Teaching Kids to Save Electricity: Five Fun Ways to Make It Fun

By Bethany Johnson in Thinking Sustainably

Bethany Johnson headshot

Posted by Bethany Johnson, guest blogger

If you think your home consumes more electricity than it needs to, you’re probably right. Most families know they can afford to cut back, but few know what household changes actually have an impact. Teaching your kids about energy consumption can help them create sustainable habits in the future. The good news is it doesn’t take much time or effort to teach them, and it can even be fun!

Here are five interesting ways to teach kids exactly why—and how—to save electricity.

A young girl adjusts the thermostat

Do you ever feel like your house has enough lights on to light up your whole neighborhood? These creative activities will teach both adults and kids how to save electricity.

Do Watt It Takes

Engage your kids’ creative sides by having them brainstorm household appliances and gadgets they can turn off or unplug to save power each day. Once they’ve compiled lists separately, bring everyone together and, based on this chart from the US Department of Energy, calculate the number of kilowatts saved if you were to turn them off. Did one family member “score” higher?

Decide which actions on each list are realistic and use those items to set a goal for saving a certain number of kilowatts together in the next month. The following month, try to beat your goal by an even greater margin.

Conduct an Experiment

Describing energy will only get you so far with kids. It’s hard for them to imagine what’s inside a wire, but if they can feel or see the energy themselves, they can perceive its value.

My favorite two-minute science experiment is something everyone has done as a child, and uses a physics concept called “conservation of charge,” which is a fancy way of saying static electricity. All you need is a balloon and long(ish) hair. Simply blow up the balloon and rub it on your child’s head until his or her hair stands on end. The balloon and your child’s hair are sharing electrons, which is the same effect present in a typical battery. While wearing some funny hairstyles, find opportunities to suggest why energy conservation is important: “It’s nice to protect the environment so it has enough energy left over to ‘share’ with your puppy when he wants to enjoy the outdoors.”

static electricity

No-Electricity Night

This activity can save electricity and relay the lesson of how much power your family consumes without realizing it. To make the evening fun, plan to play charades by the fireplace or candlelight, or sit outside and tell stories using the natural sounds of the neighborhood. Deliberately unplugging with your family allows your kids to discover their dependence on power in its absence, and appreciating electricity will be one of their most lasting takeaways.

unplug appliances to help save electricitySmarten the Games

If your busy schedule can’t add another commitment, combine education with the little ones’ downtime. I’ve been able to teach power conservation this way by steering my kids toward games and apps that show other kids saving energy, and the result is always positive.

At Kids Energy Zone, you’ll find activities specifically for kids to learn about energy conservation. So when they’ve earned a few minutes of screen time, offer them these educational online gamesinstead of the same video games they always turn to. Our favorite game is called “Lights Out!” and features a character named CFL Charlie. Using only the keyboard’s arrows and space bar, kids maneuver Charlie around an on-screen house, replacing traditional light bulbs with high-efficiency CFL (“compact fluores cent lamp“) lights, then turning off each appliance. Meanwhile the wattage clock is ticking, so the goal is to hustle, minimizing your consumption. Challenge your kids by competing for the best score!

Get Real

The “aha” factor of the above activities gives children an awareness of electricity, but only when they see the environmental effects of excess consumption will they consider changing their daily behavior. Burning fossil fuels to create electricity is the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions in America, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). So while it doesn’t  seem immediately harmful to leave lights on, it really is. Help your child understand their consumption by putting him or her in “charge” of saving electricity with some simple daily responsibilities. Examples may include:

  • Unplugging appliances and phone chargers when not in use.
  • Taking quicker showers to minimize the water heater’s workload.
  • Line-drying clothes instead of running the dryer.

The goal here isn’t a number of watts saved, but rather the number of consecutive days your family members make an effort to carry out some easy, energy-saving tasks. Brainstorm a collective (unplugged) treat everyone can enjoy if the goal is met.

Do you ever marvel at the number of lights on at your house, while all the appliances are on, chugging away? What fun activities have you found to really hit home in the name of a little energy conservation? Let us know on Twitter @TomsofMaine.

Image source: Bethany Johnson

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.