You don’t need to sound like a broken record reminding your kids to turn off the lights when they leave the room. Here are some tips to get kids involved in saving energy. We’ve included some kid-friendly online resources to make learning about energy efficiency fun too. Kids learn behaviours by observing their parents’ behaviours. It’s the classic advice of show, don’t tell. If you turn off the lights when you leave a room, they’ll notice. If you unplug small appliances and other devices to reduce phantom power, they’ll notice. If you take short showers, they’ll notice. Even if they don’t say anything, their brains process your behaviour.
When teaching your kids about energy conservation, explain why it’s important and how it benefits them. Otherwise, they may not truly understand why they need to change their behaviour. If you’re encouraging your kids to turn off the television when they’re not watching it, tell them why it matters. You might say, “When you turn off the television it saves electricity, which means we pay less on our electricity bill. That means we have more money for fun activities.” Give an example of something fun they like to do, like go swimming, take a trip, or go to the movies. Their brains begin to link turning off the television to something they enjoy. As they get older, they can also understand the environmental benefits that come with making energy-savvy choices. Or maybe your kids are already teaching you about energy conservation.
Get them involved
The term “saving electricity” might not mean anything to children. Electricity is abstract—we simply expect things to work when we plug them in. So make it real for them. Link energy use to your child’s everyday life by showing them all the ways they use it. Young children will enjoy doing a treasure hunt to find all the things in your house that use electricity. Ask your child to count them, group them into lights/appliances/electronics, or write them down in a list, depending on your child’s age.
Older kids might enjoy shopping with you for smart power bars, LED lights, and other energy-efficient products, and learning about retail prices compared to long-term energy costs and savings. Show them the home utility bills so they can see the usage and costs, and how their actions contribute to reducing them. Ask your children to think of other ways to save electricity and water. When kids come up with their own ideas, they’re more likely to take ownership of them.
Easy energy-efficiency habits kids can learn
Energy savings can come from simple changes in habits. Give your child responsibility for these easy tasks after they understand why saving energy is important: Turning off lights and devices when they leave the room. Closing their blinds at night in the winter to keep the cool air out, and closing their blinds during the day in the summer to keep the hot sunshine out. Choosing a shower instead of a bath, and having shorter showers. Re-wearing clothes that are still clean instead of throwing them in the laundry after one wear. Only opening the refrigerator door for short periods of time. If your kids are old enough to wash their clothes and run the dishwasher, teach them to operate these appliances only with a full load.
Many organizations have created online games to help kids learn about electricity and energy efficiency. Here are a few you can play with your kids:
Solar Energy Defenders: Save the school dance from vampires by collecting solar energy during the day to ward them off at night. Offered by MindFuel (previously Science Alberta Foundation).
Energy Hog: Find all the energy hogs inside a house to unlock little games. Offered by The Alliance to Save Energy.