Kids are naturally curious and tend to get excited about sports, musical instruments, and all sorts of group activities. While you may appreciate their enthusiasm, you also likely have to balance your budget. I’ve learned over the years that paying for extracurriculars without breaking the bank is possible.
More and more, parents are not content to let their kids stay home after school watching TV and playing video games. Instead, they want their kids to be involved in activities that will help them grow and learn more. Being involved in activities helps children’s personal development, but it will also help improve their college admission chances because colleges routinely look for well-rounded students who are not only strong academically, but are involved in a variety of activities. However, most parents struggle to find appropriate activities because they are intimidated by the high price tag of some activities like playing an instrument or horse back riding. If that is your concern, keep in mind that there are many low-cost after school activities for kids.
Low-Cost After School Activities for Kids
The following are great places to start when you’re searching for after school activities:
School Based Activities
The first place to look for low-cost after school activities for kids is at your child’s school.
Your child’s school likely offers a host of sports from football to baseball to volleyball to swimming to track and field. Some of these sports will be completely free to participate in and others will require some equipment and perhaps some fund raising participation.
Many kids participate in one sport per season and stay very busy and active with that schedule. Even better, they stay physically fit!
Likewise, after school clubs are usually free. When my son was younger, he participated in choir and art club, each of which met one time per week. Now that he’s in high school, he joined the Model U.N. Club, which also meets once a week.
Depending on the size of your child’s school, there are likely to be a handful of clubs or many more. Likely she can find one she wants to participate in.
Library Based Activities
Many people don’t consider the library when looking for low-cost after school activities for kids, but it’s a great place to look! Our local library has many activities for kids and teens as I’m sure yours does also.
Our library has a game night once per month, but there are also other get togethers for such things as Minecraft and Legos.
Once a month, our library has a chess club meeting. Kids can bring a chess board and play against one another for two hours. I’m always surprised to see how many kids are there. Upwards of 20 to 25 kids come to play chess.
Teen Advisory Board
In our area, each local library hosts a teen advisory board once or twice per month. All participants must be 13 to 18 years old. Together, they help organize activities for the library, and they also have the option to volunteer when the library hosts activities. Some weeks, they also do fun things such as receive specialized art lessons or do something good for the community like make cards for seniors.
Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts
Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts is another option. You will have an initial upfront fee to buy the uniform and the book. This runs about $80 to $100. Then, there are fees for camping events and badges, so this isn’t the cheapest activity around.
However, by joining the Scouts, your child could keep quite busy between attending the meetings, going on camping trips and other outings, and working on badges. Many adults fondly remember their time in scouting and say they learned a great deal that helped shape their lives.
Parks and Recreation Activities
Have you looked at your local parks and recreations or community center activities? Depending on the area that you live in, you could find many activities from sports to arts and crafts.
My kids have regularly taken advantage of parks and recreations activities. My son took swim lessons there, and my daughter has participated in several crafting classes as well as a gymnastics class when she was little. What I love about activities through the parks and recreation or community center is that they’re low cost. Depending on the activity, you pay $20 to $40 for a six-week class, and most supplies are included.
A word of warning, though. Since these classes are such a bargain, they typically fill up quickly. To be able to get a seat for your child, you may have to sign up early on the day that registration begins.
One activity canvasing the United States is the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO). AYSO is open to both boys and girls from three to 19. There is an initial joining fee, and you’ll be required to sometimes bring snacks for the team. You’ll also need to buy the proper equipment such as shin guards and cleats, but these can be bought second hand at a used sporting goods store.
Once your child joins AYSO, you can expect him to have practice two times per week (perhaps more depending on his age), and to have one game a week. My son joined AYSO and had a wonderful coach, but when we played against other teams, I saw some less than stellar coaches that berated their players. Make sure you have a coach who encourages and supports the children.
If you belong to a church, consider having your children join some of the church activities. My daughter sings in our church choir and attends practice once a week. My son is part of the teen group. The teen group meets once a week for 1.5 hours, and they also participate in service activities and weekend retreats.
Church activities are typically free except for special events like retreats.
If you’re looking to get your child in an activity or two but you’re worried about the cost, rest assured that there are many low-cost after school activities for kids. You’ll be glad your kids are more involved, and your kids will likely enjoy being out with friends doing something fun. Plus, you’ll be laying the groundwork for college admissions, if that’s something your child wants to pursue in the future.
We are a sports loving family! The boys’ nursery was sports themed — and now, their bedroom is pretty much the same. Once we moved them to their bunk beds, we did away with the baby stuff and gave their room a “little-big kid” update. We purchased their first baseball gloves when they were still infants — and my Aunt and Uncle made sure they had even better quality baseball gloves for their 1st birthday. Once my Uncle found out A. was a lefty, he promptly went out and purchased him a left-handed glove.
We don’t push sports on our kids but they are surrounded by it. They are still too little to play organized sports (they’ve had soccer lessons but nothing competitive). However, N does love to play baseball — and has grand visions of being a catcher one day.
My husband and I love sports. I’m a huge Bears fan and enjoy watching just about any sport live. My husband follows a variety of sports; baseball, football, hockey, basketball and now that Portland has a pro-soccer team — he might be converted to a soccer fan as well. The boys know all the right teams to cheer for. Although, I’m afraid when they go through their rebellious stage — they’ll, also know the teams they can root for, to drive my husband and I crazy! I am also proud to say that the boys can recognize logos of quite a few sports teams – at least the important ones anyway. And if you are wondering — no, we don’t quiz them with flash cards.
Free Sports Events
Attending professional sporting events can be spendy but there are a lot of other options. For instance, our boys love going to any sporting event, especially ones where they can see their “big kid” friends play. These sporting events are usually free – or cost very little – to enjoy. These games may not have all the thrill and excitement of pro games – but for little ones – they will just love the atmosphere and some great bonding time.
We actually took the boys to their first little league game, when they were only about a month old. Of course they slept through the game — but I could tell they were really happy to be there. They went to their first middle school football game when they were less than a year old. They liked it, until my friend cheered for her son’s team — which scared A. Actually, he cried through the rest of the game. I am happy to report that he had a much better time the following year — and cheered along with the crowd.
Low Price Sporting Events
Semi-pro teams are also a fantastic way to take in a game without spending a ton of money. We actually just took the boys to watch our town’s semi-pro basketball team. Total cost for 2 adults, 2 children, 2 bags of chips , and a bottle of water — $13. You can barely get one person into a movie for that amount of cash! The team plays at the local community college, and it’s a great time for the whole family.
They do free face painting, they are always giving away things, and they even had a station set up so people can make signs, to show the team support. The best part is, if the kids are having a tough time sitting still, or get too tired to be there — you don’t feel like you are wasting money if you need to leave early.
Check out your local area. You may discover a team you didn’t even know about (like we did last year–we had no idea our town had a semi-pro basketball team). Tickets to semi-pro baseball, hockey, car racing, etc. won’t break the bank and you’ll make fabulous memories with the kiddos!
Finally, if you want to really surprise your family or spouse, you can put together a sports package and go see a major sports team or sporting event. For example, you could find a discount sports package through a service like RoadTrips, and you could get into a great event for a good price. I’ve done this for my husband’s birthday, and we had a blast.
How do you work sporting events into your budget?