How to get your kids involved with saving energy

Dear Parents,

Your kids are home for the summer. You survived the parent-teacher conferences, the sports practices, the concerts and the homework questions that you’ve long since forgotten how to solve. And in all of that, you’ve probably spent a lot of money on your kids.

This summer, you can work on getting your kids to SAVE you a little money by saving energy. Here’s ten quick and easy things you can do to keep the kids thinking about energy efficiency all summer long (and keep them occupied, too)!

“Dress for the Season” Fashion Showopens in a new window

Kids are notorious for putting on some pretty interesting outfits, so why not harness their creativity for a little fashion show this summer? Encourage your kids to find clothes that match the temperature and get creative! That means no hoodies or pajama pants for the summer – go for lightweight shirts and shorts to keep your bodies cooler. You can get creative with the colors and maybe even tye-dye and decorate some t-shirts of your own with fabric paint. Remember, dark colors will absorb more heat (and you’ll feel hotter), so try light colors for outdoor outfits.

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No-Cook Meal Showdownopens in a new window

Host your own version of your favorite Food Network competition show – with the twist that cooking isn’t allowed! You can finally get your kids interested in making their own food by planning for some no-cooking-required meals. You’ll not only save the energy that went directly into cooking, but you’ll also save the energy from cooling back down the house from all that extra heat. Sandwiches, fresh veggies and dip and smoothies are some great summer options and places to start the recipe planning.

Fan Science F-“air”

One good energy saving tip for the summer is using fans to stay cool while you’re in a room. While your kids are hanging out in the living room with the fans blowing, use that air to host a mini science fair! Design paper airplanes that use the force of the fan’s wind to fly the furthest, or design a windmill/pinwheelopens in a new window that spins to accomplish some task. (Just avoid the glitter for decoration!) 

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Book Club

Choose a book for the whole family to read – perhaps after a trip to the Columbia Public Library to peruse your optionsopens in a new window. Instead of energy-consuming screen time, the family can relax reading in their favorite reading nooks (the back porch, a hammock, a bean bag chair) and share in the many benefits of reading. When everyone is finished, discuss everyone’s favorite parts of the book and make sure everyone gets to share and contribute. Plus, you can help prevent the “summer slide” by keeping the kids engaged in reading over the summer.

LED Light Show

A shadow puppet theatrical production starring your family! Replace a lamp’s light bulb with an LED bulb* and let the show begin. An added bonus for the summer is that LED bulbs run cooler so you’ll avoid the extra cooling costs! Remind your kids to turn lights off when they leave the room.

*Incandescent bulbs can be tossed in your regular trash (they are not recyclable). Flourescent bulbs (CFLs) should be appropriately recycled through Columbia’s household hazardous waste (HHW) collection.

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Crafts and Caulkingopens in a new window

While you take care of important air sealing projects around the house, let the kids help out too! Popsicle sticks or Styrofoam packing material can serve as their ‘practice pad’ for learning how to smooth out a line of caulk. If you don’t trust them around your actual windows, give them a similar task for a craft project – like icing a cake or building a popsicle stick house.

Energy Budget Math

Work on addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with some simple math problems based on your utility bill. For example, how much did it cost per person for energy last month? Have kids try to predict what the energy bill will be for the next month based on last year’s data and the upcoming weather forecast. This is a great way to tie math and science together. Whoever is closest in the house gets to choose the location for a weekend trip or what flavor ice cream to buy!

Air Dry Blanket Fort

When you do your laundry, leave some sheets, towels or blankets aside to air dry. This saves energy and is a great opportunity to construct a living room fort! Let the kids camp out one evening and tell scary stories or read their favorite books in their energy-efficient fort.

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Acoustic Concert

If you’d normally turn on a stereo, radio or the TV to listen to some music, try an acoustic concert instead. If you have a kid in orchestra, band or choir, here’s a great way for them to stay in practice over the summer. They get to choose their set list, practice and give a performance to enjoy! (Maybe for your 4th of July barbecue!) If you or someone in your family plays the guitar or piano, you could even host an acoustic karaoke session!

Family Fitnessopens in a new window 

Get fit and save energy as a family this summer. Plan a day, an afternoon or just a few hours at a park, one of Columbia’s many trailsopens in a new window, or at the ARC. While you’re gone, make sure you set the thermostat up a few degrees. When you come home, grab a quick cool shower to rinse off (so that your AC doesn’t have to work too hard to remove the extra humidity) or shower on site at the ARC.

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This guest post was written by Alex Dzurick. He is the Energy Educator at Columbia Water & Light where he coordinates education and outreach activities about energy efficiency and renewable energy. Alex is a former middle school science teacher and is passionate about making sure the next generation is well-equipped to handle energy issues.