Fun Confidence-Building Activities You Can Do On the Cheap – Or For Free
Kids activities are so expensive. My next-door neighbor has his eight-year-old son in hockey, Spanish and Arabic lessons, soccer and [computer] coding club. Each month, they shell out nearly $1,000 for his extracurricular activities. Damien is busy every night with his activities – and he works hard at all of them.
Damien is lucky. Most American families don’t have an extra grand laying around for extracurriculars; your kids don’t have to miss out. We’ve compiled a list of cheap – or free – activities to help your child learn, build confidence and have fun. This is meant to be a starter list to get you thinking differently rather than a comprehensive list. These might take just a little more legwork or research on your part, but they can be just as fun and fulfilling as expensive activities.
NATURE & ANIMALS
Science Centers and Conservation Groups: Most areas have at least one local conservation group nearby. We have a bird sanctuary near our home; they rescue injured owls, hawks, falcons and eagles. It’s free to enter and see the birds, and if you ask nicely, the conservationists will often spend time with your kids 1:1 to answer questions. The one near our home has programs once a month on Saturdays to learn more, feed the birds and learn more about special care. With a quick google search, I found exotic animal conservation groups, a retirement home for horses, an alligator rescue and a working K9 rescue within a 50-mile radius of my house.
FFA: FFA is a school-level program to teach middle school and high school kids about agriculture, caring for animals and horticulture, but also about leadership. It’s not just for students with hopes of becoming production farmers; many students go on to many other professions, but with greater understanding of how things work and leadership training. Dues for each member are just $7 year.
Running Clubs: Usually free or very inexpensive, running clubs for kids give your child a community and an athletic activity to help them burn off some energy. Running is a key component of many sports (basketball, soccer, football, lacrosse, baseball – not to mention track and field or cross country), and your child learning fundamentals, proper technique and to enjoy running could help set the stage for future participation. Check out Girls on the Run, Marathon Kids, Kids Run the Nation or just google “Kids Running Club” near me.
Dance: This is a family activity we do in our house. We have a Family Dance Party every week in our house, especially during the winter months. This is a silly tradition I stole from my parents. One person gets to choose the music each week and we dance our hearts out for 30 minutes. Many times, we all copy one person’s dance moves. It’s ridiculous, but it’s a great way to bond. Funnily enough, this actually helped build my confidence for my first middle school dance. Everyone was scared to get on the dance floor, instead was lined up against the walls. Because I was super comfortable with my sweet moves from our silly dance parties, I jumped out on the dance floor and started things off!
Girls Who Code is one of many free programs to teach computer coding to teens. They have both summer and after school programs for girls at all levels. Most cities also have similar programs open to boys and girls at all levels.
If you have a Bank of America debit or credit card, you can get in free to hundreds of museums the first full weekend of each the month. Many museums offer free or heavily discounted entry to school-age kids during certain non-peak times.
PUBLIC SPEAKING & LEADERSHIP
Toastmasters has a Youth Leadership Program to help kids learn public speaking and presentation skills. Many local libraries have other similar presentation/speaking programs.
It’s also surprising how much people are willing to help you out if you ask. Many professionals, athletes and politicians will allow kids to shadow for a day or week. There are also programs like Model Congress, Model UN and others that aren’t cost prohibitive.