Gone are the days when the only option for after school clubs were sports or scouts and guides.  Now there’s a club for everything from Art to Zumba.

There are free clubs, members only clubs, school-run clubs and sign-your-life-away clubs.  So how many is too many or not enough?  Here’s some advice to help you navigate the minefield that is Children’s clubs.

Which type of ‘clubber’ are you

Most parents will tell you before they have children that they won’t be one of ‘those’ parents.  The ones that ferry their children around from club to club each night and sit for hours on a Saturday on a cold side-line watching their children kick a ball, or hover at the back of a draughty hall while their little treasure pirouettes round the room.

However, chances are that, as soon as their child is a few months old, they’ve already been inducted into ‘club culture’.  Baby sensory, messy play, toddler time, Jo Jingles, swimming for babies; the clubs start exerting a pull.  They’re also as much a club for parents as they are for the baby and so are a fantastic way to meet other mums and dads, as you’re actively involved in the club.

However, when they hit school age, the ‘club scene’ changes significantly.  Clubs don’t include parents anymore, they’re purely for the benefit of the child.  But how do you know, as a parent which ones are best?

The sports club

If you can only do one club, make it a sports-based one.  Dancing, gymnastics, football, rugby, fencing and orienteering.  This gives you a double whammy, delivering both exercise and fun in one handy package.  They also usually last for at least an hour, giving you enough time to finish up work emails, order the weekly shop online or actually read a book.

Most towns and villages will have a local football side and leisure centres are getting better and better at offering a full schedule for children as well as adults.

Community or recreational centres often run clubs too.  If you’re unsure where to start looking, Facebook is a great first port of call, or just Google for them.  Most communities will now have a Facebook page, so ask what’s available and when.

Schools also offer a comprehensive sports programme and are often heavily subsidised, making them a great low cost way of getting children into sport.

And don’t forget about swimming. This skill will not only keep your child fit, but could also save their life.  Most swim classes will accept children from six months old, although this usually depends on their jabs.  Some schools will offer lessons once a term as well.  But if your child isn’t used to the water, it may be worth looking into weekly swimming lessons to allow them to find their feet (or should we say fins!) before they get thrown in the deep end – sorry!

Dib dib dob dob

Brownies and Cubs have changed significantly over the years, not just in terms of the uniform.  The activities undertaken, relationships formed and morals taught are a fantastic way to show children a well-rounded approach to life.

Kids earn badges for achievements and progress through the ranks, as well as going on camping trips.  It’s a great hobby that will take them from tots through to teens. On average those that attend Scouts and Guides are 15% less likely to develop mental health problems later in life!

It’s also a relatively low cost club with second-hand uniforms often available and only weekly subs to be paid.  Just remember to save for the annual camp, as this can come as an unexpected cost.

Getting creative

If your child shows a musical talent, many schools and other organisations offer music classes.  Singing, playing instruments or even basic percussion instruments.  Then there are art, pottery, mosaic and other creative skills in some communities.  Back to the internet to search for what’s available!

There are many, many more clubs, but the main things to consider are the amount of time you have in the week, the amount of money you can afford to spend and what your child will really love. There’s enough pressure on parents to be all things to all people, without the stress of managing the logistics of your child attending lots of clubs.

Make sure your child is really interested and then let them try one and, if it sticks, great. If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to try something new.