PARENT RESOURCE: Watching Climate Films with Kids

As many caregivers know, sometimes hard conversations with kids, from grieving a loved one to learning about systemic racism, can be made easier with a book.

The same can be true of short films and documentaries around climate change and environmental justice. Even for families with older kids and teens, watching a film together can serve as an entry point into topics that might otherwise feel too awkward or ‘artificial’ to broach out of the blue.

Below, we share a few ideas for what to watch, along with a guide to how you might discuss these films with your kids. Note that we don’t include age ranges here but would generally recommend beginning with children ages 6 and up; some of the recommendations below are probably best for tweens or teens.

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Movie poster for Youth v. Gov, a documentary about youth climate plaintiffs.

Bite-sized videos. Start small. You don’t need to watch a feature-length documentary together to spark dialogue. A 5- or 15-minute video can be a more accessible entry point:

Go local. The documentaries below are both bite-sized and rooted in Austin. If you are not based in Austin, seek out examples from your own community:

Full-length features with young protagonists. Kids and teens are drawn to stories of young people their age and older who are taking leadership:

Full-length features with a hopeful or inspiring message:

Children on the floor of a preschool classroom. The two in front look toward the camera.
Film still from our short documentary, “The Future of I-35.”

Tips:

  • Screen the film or video beforehand to make sure it’s right for your child. (Starting with the obvious here!) Sometimes all-purpose age recommendations can be too, well, all-purpose: you know your child best and can identify material that engages them or scenes that might be sensitive for them.
  • Make note of any questions that come up during the film. If you are unable to answer them, follow up later or research the topic together. It’s OK to show that you are learning, too.
  • Share both emotional and fact-based responses to the film. Finding a balance of feelings and facts around climate can be helpful for kids (and for adults!). Ask about their feelings while watching the film but also review what happened in the film or what characters were doing to address the issue.
  • Cultivate empathy. For younger viewers, ask them to imagine what’s happening from the perspective of the researchers, activists, or species other than humans portrayed in the film.
  • Dig deeper. Guided by your child’s interests, use the film as a springboard for future dialogue, learning, or action. Connect them to a book for further reading, do an experiment together, or brainstorm a concrete way they can take action at school, at home, or in the community.

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