into any program and I sit her down to figure out the real issue. More often than not, she finds the duration to be too long and so I’ve learned my lesson. We signed the kids up for swimming classes next week and I’ve ensured that the lessons are only half an hour for each child.
Instead of gifts for this year’s birthdays, we’re going to ask the family to contribute towards an activity each kid wants to do for the next year and this will help us manage the budget!
Which extracurricular activities are you enrolling your kids in and do you have any tips on managing the budget?