Did you know October is Energy Awareness Month?  Probably not. When you think October, you think of leaves lighting a fire of color on your block. You unpack your favorite sweaters in anticipation of that first crisp day. You are ready to trade in your summer lemonade and iced tea for pumpkin spice latte and apple cider. And, of course, there’s Halloween. As you celebrate this change of season, here are some fun family activities to celebrate Energy Awareness Month. 

Brainstorm Over Dinner—What is Energy?

Shake up the dinner routine.  Instead of asking kids about their day and getting the typical “fine” or “ok” response, find out what they know about energy.  Depending on your kids’ ages, and how much they pay attention in science class, they may or may not know much about energy. Pose age-appropriate questions to kids to see what they already know.

Here are some questions (and a parent answer key) to get you started, and then you can take it from here:

What is energy?  

Energy gives the power to make something work, and comes in multiple forms, such as heat, light, motion, and chemicals.” (https://www.eia.gov)

What energy do you think was used to make this dinner?

Many children are familiar with electricity.  But if your household uses other types of fuel to cook (natural gas for your stove, or propane or charcoal grill, for instance), then here’s your chance to educate your kids.  For older kids, you could also push them to think about the energy used to produce the food BEFORE it got to your table (solar to grow the plants, chemical to feed livestock, kinetic for someone to harvest by hand, gas/electricity to harvest mechanically and transport to market).

Is the food on your plate energy?  

Yes, food is chemical energy that your body stores until it needs it to help your body work and put you in motion.  When you run around outside, dance, or play sports, you are burning that energy.

How else does the family use energy?

Obviously, the age of your kids will dictate, but here are a few ideas.  Transportation–Gas or electricity to power your car or the public transportation you use.  Think laundry–What powers your washer/dryer?  Entertainment–TV, stereo, gaming.  Does your family love to gather around the firepit?  Then you’re burning wood, a chemical energy. Maintenance (lawn mower—gas or electric).  Personal grooming—hair dryer, straightener, shaver. The list is nearly endless.

The point is to get your kids thinking and have them feel more connected to the world around them.  Feel like you need a little energy “refresher” before diving into this conversation? Visit US Energy Information Administration for great, kid-friendly explanations.

Now that you’ve brainstormed, you’re ready for hands-on activities.

Energy awareness through art

For young children, encourage them to draw their energy use during different activities and post them in an Energy Gallery on your refrigerator.  For older children, use a little friendly competition. At the next Family Game Night, consider Energy Pictionary to see what they remember from your brainstorm and new ideas they might have as they compete to show off drawings of their energy-related knowledge.

Family energy audit/hunt

Challenge your kids to hunt for energy issues or solutions around your house and make a list.  Maybe they feel a draft at their bedroom window. They left a light on. There’s a phone charger plugged in, but no phone attached.  The clothes piled on their bedroom floor are covering the vent. The game console is on standby. See who can make the longest list or come up with the most unusual or creative idea…a little healthy competition is motivating.  For young children, they can draw rather than write their ideas. And, make it a little more fun with clipboards and a colored pen or pencil. Everything feels more important with a clipboard. After the hunt, have the kids compare lists. You might be surprised at how energy aware they can be.

Online energy games & activities

Kids do love their devices, so going online is another way to engage them in energy activities and expand their knowledge.  Visit www.eia.gov for games, riddles, puzzles, even science fair experiment ideas.  For video games for young children through teens/adults, visit Let’s Talk Energy.

Make real-world energy connection for kids

Building energy awareness in all of your family members builds their capacity to be actively involved in controlling your family’s energy use and energy budget. For older kids, consider sharing a few months of energy bills to show how much electricity or gas is used over time.  It’s important for older kids to get the real-world connection between energy use and money spent. Armed with this information, they may feel like you’re trusting them with “grown-up information” and empowering them to be a family leader in decreasing energy spending in the future.

Energy savings works best as a group effort, whether at the family, community, or world level.  To explore other ways to take control of your energy budget, visit Plymouth Rock Energy.