Juliet Rowan is a reporter for Bay of Plenty Times Weekend

'Extreme' cost to keep children active

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CHOICES: Alisha Taylor (right) paid almost $450 in fees this term to give her 11-year-old son Austin (far left) the opportunity to pursue his talent in dance. She says the high cost means limiting the after-school activities for his brothers Rory, 6, and Jordan, 8, at the moment.PHOTO/JOHN BORREN
CHOICES: Alisha Taylor (right) paid almost $450 in fees this term to give her 11-year-old son Austin (far left) the opportunity to pursue his talent in dance. She says the high cost means limiting the after-school activities for his brothers Rory, 6, and Jordan, 8, at the moment.PHOTO/JOHN BORREN

Sixty dollars for rugby and the same for netball; $75 for hip-hop dancing; $104 for ballet; and $270 for swimming lessons for two whippersnappers aged 5 and 7.

It's no secret that kids are money-suckers, but ask most parents and they'll say the cost of their children's after-school activities is extreme.

It doesn't leave much left.

We don't go on holidays or anything like that.

Tauranga mother-of-three Alisha Taylor.

Often it's not just the class fees each term but the extras like uniforms ($70 for rugby socks, shorts and secondhand boots in the above example, as well as $46 for ballet shoes and $39 for a Classical 1 exam - thank goodness the pink leotard dress still fits, but probably not for long).

Bay parents say they want to give their children the opportunity to do the activities they like but with costs running into the thousands annually, after-school sports, dance, music and drama are not without sacrifice for families.

"It doesn't leave much left," says Tauranga mother-of-three Alisha Taylor.

"We don't go on holidays or anything like that."

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Alisha has three boys, the oldest of whom is a talented dancer and featured in the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday.

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Austin Taylor, 11, is heading to Australia to compete in the transtasman Get the Beat competition in September and his Pillans Point School is holding a garage sale tomorrow to help him fundraise for the trip.

Austin began taking dance as a 6-year-old and now does jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, advanced acro and tap classes, as well as a private lesson each week.

"He takes it seriously, otherwise I wouldn't be paying the money for it," says Alisha.

She has just paid his fees for this term and can recite the total by heart: "It was $466.40 - not including costumes, shoes and competition fees."

Alisha says activities for her other sons, Jordan, 8, and Rory, 6, are limited to rugby at the moment while she and husband Mike focus on supporting Austin's dancing.

"I was brought up that if your child shows a natural talent and passion for something then you should always encourage and try and support them to be able to do that. We manage - it's not putting us in a predicament or anything - but it certainly isn't easy."

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Alisha is a photographer and Mike an electrician, and Alisha says Austin's dance teacher provides a 12 per cent discount because he is enrolled in so many classes. Tap and Grade 5 jazz are complimentary, and the half-hour private lesson is $20, but money must also be found for competitions, with one he is doing in August costing $94 for the entry fees alone.

Out-of-town travel adds to the cost and his first competition in Auckland was done on a shoestring.

"There were six of us in the one hotel room to try and reduce the cost and share it out.

"We were just all piled into queen-sized beds. We didn't really care. We just wanted to be able to afford to do it," says Alisha.

Other parents say the cost of after-school activities is prohibitive and in some cases, their children miss out.

"I wouldn't go myself to a class that was $15 a week, let alone pay that for a child," says a Papamoa mother who did not want to be named.

The woman, who is a stay-at-home mum to three girls, says she has to be very selective when choosing activities for her daughters and some options are ruled out.

"It does annoy me as I'd love the kids to be able to do more but it's unlikely till our income increases and I go back to work."

Last term was crazy - swimming, gymnastics and Grasshopper Soccer added up to about $360 for the term for the two of them. That would be over $1000 a year, plus uniforms and stuff.
A Mount Maunganui mother-of-two

A Mount Maunganui woman says she has limited activities for her 6-year-old and 7-year-old this term because of the cost.

"And they get too tired so we are just doing soccer, which costs us $160 all up.

"Last term was crazy - swimming, gymnastics and Grasshopper Soccer added up to about $360 for the term for the two of them. That would be over $1000 a year, plus uniforms and stuff."

Alice Woods of Pillans Point pays $145 a term for her daughter to do swimming.

"It's a non-negotiable. I think living on an island, and so close to lakes and rivers, it's just a skill everybody should have."

However, Alice considers the cost high and says it is out of reach for some families. "We just have to suck it up. It would be great if it was subsidised."

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Alice's 7-year-old daughter Olivia also does Irish dancing, which Alice considers very reasonable at $55 per term.

"The woman who teaches it is amazing. She pretty much does it for free. She does it for the love rather than the money."

Olivia has not shown an interest in doing other activities and Alice considers herself lucky, saying she often wonders how families afford so many classes for their children.

However, a dad who moved his family to Tauranga six months ago says the cost of children's activities is less than in Auckland.

His 10-year-old daughter does guitar lessons for $35 for half an hour, compared to $40 when they lived up north.

Activities done through school tend to be cheaper, he says, while Rotorua mum Kylie Farrington says she is always discussing the cost of her kids' activities. "So far this year for two children, I've averaged $105 per month."

Janneen Penman's kids do gym and rugby, and she allows them to do any sport they choose.

"It's a cost for a single mum but I'd rather my kids be active and doing the things they like. It's just about being a parent to me, letting my kids give it a go."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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