School's out – it's summertime and the kids are home enjoying their time off. You can see them now: relaxing, having fun … and spending all their time on their electronics and pushing the air conditioning colder and colder, and sending the electricity bills skyrocketing! Not quite the picture you were expecting, is it?

Just because the kids are home all day doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your budget to high electricity bills. Follow these pointers for keeping the house cool and the kids entertained, while saving energy and money.

  • Limit electronics use. Set a household rule for how much time kids can watch TV, play video games and use their other electronics; for example, no electronics before noon or no more than two hours a day. If your kids ask "What can I do instead?" here are some suggestions:
    • Read a book. Summer is the best time to explore different genres or indulge in a favorite.
    • Play board games. Better yet, invent a new one. Try combining parts of different games or invent new rules for a familiar one.
    • Design an obstacle course. Use the whole house and yard to lay out an obstacle course, including tasks to perform and things to climb over, jump through and crawl under. Time yourself and each other to see who can get the best time.
    • Perform a play. Get your creative juices flowing and write a script (or song lyrics) to perform for your parents.
  • Keep the cool air inside. Make sure doors stay tightly closed as people and pets go in and out. Also, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors shut tight. Try keeping a list of available snacks on the fridge door so kids aren't tempted to just stand with the door open.
  • Shut down when you leave a room. Turn off the lights, electronics and fan when you leave a room. A fan only cools people, not the room, so it's a waste to keep it on when there's no one in the room.
  • Keep the heat out. Close curtains on the sunny side of the house to keep the sun from heating up the inside of the house.
  • Take cool showers. When it's hot out, a cool shower not only feels refreshing but it saves hot water. A short shower will also prevent the air temperature in the bathroom from heating up too much. A kitchen timer is a great tool to help keep showers short.
  • Skip the stove. It's cooler (and safer for young kids) to not use the oven or stove to make lunch or treats. Use the microwave or toaster oven instead, or try a no-bake cookie recipe or ice cream in a bag.

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