Kids' after-school activities quickly add up for parents

By Juliet Rowan

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DEAR AT THE PRICE: 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
DEAR AT THE PRICE: 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

$60 for rugby, and the same for netball.

$75 for hip-hop.

$104 for ballet.

And $270 for swimming lessons for two whippersnappers aged 5 and 7.

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

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.

Commenting on the Rotorua Daily Post Facebook page, one Rotorua mum says she is always discussing the cost of her kids' activities.

"So far this year for two children, I've averaged $105 per month," she says.

Another local mother said her kids did gym and rugby and she allowed 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," she said.

Tauranga mother of three Alisha Taylor says paying for her kids' activities "doesn't leave much".

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

Alisha has three boys, the oldest of whom is a talented dancer and is heading to Australia to compete in the transtasman Get the Beat competition in September.

Austin Taylor, 11, 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," she says, "not including costumes, shoes and competition fees."

Alisha, who is a photographer, says activities for her other sons, Jordan, 8, and Rory, 6, are limited to rugby at the moment while her and electrician husband Mike focus on supporting Austin in his 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," says Alisha.

Other Bay 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 stay-at-home mum who did not want to be named.

The woman 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."

However, a dad who moved his family to the Bay 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.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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