How to talk to kids about climate change?

With the worldwide school strikes for climate and the global climate march, we are talking about climate. But do we know how to talk to kids (without scaring them!) ?

If an overwhelming majority of people say they are worried about climate change (85%, IFOP survey ) and that young people are most concerned about the climate issue (93% among 18-24 year old), what about the youngest, what about small kids?

That's why the book The Ouka World. Let’s save our climate (4-8 year old) is committed to not have the youngest excluded from this issue, even though they are the first concerned.

The alarming report of IPCC experts on the disastrous consequences of global warming, even limited to 1.5 ° C, has been widely relayed by the press (for example, the articles on October 8, 2018, of The Guardian ) or Le Monde, with its graphics). Since a year, not even a day passes without being reminded of the unprecedented climate crisis we are experiencing. Wildfires, droughts, super-storms, melting ice-caps, mega-cyclones… change is already there and we do not have much time to limit the damage.

It’s highly likely that your children, even if you’ve tried to shield them from it, are aware of what’s going on. The topic has probably been raised in school, or they’ve caught a glimpse of the news over your shoulder. Perhaps an older sibling is planning to join the worldwide school strikes for climate.

The first question you need to ask yourself is:

“Do my kids, especially the younger ones, understand climate change fully?”

Because if they don’t, it’s also highly likely that the glimpse they’ve seen is fuelling the kind of nightmares that were once reserved for monsters under the bed. Climate change has become a “big bad wolf” at our door.

The second question is:

“How can I explain the reality of what’s going on without terrifying them?”

As a regular speaker at primary schools on the topic of climate breakdown, there’s a strategy I use, based solidly on positive communication, that educates kids in under an hour, leaving them armed with knowledge and feeling empowered to head out into the world. Feel free to use it, in your home, your classroom, at the dinner table, or elsewhere.


Start by asking questions. Have they heard about climate change? What have they heard? What have they seen? How does it make them feel?

Do this to gauge whether they’ve been shielded entirely from this topic, or whether they have some basic knowledge. Asking about how it makes them feel will let you know whether it scares them or not. It will also engage your audience and get them to pay attention.


Do they know what an ecosystem is? Many kids know it is something to do with the natural environment, but their knowledge ends there.

(I apology before the eminent scientists that I know are in my list, if sometimes i can simplify, at least when i talk).

The basics for kids: An ecosystem is an environment made of up living things (plants, animals and organisms) interacting with each other, and interacting with their non-living environments (soil, sun, atmosphere…).

Explain the different types of ecosystems (using more question and answer fun, to keep them engaged).

There are two main types of ecosystems: terrestrial (land) and aquatic (water).

All these ecosystems interact with and rely on each other. If one is disrupted or damaged, it can have a negative impact on all the others.


But why does climate change?

Because there is too much greenhouse gas.

(At this point, I want to clarify that a 4-year-old explained to me what a wind turbine was, so yes ... they understand perfectly what you are saying)

In reality, the greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon that makes it possible to have a temperature on Earth at + 15 ° instead of -18 °.

And for millions of years, the Earth's climate has varied, but in a relatively stable range. But for two centuries, humans have such an impact that the climate is destabilized and becomes increasingly hot. A little like when the body contracts a disease and reacts with a fever.

In the end, even if the greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon, if it is too strong, it modifies the climate.

… “greenhouse gas”? tell me more

Explain (with the aid of diagrams if you like) that the earth is surrounded by a layer of gases called the atmosphere.

Source image : Le Ptit Libé. Nov. 2015

The atmosphere protects Earth like a big blanket of insulation. It also

· absorbs the heat from the Sun

· keeps the temperature of the Earth steady, especially between night and day, so we don’t get too cold at night and too hot during the day.

· helps to form our weather patterns and climate.