The advantage of teaching children to reduce energy use is priceless; it helps manage household energy costs and implant values that may be carried into adulthood.
By teaching kids to save energy early on, they are more likely to eventually make choices that reflect an appreciation for money, a deep respect for precious resources and an innate love for the beautiful world they live in.
Energy is a complex subject. Introducing young kids to easy-to-understand concepts will help them later make the connection between producing and consuming energy and why conserving it is so essential. Use basic language and imagery to facilitate your child’s understanding.
Some simple energy messages:
- Energy is invisible. We cannot see, taste, feel, smell, or hear energy. The sun makes energy for plants, animals and people to use on earth.
- People need energy to walk, run, skip and play. We get energy by eating meat, vegetables and other foods as well as drinking milk and juice. When we don’t drink or eat enough, we feel tired because our bodies need more energy.
- The furnace and fireplace use energy to make heat and keep people warm inside the home, when it is cold outside. Furnaces and fireplaces make heat from different types of energy. Electricity and natural gas are two types of energy used to make heat.
- People buy energy for their house to use, just like people buy food for their body to use.
- When people don’t properly use the energy in their home, it gets wasted–much like throwing delicious food into the garbage without eating it. It’s also like tossing money into the garbage, since the energy to heat the home costs money.
- Keeping a window open during winter is just one way of wasting money and energy.
- The energy our home and cars uses can harm the earth. Using as little energy as possible is good for the earth.
Your example is a powerful teaching tool, since children emulate their parents’ actions and behaviour. Needless to say, your children are most likely to develop good energy saving habits, should they see you participating in energy saving activities and adopting the right mindset!
Ways to Get Kids Involved
As soon as children can operate a light switch, they can contribute to saving energy in the home and reducing energy costs.
Even if a particular activity may not save much energy in itself, always being responsible about energy use as children will help them develop good practices as adults.
Encourage your child to:
- switch off lights, before exiting a room.
- turn off the TV and computer when not in use.
- only use cold water when teeth-brushing.
- always wait to run a dishwasher when it is full.
- draw curtains and blinds (from windows facing the sun) throughout the day, when it is hot outside.
- close curtains and blinds on cold winter nights, to trap valuable heat indoors.
- immediately shut the fridge and freezer door.
- limit showers to ten minutes or less. If your child enjoys long showers, encourage him to take a bath instead. (Tip: a ten minute shower uses the same amount of warm water as a long bath).
- throw out unusable food from a cluttered fridge. To operate the most efficiently, the fridge requires ample airflow around food items.
Activities to do with your child:
- Replace regular incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). CFLs use a quarter of the energy and last about ten times longer. (Tip: Lumens measure light output, while wattage determines actual energy consumption. When shopping for CFLs, compare lumens on the product’s packaging to get desirable light output).
- Install and set a programmable thermostat for energy savings. (Tip: For each degree the thermostat is turned down continuously over an eight hour period in the heating season, 2% of energy is saved on the heating portion of the energy bill).
- Purchase an energy meter to determine how much a particular electrical device is consuming over the course of time.
Reinforce Positive Behaviour
Children are more likely to consistently and happily save energy around the home, when they are acknowledged for positive behaviour. Tell them what a great job they are doing and how proud you are. Remind them they are helping the earth when they turn off lights and shut fridge doors.
You may even set up a special jar that is devoted to energy saving contributions. Whenever a child engages in an energy saving activity, she places a certain amount of (previously allocated) money into the jar—representing the energy conserved through her action. Once a month, the jar of money is then used for a family outing, a special treat or an energy saving device (like a programmable thermostat or energy meter), or placed in a separate savings account.
Teaching your child early on to save energy will help them to adopt lifelong values about energy use, money and the environment. Encourage them to engage in energy saving activities by rewarding good behaviour and through your positive example.