High prices: how to explain the energy crisis to children?

Status: 02.10.2022 16:10

Saves energy in the crisis: Children have the opportunity to learn how to use resources more sustainably. How parents can handle the crisis and what tips educators give.

By Philipp Wundersee, WDR

War in Europe, inflation, rising energy costs – there is no shortage of bad news at the moment. Many families look forward to the coming months with worry and great uncertainty. Politicians may be handing out one bailout after another, and the Chancellor is promising that no one will be left alone, but financial fears are very real in many households right now. The children feel it too.

How do you talk to children about the energy crisis?

For children, energy is something abstract. “Still, they come into contact with the effects of the crisis,” says Susanne Hein from the charitable foundation “Små Forskeres Hus”. In this way, children would feel the adults’ worries in everyday life, for example that they can no longer pay their bills or that it is cooler than usual in the apartment. “Adults should talk openly with children about this,” says Hein. “That the energy we use in the household is very valuable and important to us. It was important to use it sparingly long before that.”

As a start, it is a good idea to make the children aware of the electrical devices they use in their everyday lives: How can they tell if something is powered by electricity? Does the device have cables, plugs or switches? Does it blink or beep when in use? Children must also be able to understand their parents’ behavior. So if you’re in doubt, explain why you’re worried or upset. In this way, it can also be conveyed that it is normal and understandable when news about the energy crisis creates uncertainty and leads to behavioral changes in everyday life. Adults should also make it clear to children that they are not alone in their feelings. The fact that many politicians around the world are trying to get the crisis under control and are supporting people can also provide reassurance.

What should the parents consider during the interview?

“For everyone, saving on electricity and energy means changing previous habits,” says Susanne Hein. In the new situation, adults should not ignore any frustration, their own worries or insecurities in the children. It helps the children if they can develop their own ideas and solutions when saving. “It’s better than decreeing waivers or issuing bans,” says Hein. As with the project in the “Skattekiste” daycare center in Aalen: over a period of months, the educator Liane Ritz and her team gradually introduced the girls and boys to the subject of electricity and energy with lots of ideas for discovery and research – including experiments on how to save electricity, or how electrical equipment can be replaced.

“The children now turn off the lights more often,” says Ritz in an interview tagesschau.de. “We don’t always need a lot of light, the children use it consciously and like to turn off the light.” They tried different light sources: read in the dark with a construction lamp on their head, built a cave and researched with different flashlights. “The realization that cozy tea lights glow brighter when the overhead light is off worked for everyone,” says Ritz.

How can you encourage children to save energy?

Energy must be saved playfully. “Search together for the devices in the children’s everyday life that use electricity,” advises Hein. You can then discuss the significance of these devices for the children and go on a search together: Where is heat generated in the house and where is it lost? Like a bird feather tied to a piece of string. “The kids pull through the rooms with this pull pendulum and find out where the pulls are,” says Hein.

A walk down into the basement can also help – to the electricity meter. How quickly do the numbers change and how does the electricity get into the house in the first place? Or you are trying to manage without electricity in your house or apartment for a day. What would be different? Which activities are cancelled? How do you provide light? Creativity is also required here. For example, you can build a small oil lamp. The children in the “Skattekiste” daycare center invented a working teapot boiler, built a teapot oven, a refrigerator made of clay pots, tin telephones and various light sources without electricity. After several attempts, the young researchers found a solution for the bell at the entrance to the daycare center, Liane Fritz says: “A cowbell on a large stand looked like you could ring it with a long cord through the window so you could hear it. from the outside.” Children of primary school age could also try the children’s app “Meine Stromwerkstatt” and learn a lot about electricity and energy in a playful way.

Why is it worth saving energy?

When children understand what energy really is, it is possible to explain why it makes sense to save energy. It also worked in the “Skattekisten” daycare center, explains teacher Fritz. Those who use less energy achieve many things: Among other things, fewer climate-damaging emissions reach the earth’s atmosphere, and climate change is slowed down. The goal must be to use energy as sensibly as possible. It is good for the environment and for the family budget. Parents or educators should model environmentally friendly behavior. Those who are creative can also make posters with pictures or photos of the electric guzzlers with the children: long showers, bathing, brushing teeth with running water, leaving the light on, radio on standby. Comprehensible family rules on a poster can also help: when going out: lights off. When you brush your teeth: water off.

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