Climate Change Resources for Kids
As a parent of young children, climate change and the potential of mass extinction probably weren’t high on the list of topics you were planning to educate them about.
But, alas, here we are.
However, the last thing we want to do is to heighten your climate anxiety.
Here you’ll find an optimistic glimpse into some of the incredible resources out there to educate young people about climate change, giving us hope for a healthier future for our planet and all who live here.
What is Climate Change?
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) defines climate change as, “a significant variation of average weather conditions— becoming warmer, wetter, or drier—over several decades or more. It’s the longer-term trend that differentiates climate change from natural weather variability.”
Scientists have determined that though the earth experiences periods of heating and cooling naturally, the change we’re experiencing now is directly related to CO2 emissions created by the use of fossil fuels (aka the greenhouse effect) and deforestation.
The changing climate is responsible for melting ice caps and the destruction of natural habitats, rising sea levels encroaching on the habitability of coastal areas, and drastic increases in natural disasters such as damaging storms and wildfires.
These undeniable effects will continue to be part of our reality for decades.
Why Is It Important to Teach Kids About Climate Change?
A recent study indicated that in their lifespan, children will face seven times as many heatwaves, three times as many river floods and crop failures, and twice as many wildfires as their grandparents’ generation.
In addition to the physical damage caused by climate change, it’s drastically affecting our mental health. A 2021 survey found that 75% of young people are frightened by the future and 60% are extremely worried about climate change.
But, all is not lost because there is also evidence that knowledge is power.
There is research to support that “16% of children receiving climate education…can lead to a 19 gigaton (that’s half of the world’s 2019 emissions) reduction in carbon emissions by 2050”.
Educating our kids about this reality in a way that’s developmentally appropriate is a critical piece of the puzzle in shifting the trajectory of our future for the better.
Kids who are educated on climate change will be empowered to reduce the anxiety they feel about the situation. And they will grow to become adults who will advocate for our planet and help solve the global issues we’re facing.
How to Start a Conversation with Your Kids About Climate Change
You are your child’s first and most important teacher.
So, it’s always best to start with a casual conversation surrounding your own thoughts on climate change and the ways your eco-friendly lifestyle contributes to taking care of the planet.
The folks at NRDC have a handy guide for Talking with Kids of All Ages About Climate Change. And for some additional guidance, this article by Yale Climate Connections has a list of tips for this important conversation. So, definitely start there.
Best Online Resources for Teaching Kids About Climate Change
Fortunately, while it’s tricky to navigate teaching about these topics without instigating anxiety and worry, there are some incredible digital resources out there that can shift screen time entertainment into increasing climate change awareness in a kid-friendly way.
For grade-school-age kids on up, we’ve gathered some of our favorite online resources for curious young scientists and environmentalists to expand their knowledge of what’s going on with planet Earth and what we can do to make a difference.
These resources do well in balancing education with optimism and hope which is important when learning about this challenging topic. We think you’ll find that they encourage action and instill hope that people are doing good for each other and the planet.
American Museum of Natural History
Within their “Ology” section the AMNH website offers kids a range of topics to explore, including climate change. You’ll find stories with visuals explaining the greenhouse effect, animal extinction, and FAQs answered by a scientist. Kids can also try the hands-on activity templates and directions for fun stuff like creating a terrarium and becoming an energy saver. And they’ll enjoy playing games where they answer questions about rising CO2 levels and solve story puzzles about life in the Arctic.
Kids Against Climate Change
Founded by climate change education consultant, Kottie Christie-Blick, this site is packed with resources to watch, read, and explore. It’s important to note, this is a compilation resource with lots to sift through so you’ll want to browse through and choose the most relevant and appropriate activities and videos for your child. Though there’s a lot here, it’s nicely categorized into information, games, and how both kids and adults can take action.
Happy Eco News
This site is a great resource for older kids who are ready to research and learn more about the actions being taken to combat climate change. The best place to start here is with the Weekly Top 5 Happy Eco News Stories where you can read about things like the recent initiative to revolutionize America’s electric grid and places that are moving toward renewable energy sources.
Climate Science: What You Need to Know
If your child is old enough for a tell-it-like-it-is account of the basic science of climate change, this video by the PBS YouTube channel Be Smart is the place to go. It’s broken down into 24 (yes, that’s a lot!) key points including the role of the heat from the sun, greenhouse gases, why fossil fuels are to blame, the effects we’re experiencing now, and what we can expect in the future.
Be the Future
Especially if you have littles under 7 in your life, this is an amazing duo of female climate activists you’ll want to follow along with. The fun for little ones including an activity book, card game, and online resources are still forthcoming this year (2023) but it’s a great place for carers to learn how to introduce nature play and have important conversations with their kiddos about our planet. When you subscribe to their email list you’ll receive a free PDF download with great ideas of ways kids can play in nature.
Their self-proclaimed mission is to “Create a generation of conservationists,” and they’re well on their way with a kid-friendly app that offers challenges and missions for kids to take on from reducing single-use plastics to attracting pollinators and reducing home energy use. Missions completed contribute to a rewards bank to purchase swag. This resource recently expanded from Canada to the US also features the Earth Ranger and The Big Melt podcasts as kid-friendly listening that promotes environmentalism. Through the website, kids can also adopt wildlife which contributes to the conservation of species such as the red panda and polar bears.
NASA Climate Kids
This site has great games that are very kid-friendly to learn about things like rising sea levels, greenhouse gases, and coral bleaching. It also features inspiring summaries of green careers like ocean and earth scientists. Kids can also learn through videos about pollution and climate science, and try hands-on activities like s’mores with a solar oven!
This is the world’s first comprehensive climate change curriculum for children ages 3-11. It’s a plug-and-play format that becomes easy to implement in the classroom for early childhood and primary teachers. They have a well-done, kid-friendly video made in collaboration with National Geographic that explains the basics of climate change and gets kids started thinking about what they can do to help.
These online resources to teach kids about climate change have been kid-tested and approved by my own 4th grader. So definitely give them a try because as David Attenborough has said,
“There can be no greater legacy than giving young people the tools to save our planet.”
A few final thoughts about how to address any climate anxiety that arises along with a couple of resources for your own advocacy efforts:
If your compassionate young environmentalist seems worried, reassure them that though it’s a situation with serious consequences, all of the resources and information available mean things are changing for the better.
An incredible resource, Science Moms is leading the way in educating parents on how we can protect our kids’ futures. Here you’ll find how to connect with a climate change group along with recommendations for podcasts, books, TED talks, and articles.
A female-led team headed up by climate change awareness powerhouse, Dr. Katherine Wilkinson, All We Can Save is a growing collection of resources that have sprouted from the anthology of the same name. Their mission is to inspire leaders across the globe and inspire grassroots efforts that make a true impact.
Ok. With these resources at your fingertips, you have the toolkit to expand your drive to save the planet from your at-home eco-friendly lifestyle out into the world using knowledge and practical action for yourself and your little ones.
Be sure to let us know which ones become your favorites.
About the Author:
Amy is a freelance writer for change-making eco-friendly and women-led businesses. She's known for her empathetic ability to capture brand voice, conversational yet informative writing style, and expertly paired GIFs.
At home you'll find her sipping a mushroom latte, attempting to stay consistent with her meditation practice, and cultivating a slow, sustainable lifestyle with her two boys filled with music, nature, art, and lots of laughter. Follow along with her adventures on Instagram!
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