Once upon a time a parent could walk a child to a sports field and sign him up for a season of baseball without costing a penny. Like the days of $0.50 hot dogs at ballparks, it's no more. Despite fundraisers and donations from local businesses, youth sports programs can cost parents $100 per child. Unless a heart is truly set on playing basketball, try some other youth groups that aren't so expensive.
If you're only looking for summer activities and the cost of day camp is escalating above $125 a week, check out your local library. Despite drastic government cutbacks, libraries are still offering summer programs and activities that give kids an educational and social option to summer boredom. There may be a weekly program or some random workshops that your child would enjoy, all free of charge.
If you're lucky enough to have a nature conservancy nearby, see if they're in need of some volunteers. Also operating under limited funding, these conservancies need upkeep and a few small hands could help. Your child would become part of something larger and have a feeling of accomplishment as well. It also counts as part of community service which is required by some high schools.
If there is not a nature preserve nearby, there most likely is an animal shelter. These shelters often welcome volunteers. The level of responsibility instilled upon these young volunteers is tremendous, and it's an opportunity to give back to the community.
Boy and Girl Scouts of America are great organizations that don't have the hefty up front fee of many of the sports clubs. There is fundraising involved to deflate the extra expenses throughout the year, but the average membership fee is $15 yearly. Uniforms and extras often can be purchased second hand from scout leaders or online auctions. Don't buy supplies until you talk to your group's leader. The mission of both groups is to encourage not to prohibit members from getting involved, so cost shouldn't become a deterring factor.
Believe it or not, there are 4-H groups in just about every city/county in the country. Even major metropolitan cities have 4-H organizations. Whether you join to raise an animal, always the first choice of children, or to learn about agriculture, 4-H is an educational organization for a minimal amount of money. Some charge a registration fee around the $15 mark of the scout groups, but most only charge for supplies. Depending upon the projects that the children choose, the cost can be nominal. Children involved in 4-H learn high levels of responsibility and community involvement as well as agricultural skills useful in any rural or urban setting.
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