As environmental threats mount, it is important to train kids to care for the world responsibly if it is to endure. Instilling kids with the knowledge of how to live in a way that is sustainable saves both resources and money, and teaches children that they are important members of society. Teaching children why it is important to save energy, explaining the difference between renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, and demonstrating ways to cut back on energy use are key steps in teaching children to conserve energy. Making learning fun and interactive with games and activities will help kids better understand and remember what they have learned.
As a parent, it can be difficult to teach children how to save energy. The first step is to teach kids why it is important to conserve energy. In order for power companies to make electricity, they have to use nonrenewable energy such as gas, coal, and oil. At this point, the difference between nonrenewable and renewable energy sources should be explained. Nonrenewable sources of energy such as gas, coal, and oil can run out; they do not regrow and they do not come back once they are gone-at least not for thousands of years. People need to save as much gas, coal, and oil as they can so that there will be enough for a long time. Conversely, renewable energy sources such as wind, water, and the sun can be replenished quickly. People need to work on using more of these energy sources. Unfortunately, less than 2% of electricity comes from renewable energy sources right now.
Fortunately, there are many things that people can do to use less energy. Setting the thermostat to a lower temperature in the winter and a higher temperature in the summer is one good way to save energy, and money. Buying energy efficient appliances and replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs are some other ways. Properly weatherizing the home to eliminate drafts by replacing old windows and doors, caulking, and using weather stripping are also important. These are just a handful of ways to save energy. However, kids may feel that these are things that only adults can do, so it is important to talk to them specifically about the things that they can do.
Talk to kids about how they can save energy and money just by turning off lights, televisions and radios when they leave the room. If they are old enough to do chores, teach them to fill the washer and dryer with a full load of clothes rather than just throwing in a few items of clothing, and to wash full loads of dishes in the dishwasher. Showering quickly, keeping the refrigerator door closed, keeping doors and windows shut when the heat or air conditioning is on, and helping to plant shade trees and windbreaks are all easy ways for kids to make a big difference in reducing the amount of energy used in the home.
Play games and do activities together as a family that teach the importance of energy conservation. There are many activities and games online that are appropriate for families that teach kids about why it is important to save energy, the difference between renewable and nonrenewable energy, and things they can do to save energy. There are many interactive games online where children can make decisions to save energy or even make energy decisions for entire make believe cities. Supplementing reading and lectures with fun hands on activities is a sure way to get kids to learn about energy conservation.
For further information on teaching children about energy conservation, consult the following links:
- Teaching Energy Conservation Ethic: Some activities are given in this paper that will help parents teach children about the need to conserve energy.
- Why Conserve Energy?: Although this page is directed University students, the reasons to conserve energy apply to all people and so do most of the energy saving measures.
- Imagining Tomorrow: Ways that older kids and even adults can change attitudes toward energy use.
- Energy Conservation in the Home: Statistics on home energy use and ways to reduce it are given in this article.
- Conserving Energy with Plants: Learn about ways that homeowners can save energy and money by smart landscaping.
- Save Energy in Heating and Cooling: Read about how to properly insulate the home, plant trees and shrubs, switch to fluorescent light bulbs, and choose energy efficient appliances to reduce energy use.
- A Home Energy Primer: A multitude of ways to conserve energy from methods of lighting to using passive solar energy are presented here.
- Renewable Electricity Generation: Browse through this guide to renewable energy sources then share the information with kids.
- Energy Sources: This site describes the types of energy in a way that is easy for kids to understand.
- Renewable & Nonrenewable Resources: Kids will learn all about renewable and nonrenewable energy sources from this publication.
- Energy Kids Games & Activities: Riddles, puzzles, experiments, quizzes, and activities on energy conservation are available on this website.
- Energy Hog Kid’s Games: Interactive games that teach children to conserve energy are offered here.
- Con Edison Kids: Children can play a variety of games that teach them about energy usage on this website.
- Saving Energy in My Home (pdf): This is a printable coloring and activity book for kids about energy conservation at home.
- The No Fear Guide to Energy Efficiency (pdf): A variety of activities on energy efficiency are available for late elementary school and middle school age children in this booklet.
- Energyville: This is an interactive game that puts the player in charge of the energy needs for an entire city; it can be played by multiple players.
- Teaching Children to be “Energy-Wise”: This fact sheet identifies things that kids can do to help save energy in the home.
- Kids Go Green: A variety of ways that kids can help the environment are detailed on this fact sheet, including how to conserve energy.
- Energy Quest: This comprehensive kid’s site defines energy, describes renewable and nonrenewable resources, gives tips on how to conserve energy, and also includes stories, movies, and an art gallery.
- Energy Conservation Resources: A multitude of ways to conserve energy, from cutting computer usage to weatherizing the home, are given here.
- Plant Trees to Conserve Energy: Learn about how planting trees for shade, windbreaks, and insulation can conserve energy and lower energy costs.
- Electronics Energy Calculator: Discover which electronic devices use the most energy with this calculator.
- Home Energy Audit: This informational interview for kids shows what a home energy auditor does.
- Saving Energy at Home and School: This publication is part of a kit to conduct research on home energy use and reduce it.
- Green Tips: Save Power: Tips for kids on saving power in their homes by doing things such as replacing light bulbs, turning off electronics and more.