What’s the best way to talk about climate change with small children?
This is a really hard topic.
Obviously, you can’t give children too much and too heavy information about climate change they cannot process. But it’s their future so they have the right to know about it and earlier they learn the more they can do even when they are little. Luckily in our school this has been brought up already. But I know many schools do not talk about climate change with small children – and the same applies for parents. It is very hard I get it. (Some lucky schools are having trained climate change teacher.)
What I tell them
I’ve found that it’s easier to focus on conservation and keeping nature clean and healthy as a start and I’m pretty sure all parents do this: not littering, picking up your rubbish and taking it home, thus, not harming animals. We always talk about how we should’t buy so much plastic (they actually love identifying objects as non-plastic and they always add: it’s good because animals won’t eat it by mistake and they won’t get sick.) We also pick up rubbish when we can and we never ever leave rubbish behind. But this is taught in schools and even in nurseries, so children are more and more aware of this. It’s a good start and suitable for littles, under 4-5s.
As a second step – and here comes the tricky part, we can eventually mention climate change. Something along the lines of like our cars, the planes and our home too need a lot of energy to run that come from fuel and electricity. But burning fossil fuels is putting lots of greenhouse gasses into the air and that’s harmful. Imagine, those harmful gases wrap around the planet like a blanket. So they make the planet and everything on it hotter. And it’s big problem, but thankfully there are a lot of clever people working hard on it, and we can and need to help too.
There is a lot we can do about it. Like planting more trees, using less cars, being outside more. This, I find very important to stress: give them hope, and there is of course hope so it’s not misleading them. Don’t paint it better: just give them positive facts. This is where we also need to educate ourselves as parents and be up-to-date.
What else can we do
Read books, watch programs that aimed for children.
Funnily enough, we watched a Blippi episode the other day, Blippi was explaining how humans breathe out carbon-dioxide and breathe in oxygen, but the plants breathe in carbon-dioxide and breathe out oxygen. Which was surprising (from Blippi that is!). But in a very basic way it explained why we need more trees and plants and how they help the climate. Story Bots are also great. And there are a lot more, I find that lots of CBeebies shows are updated on the subject.
Keep it positive
It’s also important to show them how small steps make so much difference and give them positive examples. I use a lot the success of the Ocean Cleanup Project, to explain to the children how it works. It’s very graphic, so you can look up photos and videos and tell the kids that it all started as an idea. Then lots of people give a little money to build the equipment they needed and so they were able to do this. And now it works and it takes the rubbish out of the ocean, how wonderful is this?
The bottomline is I think of course it is not brutal to educate children on climate change. It’s very necessary – but it needs to be done on a gentle way because, yes, we want to avoid traumas. It’s not easy, we as parents need to be prepared and well-informed as well.
If you have any tips – share them with others.