"Don't use up all the hot water." "Close the door. We don't live in a barn." "Let's turn off the fan and open the windows to let the breeze in." You've probably said similar things to your little one many times, yet he doesn't quite understand what energy is and that it costs money to use. Alliant Energy for Kids explains renewable energy as natural energy that nature will replace, such as sun, wind and water. Offer your little "energy-waster" some kid-friendly energy activities to help him understand what renewable resources are.
The Sun's Warmth
Fill a plastic jar with water and place it outdoors in the sunlight. Have your child feel the water every now and then to see how warm the water is getting. Indoors, show her your home's water heater or warm some water on the stove so she understands the difference between purchased and free energy. Explain that the water outside is warmed by the sun, which is freely available, but the water inside is heated by gas or electricity, which costs money to get. Go a little further in this experiment and make some sun tea or use sun-warmed water to wash her hands or some toys. Let her place an ice cube on a warm sidewalk and watch it melt, or warm up a cookie in a pie pan from the sun's rays.
Play with wind items. Make a soda bottle windmill from a 2 liter clear bottle. Cut four triangles with 3-inch equal sides from card stock. Fold one-half inch along one side of each triangle to form fins for the bottle. Tape the four fins, evenly spaced, around the center of the bottle. Tie one end of a string onto a craft stick and push the stick into the neck of the bottle. Wiggle the stick until it lodges sideways to hold the end of the string inside the bottle. Tie the other end of the string on a low tree branch. Have your little scientist blow on the fins of the bottle to make it spin. For other wind activities, have him blow on the sail of a toy boat in water to make the boat move, dry his blanket on a clothesline in the outdoor breeze and let him wave a paper fan to cool his face. Praise him for creating such great wind and remind him that the natural wind outdoors works the same way to provide power and cool breezes.
Water as Power
Talk about water and wave power. Turn on the hose so your child can squirt some balls to move them around the yard. Put toy boats or sponges in a shallow pool of water and have her make waves with her feet to make the items move. Pour some water over a purchased plastic pinwheel to make it spin. You can also create a mini-stream with a small tarp on a hilly spot in the yard. She will love putting toys at the top edge of the tarp and pouring buckets of water on them to make them move downhill. Talk about how the natural movement of the water makes things move, and that there are dams and streams that people make to create this same type of energy.
Show your child how to make a mini storage cellar by placing a box under a shade tree and another box in the sun. Put an apple or banana in each box and check them later in the day to demonstrate how one remained cool and the other became warm. Tell how people in the past had a cellar in the dirt to keep food cool instead of having a refrigerator. Put a sealed bag with ice cubes into a container filled with cool water and another in the sun to demonstrate how water can also keep foods cool. Sit in front of an open window on a breezy day to show her how the free wind can cool her off.