by Colleen Stewart
With its crucial role in improving heart and lung function, reducing obesity, and strengthening muscles and bones, it’s no surprise the CDC touts physical activity as beneficial for children. Engaging in competitive youth sports provides intellectual and social upsides, too. While children have fun playing with others, they develop teamwork skills, grow from defeats and setbacks, and learn that winning isn't the only thing that matters.
Unfortunately, there’s not always room in the family budget to pay for the uniforms, equipment, and fees your children require to participate in sports. Here are four tips to make investing in your kids’ activities more affordable.
Choose Low-Investment Sports
When you don’t have much to spend on suiting your children up, encourage them to participate in sports that don’t require expensive gear. For instance, rather than playing hockey, which requires investing in costly skates, sticks, pads, and helmets, have them check out swimming or basketball. The former only requires a suit and goggles, while acquiring sturdy shoes and a ball is all it takes to start shooting hoops. Track and volleyball are other low-cost options, as are up-and-coming sports such as hand tennis and paddle.
Of course, the more children you have, the more expensive sports participation becomes, but there are still ways to stretch your budget. If you’re raising twins or have kids that are close in age or size, try sharing equipment and uniforms. Although it may require juggling your schedule, signing each child up for the same sport on separate teams means they’ll play on different days, and the same equipment can be used by everyone. When there are more significant gaps in your kids’ ages, hold onto sports items as your older ones move onto new activities, and then hand them down to your younger children.
Organize Neighborhood Swaps
Another gear-sharing idea is to organize a “sports swap,” where you and other neighborhood parents pool outgrown and gently used items and redistribute them. Recycling on a larger scale is not only cost-effective, but it’s also eco-friendly.
Swapping transportation duties by organizing carpools is another way to keep costs down. Sharing fuel expenses lessens the financial burden of shuttling kids to multiple practices and games, and when you and other neighborhood parents rotate driving duties you put less mileage on your own vehicle. This helps your car last longer and extends the time between costly maintenance tasks.
Skip Club Sports
Although youth sports clubs have proliferated in recent years, it’s cheaper for casual players to stick with school or community teams. Between higher coaching costs, equipment investments, and travel expenses, joining a club program isn’t the most affordable way to play sports.
Participating in neighborhood or school leagues allows kids to benefit from team play on a smaller budget. Equipment is often provided or shared, games are scheduled close to home, and most leagues are free or inexpensive to join. Plus, with a different sport played each season, your kids build new social connections and develop different physical and mental skills.
There’s little doubt that the seeds of lifelong healthy habits are planted when kids play team sports. Just follow one or more of the tips shared here, so everyone in your family has the chance to participate without busting the household budget.