Kids can save water in California drought. Make it a game

Children love to play with water and in water, especially on hot summer days. However, experts say you can also teach your kids to love saving water.

California’s latest water emergency is forcing residents to redial their lawn sprinklers, cut their showers short, and make other water changes to their routines. While many of the steps we can take as individuals have small rewards – and nothing we do at home can lower the temperature or bring in more rain – every gallon of clean water saved is one gallon can meet other needs.

And there are so many little things they can do to reduce waste as easily as their parents can. If you have a teen in the house, chances are you’re used to 20-minute showers and three sets of clothes in the trash every day. If you have small children, there may be multiple cups filled with water scattered around your house at any given time.

Educators say a good way to change your child’s water usage habits is to explain how their actions affect the community and the environment. That sense of connection will help provide the motivation needed to create a water-saving habit.

However, you can keep your child motivated by making conservation a game instead of a chore.

Here are some suggestions from experts in child development and “gamification” for how to get your child to do his or her part to cut your water bill.

Do not nag, teach

Many Southern California children receive water conservation training in schools, through educational programs sponsored by local water agencies. For example, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Electricity sponsors “Drop in the Bucket,” a Wildwoods water science education program for students in grades 3-8.

Dwain Wilson, founder and chief executive officer of Wildwoods, says talking about the severity of the state’s water shortage is not the way to start a conversation with your kids about cutting down on water waste. “It’s all about leading with what’s opportunity,” says Wilson. That’s how Wildwoods teaches about climate change, he said – not focusing on the impending crisis, but instead on things children can do to help.

Behavior change doesn’t come from rote learning, but from gaining insights and connections based on personal experience, says Wilson. So parents need to help their children know how something they care about will benefit from changes in their habits, whether it’s the environment, the community, or the family’s finances.

Tiffany Baca, public affairs manager for Orange County’s Municipal Water District, echoed that sentiment when explaining how her agency’s educational programs have evolved in recent years. “We really need to start the connection between the water supply and the people who use it,” says Baca.

The point of the agency’s efforts in schools, she said, is to get students to “find a source of water and start asking, ‘How did that water get here? Who is affected by the water supply here? What can I do to make things better? ‘ You become a water advocate simply by exploring the world around you.


Texting in schools can be helpful, but conservation lessons need to start at home with a parent’s example. “We are our children’s first and foremost teachers,” said Mark Moss, principal public affairs representative for Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District. Long before our kids go to preschool, says Moss, “we can model simple water conservation behaviors in front of them.”

It’s important for parents to quickly explain to their children when they’re minimizing water use – for example, when they turn off the faucet while brushing their teeth. It can be as simple as saying, “We’re saving water,” says Moss.

He added: “Children can pick up age-appropriate water conservation lessons from a very young age. For preschoolers, the message might be to save water today so that tomorrow we can share it with plants, animals and others. As the kids go through elementary and middle school, you can start talking about concepts like drought and climate change, says Moss. Webpage:

Kaitzer Puglia, professor of special education and child development at the City University of Pasadena, says “consistency and perseverance” are key. “Whatever you’re going to do with kids, make a plan to do it consistently, on a daily basis,” she says, adding, “It takes a while to form a habit.”

Parents need to be realistic about how much they can take on and approach the challenge of building new behavior in small chunks. “Instead of doing six things in a day,” says Puglia, “start with one; do it in two weeks. Then move on to the next activity, whatever it is, in two weeks. Then build on it. ”

Another key, she says, is understanding your family’s focus and values, rather than trying to focus on others. “What do families have to think together and contribute? And then really just do it,” said Puglia.

Gambling basics

The idea behind gamification is to make a non-game activity provide the same kind of emotional and spiritual rewards that playing a game can. You’ll need two things to get started: a list of behaviors you want to promote, and rewards you’ll associate with different levels of achievement.

Centrical, a performance management company, advises: “Associating behaviors with recognition can turn them into habits. Tracking progress toward a goal — say, a 100-gallon savings goal — or charting the number of days in a row that a task is completed can reward participants with “a dose of dopamine and incentive.” long-term engagement,” writes Katryna Balboni of software company Appcues.

You can turn saving water into a family contest, or you can set conservation goals with rewards for meeting them. And you don’t have to come up with all the ideas – you can encourage your kids to design their own water-saving challenges. Implementing their idea “will inspire them to become more involved in water conservation efforts,” says the ParentCircle blog.

“Once the kids are interested in something,” says Wilson of the Wildwoods, “the gambling part is pretty straightforward.”

He suggests that you start by identifying how your family uses water – bathing, washing clothes, washing dishes, washing the car, watering the lawn, watering the garden, etc. Then, he says, create one. Ways to keep track of what your kids do on each page.

“You can set any goals and standards you want,” he said. “Your water bill will tell you the exact results of your efforts.” In addition to saving water, it was “a great lesson in math and data collection,” says Wilson.

Some goals for your family

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the average family of four uses 400 gallons of water per day in this country. That leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Typically, homes use as much water outdoors as indoors, where the primary use is bathing, washing clothes, and washing dishes. So, when developing goals and rewards, think about ways to cut down on showering, clothes and dishes, and watering your lawn and plants.

Competition can be fun, but it’s not for everyone. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, find a way to spread the victory around.

As Wilson has noted, children do better when they can connect their actions to the generated good. So consider putting them in charge of a particular flower, plant, or garden plant, then rewarding them for watering them with water they save or recover in the house. (But don’t let the tree die! That would be bad.)

You can track how much water is saved (e.g. by showering for a shorter time) and how much water is found (e.g. by reusing vegetable wash), the number of days in a row that the use-by-use mark is reached. Use less water or the amount the household cuts down on monthly water use.

The BBC offers a game that you can periodically play, called Leak Detector. Put a teaspoon of food coloring in the tank of one of your toilets. Wait 15 minutes without flushing, then test the water in the bowl for color – if you see some color you’re putting in your tank, you’ve got a leak that could be consuming up to 200 gallons a day, the EPA estimates. quantity.

Here are some behaviors you can use as goals for your child (along with how much water can be saved, if estimates are available).

  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth (4 gallons per brush), washing your hands (about 2/3 gallons per wash), and washing your car (up to 100 gallons).
  • Wash fruits and vegetables in a bowl of water instead of under running water.
  • Take a quick shower instead of a shower. Shower head sprays 2 to 2.5 gallons per minute; Bathtubs typically take 25 to 35 gallons. So a five-minute shower can use 25 gallons less than a tub.
  • Don’t waste bath or shower water while it’s warm. That means plugging in the tub drain as soon as you start running the water, not after it’s warm. And when taking a shower, gradually add warm water to the bucket; you can use the water afterwards to flush the toilet (up to 1.6 gallons per flush for a new toilet and up to 7 gallons for an old toilet) or water your plants.
  • Shower less often. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, once or twice a week is fine for pre-pubescent kids, as long as they don’t get muddy or sweaty or go swimming. When puberty hits, daily bathing becomes a thing.
  • Hang your towel between the shower or bath and then use it again. That way, the American Institute of Cleaning advises, you can use 3-5 times between washes.
  • Wear clothes more often before washing them. According to the American Institute of Hygiene, most clothing that’s not underwear, socks, or workout clothes can be washed at least once or twice between washes unless they’re “dirty or stained.” .
  • Use only one drinking glass per day, and when pouring water, only half fill it at a time. And if there’s anything left over, use it to water the plants rather than down the drain.
  • After scraping off the leftovers, you put the dishes directly into the dishwasher without rinsing.
  • Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the fridge instead of running the faucet to get cold water.
  • At the end of the day, pour the remaining water in your pet’s pot of water over the plant instead of in the sink.
  • Clean the patio or driveway with a broom instead of a hose.
  • Wash your bike or scooter with a bucket and sponge instead of a hose.

One factor in favor of parents is that their children may be more receptive to conservation messages than they were before. Puglia, also a member of the La Cañada Unified school board, said the current generation of students is “really very conscious” about water, climate and planetary issues. She added, “They have a clearer understanding of what’s going on and what the outcome will be if we don’t do something.”

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