Summer Fun for Kids — at what price?

From USA Today:

How about you? How much do you spend? Is this become a pressure to conform to what other families are doing?

Americans are expected to spend more than $600 per child, on average, to keep their kids entertained this summer, according to the results of the latest American Express Spending and Savings tracker.

Affluent families, which the survey defines as those having a household income of more than $100,000, will spend nearly double that amount at more than $1,115 per child.

This spending includes activities, such as summer camps, day trips to theme parks and pool club memberships, among other things, and includes child care.

Taken together, the cost of keeping kids occupied when school’s out amounts to about $16.6 billion, according to this research. To complete the survey, American Express polled a random sample of 1,500 adults online from June 5-8 on what they expected to spend.

Of course, expenses vary by region, with those in the Northeast tending to spend more than in other regions.

It is also worth noting that costs this year are expected to be either similar with last year, or higher than a year ago, according to reports from those in the poll. This was the first time the spending tracker asked about spending on children’s summer activities.

“American kids seem to be much more scheduled than in the past,” said Melanie Backs, an American Express spokeswoman, explaining why the questions were added to the survey.


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  • The price is not about entertainment. Its about safety.

    I am way more paranoid about my kids safety than my parents were about mine, apparently. I grew up in downtown denver, and by age 8 was walking everywhere. There’s no chance I would let my 8 year old do that, even in my smaller town, given how people drive, the possible abuse my kids may incur, etc. In decades past, kids had large fields near home to play in, rivers to swim in, but its amazing to me how difficult it is to find such spaces for my kids to go to on their own. Its one of the reasons the suburbs originated I suppose.

    But ya – $1000 a summer = creating space for my kids to be kids yet not be killed.

  • janieh

    Why are child care costs included? Child care is hardly entertainment.

  • Jinny

    As a child care giver, entertainment is definitely included. I play with the kids. I don’t sit there and do nothing. I help kids play games of all kinds and teach them games sometimes.

  • I guess the economy isn’t so bad after all.

    Any ways, we spend $7 per month for a family plan pass to the community pools. Other than that, there are too many other free things to do like going to a library or bookstore and finding a park to go and play at.

  • Rick G.

    I remember having quite full summers as a kid… the pool, Boy Scouts, and YMCA (which seemed to operate differently back then) filled much of my time, but it didn’t cost as much either. Even when you adjust for inflation, it seems like these activities have become very expensive compared to what they used to be.

  • We live in an area where the high temperatures are often over 100 degrees. So when I was growing up, the town was planned so that each neighborhood had a park with a pool. This allowed young kids to learn to swim and filled the hot afternoons with swimming for a dime apiece. Now the city leaders have let most of those pools fall into disrepair and closed them. They built a large pool complex in the center of town, but it costs 3.00 per person to go there, we would have to drive, and though it’s larger than the old 25 yard pools, many more people must go there or to the two others still remaining. So we decided this year to add a doughboy pool to our backyard. It cost $500. That’s on top of our family camp which cost around $1200 for 3 of us, since we sent our oldest on to college instead. And I agree with the writer above that times have changed. I don’t send my kids anywhere, I take them there. It seems like years ago there was more of a commitment to making sure there were low cost alternatives available.

  • Anderson

    Including childcare really skews that number. I would guess that my family hit the $600 mark this summer, but only because of days when my wife and I have both had to work and we’ve had to hire a full-day babysitter. So a big chunk of that $600 had nothing to do with entertaining or enriching the kids but with being able to fulfill work responsibilities. We’re fortunate that we only have a handful of days like this scattered throughout the summer, but I’m guessing that many families with two working parents or with a single working parent would exceed the $600 mark before even signing the kids up for a single camp or sports league.

    So I think there are two different issues/questions at play here: How much are families paying to keep kids entertained? and How much are families paying to make sure their kids are supervised, safe, and cared for?

  • Personally, I don’t find this a helpful questions. It’s naturally skewed toward families with a stay at home parent. This isn’t an option for everyone.

    Good summer camps and programs are not cheap. It is a matter of safety. Yes, I suppose you could cut costs in this area, but to what end? Your child is an unsafe environment, learning nothing, and basically just getting baby-sitting.