How to save money on your child’s activities

WASHINGTON — Last week, your child was pretty sure they wanted to be a painter. This week, they’re positive their future is in basketball.

So do you scrap the art lessons and enroll in the youth league? What if your budget is tight?

“It may kill us as parents to say this, but we don’t always have to say yes,” said Elisabeth Leamy, consumer columnist for The Washington Post.

“After all, kids lose interest quickly, and you can save money by not giving in right away.”

Leamy shared her own experience of enrolling her daughter into piano lessons when she was just 6 years old. Her daughter quickly lost interest and the early lessons seemed to have “permanently killed” her interest, she said.

Her advice: wait until they’re a bit older before committing to an activity.

Studies show that extracurricular activities, such as sports or art, can help a child’s academic performance and promote positive development.

But if your child has multiple interests, how can you invest in it all?

Fortunately, there are some scholarships available, Leamy said. Kids play free in D.C. Stoddert Soccer’s rec league and can apply for scholarships for the travel league. In Rockville, Maryland, Dynamite Gymnastics may offer free tuition on a case-by-case basis.

Leamy also suggests asking if a program offers a free trial so your child can see if they actually like the activity and find out what sticks.

If your child is older, Leamy said, “Community colleges are very affordable, and for older teens and tweens, they offer some amazing courses that can double as activities.”

For example, Montgomery College offers courses in computer programming, French or animation.

Take a look also at what some city or county governments may offer in grants for children to attend nongovernment activities, Leamy said. Fairfax County has financial help for children with National Guard and Reserve parents who want to do extracurricular activities.

Of course, contributing your time into your child’s activity, like coaching, may help with fees. Leamy said, “If you are the one who would like to volunteer to coach your child’s team, you can often get their fee waived as sort of informal compensation for your time.”

WTOP’s Veronica Robinson contributed to this report. 

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