While water fights and running through the sprinklers in the backyard is a cherished American pastime for kids, it's become increasingly important to be water-wise in many impacted areas around the country.
With the accessibility we have in our homes with faucets and hoses, it can be challenging to encourage habits and behaviors that acknowledge its scarcity without getting too serious. From picture books to games to family competitions, we outlined five fun and engaging ways to create learning opportunities with your kids about water conservation.
Remember, this isn't about restrictions, it's about fostering a lifelong positive relationship with water conservation, so that fresh water is available for not just your kids, but your kids' kids, too!
Before asking your child to turn the faucet off while brushing their teeth or collect the running water while waiting for it to heat up for their bath or shower, you'll help gain their buy-in to frame the "why" behind these decisions. From stories of your own to children's books that frame and explain ecosystems and the characters (plant, human and animal life) affected by water use and distribution, there is plenty out there to capture their interest in a fun and entertaining way. You don't have to launch into a full lesson—just tell stories!
Click here for a list of children's books that will get your child thinking about water conservation.
Excursions and Games
Plan a family field trip! Aquariums, zoos, kid-friendly museums, local water treatment plants—all of these places (and possibly more in your local area) are likely to offer unique opportunities, activities and events for kids that will help explain water awareness and how it is cared for, distributed and used. If you can't make it out to one of these locations, there are endless resources online that promote water awareness for kids, including tons of games.
Here is a link to a list of online games, including quizzes, competitions and a virtual festival with activities that are fun for the whole family.
At-home CompetitionsWho can take the shortest shower? Collect the most water to reuse for watering the garden? Fit the most dishes in the dishwasher (one load requires approximately 25 gallons of water!)? Whether for real prizes or pure "bragging rights" these playful activities will both engage your kids in water-wise thinking and cut back on water usage in your home! Once you identify where you family can best conserve water, it will become easier and easier to come up with these competitions to keep your kids engaged in conserving and reusing this household resource.
Be DetectivesThe main source of water waste in your home could be going unnoticed! Leaky faucets, running toilets, broken sprinklers—whatever it is, tuning your child in to keep an eye out for these little things by playfully engaging them as "leak detectives" could be the spark you need to help mitigate (and find) these little issues that make a serious difference. From listening for drips to looking for areas that never dry, playing detective is a fun and playful way to help your child train their senses and tune in to their environment.
A common leak check is to put a teaspoon of food dye in the back tank on your toilet to see if any leaks into the bowl. If it does, you have a leak with an easy fix (flapper valve), and your child will enjoy being a part of helping to discover this hidden source of water waste.
Finally, for kids who love being outdoors, the best way to get them thinking about conserving water is to involve them in the design and upkeep of a garden. For starters, they can help place bins and gauges to track and collect rainwater for watering the plants. You can even work with them to identify a place in the yard where water naturally gathers during rainy days to then plant vegetation that will use that water rather than let it run or evaporate away (these are called rain gardens).
If you don't live in an area where you get enough rain for a rain garden, have your child work with you to pick out a few drought-tolerant plants that can survive and thrive until the next sprinkle of re-used or collected water. You'll get to enjoy time spent together, and your child will have a renewed sense of responsibility and pride of ownership when it comes to taking care of the plants they chose!
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