With schools across America underway for the school year, many parents are deciding on extracurricular activities for their kids. Though that can mean more money and more time spent shuttling kids back and forth, extracurriculars are popular for a reason: Research from the American Journal of Community Psychology suggests kids who take part behave better and have better academic achievement and more positive self-perception. Looking to cut costs? Consider secondhand equipment and community recreation centers, which may have lower prices. Here are the most expensive and least costly extracurricular activities for kids under the age of 18.
Not only do kids need an average of $200 worth of items such as helmets, boots, pants, gloves, a saddle and more; they need lessons. Average costs vary by location, but can range from $35 to $60 per hour with an instructor. If the child wants to own a horse, it's even more expensive. A horse costs $4,000 to $25,000, not to mention stabling it, veterinarian costs, and basic food needs.
Budget around $40 for new cleats (used are cheaper) and about $12 for shin guards, and a child's equipment needs are met. Most youth leagues cost around $150 per season, making the start-up costs just over $200. Be prepared for more expenses if your child shows talent, however. Once a child makes the elite level, team fees and travel costs add up to more.
Toddler skates cost roughly $60 and go up in price with the age of the child. Skates for a teen can cost as much as $600. Factor in padding, helmets, and other equipment, and parents will be spending $600 or more to outfit even a fledgling player. Ice time varies in cost from $3,000 to $6,000 per team for the season. Altogether parents should expect to spend $900 per season -- and that's not counting fees associated with travel for away games.
A good pair of sneakers and a ball are all a child really needs to get started in basketball. Sneakers can cost as little as $50 (non-name brand), and a ball around $25. Recreation centers and most YMCAs host teams for between $100 and $300. Final costs for a year of basketball for one child range from $175 to $375.
Used or new, ski equipment is expensive. A used set of skis will cost about $200 -- add in boots, poles, goggles, pants, a coat, and gloves, and expect to spend $500 before the child even sees snow. While some school programs offer club discounts to buy lift tickets for local resorts, the price still could run from $145 to $200 per season for 10 trips to a local resort. In total, parents can spend roughly $700 per season for their child -- plus more if the kids want to hit the slopes more for practice.
Running can be practiced anywhere, and very little equipment is required for a child to run track. Investing in a good pair of running shoes is a must, and for youth the cost can be anywhere from $25 to $100 per pair. Track teams often have a small fee to cover uniforms and meet expenses. These fees start around $100 to $200, making the overall extracurricular activity costs range from $125 to $300 per year.
Costs associated with martial arts such as karate and taekwondo include apparel and class fees. Class prices can range from $45 a month up to $150 a month, with yearly membership fees for a program adding from $100 to $600 to the annual total. Uniforms start around $17 and quickly jump to around $50. There is also a fee when a child graduates to the next level belt, which can be as high as $250. Keeping one child involved in the martial arts for a year can run about $2,000.
There is a reason golf is thought to be a sport for the wealthy. While equipment costs are surprisingly inexpensive, ranging from $230 to $450 for clubs and uniforms, tee times add up quickly -- from $500 to $2,500 per year depending on how much a child plays each week. Private lessons also add to the tab. For youth golf, expect to pay anywhere from $850 to $3,500 per year.
A pool, a lake, or a backyard pool are all that is needed to get a child started. Once they can swim a lap, they can start competing. Local pools such as at a YMCA offer teams and usually require a uniform. Team swimsuits start around $25, with caps $10 and goggles about $15. Some teams have a membership fee that can range from about $300 for young kids to about $1,000 for advanced-level, older kids. As with any sport, there can be a cost associated with traveling for meets. Swimming for one year can range from $350 to $1,000 for a full year.
While some parents are opting against football due to advisories against high-contact sports by the American Academy of Pediatrics, they may also want to bypass the cost. The price of a helmet, football pants, a practice jersey, football cleats, a mouth guard and shoulder pads can start out around $200. League or team fees average $200 per season, and winning teams have to cover travel fees for championships, too.
Joining a local Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop is cheaper than learning a sport -- and might be more fun. The annual cost for joining is usually around $25. The price for a sash or vest for Girl Scouts to display badges starts around $18, while Boy Scouts uniform needs are a little more expensive. Each year a cap ($15) and neckerchief ($9) are needed, while other uniform elements such as pants ($20), tops ($25) and belts ($10) can be worn for several years or until they are outgrown. Costs for being a troop member work out to $80 annually, and some packs organize a uniform swap allowing members to get gently worn uniforms for cheap or free.
While it seems like learning an instrument should be less expensive than a sport, that's not always the case. It can cost $25 to $70 an hour for weekly lessons. Add in the cost of sheet music and recital fees, and the total is $1,300 to $5,000 for a child to play piano for a year.