Schools have re-opened after the long December holidays, signalling the return of all extracurricular activities.

While this is exciting for children, it translates to parents delving deeper into their pockets. After already spending thousands on school fees, shoes, and uniforms, parents now face additional expenses for activities like football practice, swimming, dance, and music lessons. These further strain family budgets.

Wandetto Njoki, a father of one from Nairobi, pays KSh3,500 each month for his son’s football practice. The sessions occur every weekend, with Njoki actively accompanying his son. To join the club, Njoki purchased a football kit for KSh1,500, football boots costing KSh3,200, and socks priced at KSh1,000.

To purchase a complete football kit at Nairobi Sports House, one would have to spend about KSh6,000 for an Adidas jersey, KSh7,400 for Adidas shorts, KSh600 for the stockings and anywhere between KSh3,500 and KSh12,500 on football boots. At Decathlon, the shirt goes for KSh1,350, football socks at KSh690, shorts at KSh1,350 and kids’ boots at KSh6050.

While branded stores offer a variety of options, thrifting is also an avenue that can keep costs down when purchasing a football kit. In Second-hand shops or markets like Gikomba and Toi, football boots can cost up to KSh1,000, while a jersey may cost about KSh699.

Football practice includes friendly matches and tournaments. For away matches, parents often incur additional expenses, especially for tournaments held outside Nairobi. Costs can escalate, reaching as high as KSh50,000 for big matches.

As children grow older and become interested in extracurricular activities, parents feel the obligation to open their wallets to keep their children entertained. What’s more, there are hidden costs parents must factor in for these activities, including food for the children and fuel or fare to and from the venues.

Every Saturday, James Ngunjiri drops off his daughter at school for ballet lessons. In addition to coughing up the extra money for transportation, Ngunjiri says he spent about KSh5,000 for the ballet kit, which consists of the pointe shoes, leg warmers, leotard and tights.

He pays KSh300 per week for ballet lessons and KSh150 per week for swimming lessons. Payment for these two activities is made to the school at the end of the term.

Helen Kinuthia, an Early Childhood Educator, says the importance of play in early childhood education cannot be underestimated. Playing is learning and is essential to a child’s growth. The benefits of play are plenty:

  • Play is a way for children to learn about themselves and the environment through their senses.
  • It sparks creative thinking.
  • Playing helps children develop social skills by interacting with other children.
  • They learn to be independent as they play with other children.
  • It stimulates early brain development.
  • Playing is entertaining, whether with toys, pretend games or exploring the outdoors.
  • It improves language and communication.
  • It is vital for physical and mental health.

Lack of play may otherwise inhibit social and emotional learning and damage a child’s early development.

“When you deny them interaction, you deny them that sense of discovery and exploration. You’re stagnating their growth process by not letting them discover themselves and the things that they like to do,” she says.

Between the ages of zero to six, children need to play because that’s when they absorb everything their environment is presenting. Beyond the age of 7, Kinuthia says it’s still important for children to play and for parents to structure playtime for their children, including how much time they spend on their gadgets.

“At that age, they can play card games and board games, and the parent can join in as they’re playing. At such moments, the parent and child can have a bonding session,” she says.

Extracurricular activities aside, parents can also involve their children in playtime activities during weekends or holidays at amusement parks or child-friendly establishments for a nominal fee.

At Playland Amusement Park inside the Nextgen Mall on Mombasa Road, children can have a fun day out with various activities, including the trampoline park, swings, ropes obstacle course, ball pit, arts and crafts section, and more. The cost varies depending on the chosen option. The child package, priced at KSh1500, provides unlimited playtime on the trampoline, ropes course, soft play, and the do-it-yourself area. Alternatively, visitors can opt to pay per game, with Bowling priced at KSh850 and Virtual Reality at KSh400.

There are many other options for playing across Nairobi, like MadMax Karting at Two Rivers Mall, which, on the weekend, will set you back KSh3,000 for a 10-minute ride around the circuit.

“Many parents are now involved in their children’s activities in the arts and sports because, perhaps, these are the other avenues that their children will take up later on in life for them to earn a living,” Kinuthia says.

She concludes: “Nowadays, we encourage parents to enrol their children in sports such as basketball and soccer because you will need them to figure out whether sports will be their trade when they grow older. These extracurricular activities are actually very important, and we need to pay attention and decide what we need to do for them early on.”