12-year old Brittanie is supposed to be practicing her piano lessons.  Instead she’s playing catch with the dog.  “Play,” yells her mother, “I’m not paying 50 bucks a week for you to take piano if you’re not going to practice.”

Sometimes parents feel like drill sergeants when their children loaf around instead of concentrating on their skill building, especially when it seems their hard earned money is being thrown away.

Parents today are far more likely to invest in after-school activities for kids than any generation before.

Related: Can You Afford Not To Stay At Home With Your Kids?

A Statistics Canada survey shows that 87% of Canadian kids between the ages of four and fifteen participate in some form of organized activity outside of school.  Not only do those activities cost money, they eat up a considerable amount of time.  Is it worth it?

Extracurricular activities are good for kids

According to the StatsCan survey, extracurricular activities go hand in hand with good health and higher grades for kids.  Younger children who took part in activities were likely to be better at reading and math, and had more advance vocabularies and social skills.

By the teen years, the activities of choice are organized sports, and kids who took part in them were more likely to have friends and keep them than their couch potato contemporaries.

Related: How To Put Your Kids To Work

Teenage sports participants are more likely to stay out of trouble and are less likely to drop out of school.  Children learn social skills through sports that help them get along better with their peers – they learn to work as a team and strive for improvement and mastery of a skill.

Activities For Kids: What Are The Costs?

You can spend as much or as little as you like.  Community centre activities for kids are usually less expensive than competitive leagues.  You can buy second hand instruments and sports equipment – or go whole hog.  How much is too much?

You hear stories about parents who not only forked out astronomical amounts of money for coaching and equipment, they actually moved the whole family to a different city so their budding athlete would have access to a world-class coach in pursuit of their professional dreams.

But the fact is, the chances of having a professional career and then benefiting from subsequent lucrative endorsement contracts are pretty slim.

Related: How Not To Move Back In With Your Parents

Even if your child does demonstrate a real knack for their chosen activity, research shows that being involved in a very structured, organized program doesn’t really predict success later on.

Most parents just want their kids to have fun and the more loosely organized teams and instruction usually give them more opportunities to play and learn.

“I hate it! I want to quit!”

My children were into sports and they never missed a game or practice.  But what if your child has spent several years in say, music or dance lessons, then doesn’t want to continue?  If you’ve already invested considerable time, money and effort in lessons you might not want to let him or her quit.

A friend of mine had a daughter in Irish dance from the time she was three years old.  She spent thousands of dollars on instruction, costumes and travel to competitions.  When her daughter turned 13, she abruptly decided she no longer wanted to continue.

Another friend hated practicing the violin and her parents let her quit.  Now she regrets it and wishes that her parents had made her keep going.

Related: Kids And Money

Perhaps a break is all that’s needed and then your child will go back to the activity.  I wouldn’t like it, but I also wouldn’t want to get into a power struggle with my child if he really didn’t want to continue.

Too many structured activities

Some people say that kids should be required to try many different kinds of activities to help them develop interests.  Some people impose activities on their children that they would have liked to be involved in when they were young.  Maybe your child will enjoy them, but maybe not.

Many parents want to give their children every advantage they possibly can.  There are so many enjoyable and enriching opportunities available, from sports, music, languages, the arts, Scouts and Girl Guides, and much more.  They would be a useful addition to future job applications and resumes.

But children also need unstructured time to play and develop their own interests and imagination.  There’s also the risk of squelching an interest by changing it from play to an organized assignment.

Final Thoughts

In summary, it has been proven that kids benefit from extracurricular activities, learning new skills and making new friends.  Just don’t fill up all their non-school time with organized lessons.

And, don’t forget to claim the tax credit worth up to $500 each for the Children’s Fitness Amount and the Children’s Arts Credit for children under the age of 16 enrolled in eligible programs.

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