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All Texans can be taught the importance of saving energy – including the youngest Lone Star residents. This year, consider kid-friendly Earth Day activities to help your children build energy-saving habits.
While young children aren’t equipped to help with large energy efficiency projects, there are plenty of ways kids can learn to reduce a household’s energy bill. Even the simplest energy-saving habits can make a difference – and even small energy savings can result in lower monthly electricity bills. So how do you get the little ones on board?
For starters, it’s easy to plan fun energy saving lessons that entertain children without feeling like a chore. Present games, challenges, and responsibilities, which will not only help kids understand why energy saving is important but will also encourage them to adopt good energy-saving habits of their own. Most younger kids will be able to understand simple concepts like how to turn off a light when they leave a room or how to open the blinds and use natural light when possible. Energy-saving activities can get more complex with older kids through topics such as the differences in energy sources.
Ready for some energy-saving inspiration? We’ve compiled 8 simple tips on teaching kids how to save energy. Next Sunday Funday, gather the family up and try introducing a few of them. You may even consider a little reward if you notice your family’s energy bill goes down. Ice cream, anyone? (We’ll leave the reward part up to you).
#1. Turn off the lights
Hands down the biggest energy battle most parents face is getting the kids to turn off the lights when they exit a room. As many parents know, kids tend to roam around the house and leave lights burning in multiple rooms. But until they’re given a good lesson on why it’s important to turn lights off when they’re not in use, nothing is going to change.
If leaving the lights on is a problem in your home, try making a fun game out of this lesson. Make a point of walking through the house with your kids and see who can point out any lights that were left on. You can even make it a race and see who can turn off the most lights the fastest. Kids love a good friendly competition! Always remember not to nag or criticize children for being forgetful. When explained appropriately, most kids will do their best to help and can be easily directed on how to be little energy savers.
Instruct kids to unplug ALL devices when not in use. Things like gaming consoles, chargers, computers, and even lamps and televisions should stay unplugged as these items consume energy even when not in use (fun fact: we call these devices energy vampires).
For some added fun, you can ask kids to do a house walkthrough with you to find gadgets in the kitchen, bedrooms or bathrooms that are wasting energy by being plugged in when not in use. After this activity, your kids might point out energy vampires on a regular basis! Just be sure to caution young kids against plugging and unplugging devices into electrical outlets.
#3. Make an “Energy House Rules” list
Create a simple ‘Energy House Rules’ list that everyone can follow. Let the kids lead the conversation on how your family can work together to conserve energy.
Maybe each family member only indulges in one bath a week – and they opt for showers to conserve hot water on the other days. You could even take it up a notch by using a timer and having a race to see which kid can shower the fastest! When coming up with your energy house rules, be sure to include your kids as you decide what to include. They may surprise you with clever ways to save energy!
#4. Electricity-free time
Pediatric physicians often debate how much screen time is too much for kids. But a less frequently disputed topic is how much time kids should spend engaging in offline activities. If your kids are very electronically dependent, challenge them to go electricity-free one hour a week and work your way up to a few hours of electricity-free time each day.
Activities such as taking a walk, going on a hike, riding a bike or playing outdoors are all great options on nice days. If the weather outside is less than ideal, consider indoor activities such as reading a book, painting a picture, doing puzzles or playing a family game are all great options. Pictionary, anyone?
You can also allow your kids some independence by letting them decide how their electricity-free time will be spent. This is the perfect opportunity to get some family time in and a great opportunity to save energy.
#5. Limit hot water consumption
Water heating is the second largest expense only behind heating and cooling on most household’s energy bill, according to the Department of Energy.
To help lower this expense, teach your kids to conserve hot water whenever possible. Shorter showers and turning off the water when brushing teeth are both easy ways to save energy. Older kids who help with household chores can be instructed to only run the dishwasher or washing machine when there is a full load.
#6. Close the doors (and windows)
Teach kids to keep the doors and windows closed when the heat or air conditioner is on. On warm days, turn off the AC and open the windows to cool the house in an environmentally friendly way.
On hot summer days, a good alternative is turning on a ceiling fan when the windows aren’t cooling the house down quickly enough. Fans don’t consume as much energy as air conditioners.
#7. Opt for kid-friendly energy projects
Next time you’re doing an energy-saving project around the house get the kids involved. If you haven’t done one recently – no time is better than the present. Kids love learning new things and enjoy being included in adult projects. With some assistance, kids can help with tasks such as applying weather stripping or caulking windows.
When shopping for new energy-saving appliances, older kids can help research the most energy-efficient options and assist with searching for the best deals. Also, kids of most ages can help change a lightbulb when one burns out. This is a great time to teach children about the most efficient light bulbs on the market.
#8. Find motivation to create new habits
Kids are easily motivated when an award system is in place. Sticker charts and handmade certificates are a great way to reward younger kids for adopting good energy-saving habits.
Older kids can track and report their energy savings however they’re comfortable. Take some time to discuss what type of reward would be proper motivation for them. Some options include a gift card to their favorite eatery or a movie rental after they report several positive energy-saving behaviors.
Eventually, these behaviors will all become habits resulting in more energy conscious Texans for years to come.
Jackie Whetzel is a freelance writer who has been featured in newspapers and publications across the country. She has written on the topics of energy, education, government and business.