If you’re a parent, you’ll know how expensive it can be to get your child involved in sport. Something as basic as a toddler’s gym class can cost upwards of £9 for 30 minutes, and once your child gets older and starts wanting to do other sports like swimming, judo, tennis or horse riding, the cost of the lessons and the equipment can easily run into the thousands every year. None of us want to deprive our children of the opportunity to keep active and experience the pleasure of taking part in sport, but budget is a consideration. Is it possible to save money and do sport at the same time?
Kids are notoriously fickle and flit from interest to interest in a matter of days. There is nothing worse than shelling out for a block of judo lessons and a suit only for them to go twice and decide it’s not for them. Don’t be afraid to ask the people running the class whether they do free taster sessions which gives you and your child to try before you commit to anything, and also ask if you can pay per session rather than paying upfront for a block of 10 or 20 lessons for the first while. Most classes appreciate the problems parents face, and are happy to agree to this.
Council Versus Private
In most areas, the local council will have a Sports Development or Leisure department which will put on activities such as swimming lessons or football training during school holidays or in the evenings. These classes can be considerably cheaper than paying a private company for the same thing. The disadvantage of these sorts of classes is that demand often outstrips supply, so the key is getting your name down early, signing up to email lists and checking websites regularly.
Second Hand Equipment
There is also no need to fork out for brand new equipment as soon as your child starts lessons. Some items, such as jodhpurs, rugby shirts or judo suits are readily available online. When you are shopping for more safety critical equipment such as helmets for motocross or horse riding, you may feel the only safe alternative is to browse through the 2014 Fox MX Gear catalogue or hotfoot it to the nearest Harry Hall helmet stockist. The problem with buying second hand helmets is that you cannot guarantee they have not been in an accident, but many riding stables or motocross clubs will be able to point you in the direction of people with something to sell, and they can vouch for the person and the helmet.
Many clubs give discount for siblings who attend the same classes. This can cut the cost of swimming lessons or tennis instruction considerably, but the problem is often finding a sport that all children are happy to do together. Ask around other parents about what sort of providers are operating in your area, and don’t be embarrassed to ask about sibling discount when you call to enquire about a new class.
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Morag Peers is a busy writer and parent of three young children