Sustainability doesn’t come naturally to kids. Like most worthwhile lessons, however, it can be taught with the whole family’s involvement. And there are numerous ways to combine lessons in conservation with regular playtime.
My kids are still pretty young, so trying to explain fuel consumption or energy conversion can be confusing. They’re tactile learners, so I focus on the natural resource they touch every day: water. Here are some creative ways to teach water conservation for kids.
Start with a Story
Lecture notes belong to their teachers. Instead, take a minute or less to tell your child how your view of natural resources changed over time. Were you their age when you discovered their importance? Was it a classroom lesson, something you saw on TV, or a real-life experience? Did you hear about something that changed your position on conservation? Nothing can get a kid’s attention quite like a personal narrative.
Enlist a Cast of Characters
All kids need to develop empathy, and a visit to the local aquarium can be the key to unlock their inner compassion for the environment. Most aquariums are diligent about teaching water conservation for kids and adults who visit. Show them how every animal depends on an abundance of clean water. When you get home, ask your children how daily household choices may ultimately affect the animals they met.
Keep It Simple
With an awareness of the ecosystems affected by home water usage, it’s time to turn these lessons into lifestyle changes. This requires some creativity, but thankfully kids don’t need to be told to let their imaginations run wild. Put that energy to work by letting your child list things the whole family can do to use less water around the house. Here are some easy ones:
- Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth, and turn it back on only to rinse.
- Fill the sink with clean water to wash dishes, instead of letting it run.
- While waiting for hot water, collect the running water to use in cooking, or to feed a plant.
- Collect rainwater from downspouts to water the lawn or wash the car.
Here’s a cool one: When making soup, don’t start with fresh water. Use leftover cooking water from previously boiled or steamed veggies. It’ll save water and add a nutritious addition to your child’s next hot meal at the same time.
Other more unconventional ideas may include upgrading to air-cooled appliances that don’t use water, and hitting the community pool instead of filling your own. When doing the dishes, soaking wins over spraying pots and pans. Or, better yet, use elbow grease to scrape the hardened parts, eliminating water usage for stuck-on foods.
Engage Your Child’s Creative Side
Ways to save water for kids to take the lead on means creating a game or project out of it. For example, a lot of water is wasted in undetected leaks from faucets and pipe joints. Playing a little CSI: water unit style can empower your kids to investigate its usage all on their own. Have them grab a notepad and join you on a “leak hunt.” Look for clues, like the sound of dripping or the appearance of strange spots on the basement floor. You can even ask your child whether he or she smells anything unusual as they turn corners or enter new rooms.
When searching the bathroom, have your child use this forensics trick: Put ten drops of food coloring into your toilet’s tank and wait thirty seconds. Does any color leak into the toilet bowl? If so, you have a silent water leak that would have otherwise escaped detection.
You can even grab a do-it-yourself toilet repair kit, using This Old House as a guide next time you’re at the hardware store. What other investigative techniques can your child come up with to detect otherwise silent culprits of water waste?
Rinse and Fish
People are usually done showering well before they turn off the faucet (especially during the winter). Try taking speedy showers and competing for the quickest (but thorough!) clean. Saving your pet fishes’ waste water to use as nutrient-rich hydration for inedible plants is a great way to recycle water as well. Even using a fun online usage calculator can help everyone keep track of his or her water consumption.
Keeping consumption to a minimum is a great lesson in water conservation for kids, but you don’t need to stop there. Once kids learn to use less water (and use it creatively), graduate to lessons on water pollution and how certain synthetic materials from your own home can end up in the water supply.
Image sources: 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.