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How to Get Kids to Save Energy

Want your kids to pitch in and help save energy? Green parenting bloggers weigh in on getting kids to flip the switch and stop wasting energy.

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Eco reminder wall stickers around light switches

These switchplate stickers remind kids why it's important to turn off the lights when leaving a room. Image: © Hu2 Design 2012

Kids have more important things to think about than turning off the lights. But discovering the lights blazing in an empty room for the umpteenth time is enough to make any parent scream, especially when the power bill arrives.

The good news is, you can train your kids about the importance of saving energy right from the start. Here’s great advice from some of our favorite bloggers who know a thing or three about kids.

1. Let them take charge.

Jenn Savedge, who blogs at The Green Parent, practices a little reverse psychology — she urges her kids to remind her to turn off the lights.

“They get such a kick out of ‘telling Mommy what to do’ that it’s first and foremost on their minds,” Savedge said. “If I walk out of a room without doing it, they’re happy to point it out and then dash back and do it for me.

“Works like a charm and keeps the whole thing from becoming just one more thing that Mommy nags them about.”  

The key to getting children to do anything is to make it “theirs,” says Monica Fraser, a mother of two who blogs at Healthy Green Moms.

“I get them to police me because they get inspired to turn off the lights ‘better than me,’” she said.

2. Find their motivation.

For Sommer Poquette’s 8-year-old son, it’s money.

“If I have to ask more than three times for my son to do anything in particular, he loses $1 out of his piggy bank,” says Poquette, who blogs at Green and Clean Mom.

“I do this so he learns that leaving the lights on costs me money, but also because he’s very motivated to earn money and spend money, so I hit him where it hurts the most: the wallet! Amazingly, he listens very well and never lets me get to the fourth ask!”

Fraser’s kids are motivated by the idea of helping out friends and neighbors.

“Because my children are quite young, I have said that we must remember to turn lights off and shut water off when brushing so that our neighbors have enough,” she says. “They know their neighbors, and certainly wouldn’t want to use all the water.”

3. Incorporate non-verbal reminders.

Gentle reminders, such as stickers on the light switches, help kids remember to turn off the lights when they leave a room.

“They’re each in charge of shutting off their bedroom lights each morning and during the day,” Poquette says. “We have stickers above the light switches to remind them. As a family, we all offer each other friendly reminders.”

Sticky notes don’t just apply to light switches, either. Tiffany Washko, who blogs at NatureMoms, places Post-It Notes labeled “Turn Me Off” and “Unplug Me” all around the house as reminders.

“Putting them by the light switch, on the side of the TV, on the wall next to the power bar that controls game consoles, etcetera, is a great visual reminder,” Washko says.

“We also require each child to do a walk-through each morning before they leave for school and turn off anything that may have been left on. Once they consistently remember, we stop requiring it … that is, until they have a few lapses, then we rinse and repeat.”

4. Explain to them why it’s important.

The full implications of saving energy may not immediately be clear to kids, but they’ll be more likely to remember to turn off the lights if they understand why it’s important.

“To teach them about the importance of turning off the lights and saving energy, we’ve read them several children’s books,” says Poquette. “My son understands the value of a dollar, so I’ve shown him our energy bill and explained to him what this means and how energy is produced.

“I think being up front with your kids, and explaining things to them in simple ways they can understand, is the best policy.”

How do you get your kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room?

courtneycraig Courtney Craig

is an Atlanta-based writer and editor. She believes no effort is too small when it comes to green living, which she tries to keep in mind while renovating her recently purchased first home. Follow Courtney on Google+.

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