While I don’t personally have kids, a friend of mine who does told me this great way to help instill the habit of energy conservation to his kids. The trick is simple and fun; you make turning off the lights into a game.
The concept of “gamification” has been thrown around by many life hackers and game App developers in the last several years as means of instilling new habits in people. Fortunately you don’t need a fancy game app for getting your kids to turn off the lights. A simple piece of graphing paper or blank paper with some graphing lines drawn on it should suffice as your game board.
Here’s what you do. Create an X and Y axis on the paper with the X axis corresponding to each month starting with the current one and the Y axis corresponding to how much energy you use each month. Then start by graphing the current month’s energy usage either using a bar graph or line graph. Be sure to include your kids in the graph creation process using markers, crayons, or whatever; the more they make it their own the better.
Then tell the kids that the game is to see how low we can get the graph to go. Make sure to show them the actual bill and where to find the number that shows the amount of energy used. Most importantly, tell them about the things that use energy and how that will affect the graph, such as turning off the lights, not keeping the refrigerator door open too long, turning the TV off when no one is watching it, etc. Perhaps you can even set a specific goal where a reward is involved when you reach that goal.
Post the chart to the fridge or the wall somewhere in the house, then when you get the energy bill each month, have the kids chart it on the graph and see where you stand. This not only makes them aware of their energy use habits, but it adds a little fun to the whole process. You could even do this with other utility bills you may have like gas or water for example.
While it’s possible that the kids could tire of the game after a number of months, the point is to get the habit instilled in them so that they go from a state of being consciously mindful of energy conservation to being subconsciously energy conservative. Not to mention it’ll help you save some money in the long term, which is always nice.