Cindy Jacobs has three children. Her eldest recently started at school. "I couldn't believe how much it all cost!" she exclaims. After buying school uniforms and new shoes, her daughter asked to join ballet and after-school sports classes "so I had to buy even more kit (on top of the class fees). I'm not sure why a room full of five-year-olds all have to wear the exact same ballet outfit – it just seems over-kill." After all, she points out "most of them aren't going to end up at the Royal Ballet."
Despite the cost of classes and kit, Cindy's glad her daughter is doing after school activities, "it's good for them to keep active, schools don't do enough sport with kids."
There are plenty of other benefits for children's activities. Many parents say their kids are more confident, out-going, fitter and – some might say, most importantly of all – worn out after an afternoon of sport or other hobby.
But the sheer cost of hobbies can be startling. A poll by Save the Children found that two-thirds of UK parents can't afford after-school activities for their children. Many of the parents said they would love their children to do more, but they frequently had to say no to additional activities. More than half were spending over £10 a week on extra-curricular classes.
Often, this cost is down to the fees. It's no surprise that the teachers and course leaders need to get paid. Sometimes, things like hall hire costs and other mundane expenses have to be factored in. But some hobbies will cost the parents in other ways. As well as expensive kits, hobbies like football can run up a lot in travel expenses as children journey to different matches and tournaments.
Most expensive hobbies
As you'd expect, hobbies like motor cross, skiing and horse-riding are often cited as some of the most expensive, and there's not always an easy way round those costs. However, if your child is passionate about horses, you could always get a horse on loan during the holidays rather than buy one. You will have to pay for the horse's upkeep, but at least you won't be responsible for it for the next 25 years.
Another expensive hobby is music. Music lessons can also add up, especially if you start your child young and have lessons weekly. Luckily, it's easy to get hold of good quality second-hand instruments. Any reputable music shop will help you find one that suits – and they'll often take instruments in part-exchange so you can move from a smaller violin to a larger one as your child grows.
You can spend a fortune on things like swimming and singing, but there are ways to limit spending. Many local council leisure centres offer very cheap swimming lessons that cost a fraction of the price of private lessons. Elissa Payne was spending £14 per lesson on small, private swimming classes for her toddler:
"The classes were great because they taught them from babies and so there was a lot of underwater swimming and learning to swim unaided. It gave my daughter real confidence without needing arm bands".
But the downside was that lessons only came in short blocks, and her daughter often missed classes due to sickness or other engagements. Now she swims at the local swimming pool "the lessons are a lot less advanced, but they only cost £14 a month and they're on every week. If we miss one it doesn't feel so expensive". Elissa feels like the private classes were worth it initially, but now her daughter is water confident, the other classes are more than good enough, "I figure that she'll learn to swim eventually, and in the meantime she's doing something fun. Plus she's really tired afterwards!"
If your child sings like a bird, private singing lessons may not be the only answer. Local choirs are often far more sociable, and learning to sing in a group is a skill well worth learning. But be warned! If you sign your child up for a competitive choir, you may find the costs soaring when it comes to buying robes and travelling to performances and competitions. It might be worth signing your little one up for the school choir or local church choir first to see if he or she is truly committed.
Suzanne Elvidge writes for www.kidsexercise.co.uk. She suggests keeping spending down by checking if your clubs or schools have second-hand sales. Some will even let you hire or borrow kit if you're trying out a new sport. "It’s worth keeping an eye on Freecycle or other recycling sites for people having a clear out”, suggests Suzanne, "and charity shops can be a good source too. Just remember to pass it on afterwards."
At the heart of Team Mum is the video series Raising an Olympian, sponsored by Proctor and Gamble, profiling athletes from across the world, their dedicated efforts to make it to Olympic Games, and the mothers who had tremendous impacts on their lives. Watch the videos on Yahoo! Lifestyle Team Mum.