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Climate and Young Children Webinar Series

Stanford Center on Early Childhood

Event Details:

Thursday, September 21, 2023
9:00am - 10:00am PDT

Learning and Development & Community

Watch Climate and Young Children: Learning and Development & Community.


  • Sheila Williams Ridge, Co-Director of the Child Development Laboratory School at the University of Minnesota
  • Christy Merrick, Director of the Natural Start Alliance
  • Antwanye Ford, Co-Chair of the Early Years Climate Action Task Force
  • Nat Kendall-TaylorChief Executive Officer at the FrameWorks Institute
  • Special virtual guest Laura Schifter, Harvard Graduate School of Education Lecturer and Senior Fellow at the Aspen Institute
  • Moderator Abigail Stewart-Kahn, Managing Director of the Stanford Center on Early Childhood

Physical and Mental Health & Community

Watch Climate and Young Children: Physical and Mental Health & Community.


  • Jammie Albert, Program Manager for Early Childhood Success at the National League of Cities
  • Anya Kamenetz, author, journalist and advisor to the Aspen Institute and the Climate Mental Health Network
  • Lisa Patel, Executive Director for the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health
  • Special virtual guest Mark Del Monte, CEO/Executive Vice President of the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Moderator Philip Fisher, Director of the Stanford Center on Early Childhood

Takeaways and Actionable Ideas

Hope and optimism echoed through the Stanford Center on Early Childhood’s webinar series on Climate and Young Children. Across both panels, first on learning and development and then on mental and physical health, we were reminded that solutions come in packages big and small. Below, we highlight the challenges raised by our panelists, as well as ways that we can all engage with the effects of extreme weather and climate change at the policy, community, and family levels. We are excited to help ignite this necessary conversation that showcases the intersection of early childhood and climate.

Current Challenges

A child touches a crab that's on an adult's forearm.
  • Climate must become a cross-sector issue in order to create change.
  • Extreme weather events impact learning, with effects appearing across a child’s lifespan.
  • Access to nature classrooms is inequitable across race and socioeconomic status.
  • We need more solutions-focused rather than crisis-oriented messaging, curricula, and tools.
  • Children in underserved communities are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards and extreme weather.

What We Can Do

A child plays in the dirt with a green shovel.

Children and families: 

  • Connect to your environment. Provide children with opportunities to form relationships with trees, plants, and other beings on the planet.
  • Begin action in earliest years. Allow children to be active agents in addressing problems, shifting the narrative toward empowerment.
  • Set an example for the children in your life. Avoid single-use items, talk about waste, recycle and compost, and shop locally and second-hand when possible.

Schools and communities:

  • Focus on solutions. Help children move into the “zone of problem solving.” For example, if a classroom is learning about drought, pair that lesson with a workshop on how students can conserve water in their school garden.
  • Share efficacious and empowering climate stories through children’s books, TV shows, games, and other forms of media.

Policymakers and climate leaders:

  • Identify gaps in policy at the community level. Climate change is a global issue that will require local solutions.
  • Focus on local infrastructure and adaptation. Build walkable schools, install bike racks, provide HEPA filters, and make recycling easier.
  • Adopt a sense of Stubborn Optimism. We must paint a clear picture that communicates the urgency of the climate crisis in combination with actionable solutions.

Resources and Tools for Action

An adult holds a child on their shoulders as they walk in nature.


"We tend to focus on the distance to go rather than the miles traveled. Let’s take time to revel optimistically in the changes that have been made already." - Nat Kendall-Taylor

Mental and Physical Health

"Climate is a lens, not a topic." - Anya Kamenetz

Tools, Reports and Maps

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