If you haven’t yet introduced your kids to the enthralling world of nature documentaries, what are you waiting for? Wild animals to actually enter your house? Starting at two-years-old, you might get tired of showing your kids shows and movies dominated by muppets and talking tigers. Why not show them some real freaking animals for a change? Kids love real animals. This will work. Trust us.
Good nature documentaries can feature every kind of animal imaginable and can vacillate between hilarious, thrilling, and, yes, a little scary. Documentaries are also (duh) an incredible educational tool, exposing your kids to the great big world, different ecosystems, and cultures. And while you’re kids won’t be able to look away, don’t use these documentaries as screen-babysitters. Watch them with your kids.
Watching these with your kids can also make a great summer activity. Once your kid starts to develop specialized interests (like insects, whales, or chimps), you can dive deep into their favorite subject with books and more documentaries. Before you know it, the summer will be over and your kid will have a new passion.
13. African Cats
This is a Disneynature documentary that is narrated by Samuel L Jackson that follows a tight narrative about a family of lions and a family of cheetahs. Did we mention it’s narrated by Samuel L. Jackson? No, he doesn’t swear. (Sadly.)
12. Ants: Nature’s Secret Power
Are ant’s really nature’s secret power? This documentary will convince you that the ant-riding scenes in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids were lame. This is the real ant-action.
This documentary is streaming on YouTube (above) or on archive.org.
Another of the Disneynature documentaries, this time all about brown bears! Set in the Alaskan wilderness, this fast-paced movie is both exciting and adorable.
This documentary is streaming for rental on Amazon right here.
10. Big Cat Diary
Big Cat Diary is a popular BBC TV series (that began back in 1997) on families of lions, cheetahs, and leopards that live in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. And though you could watch them out of order, you probably shouldn’t. The unfolding storyline is just better in the right order.
You can stream Big Cat Diary for rental on Amazon.
9. Life of Mammals
David Attenborough’s Life of Mammals series is one of his best. Kids love it because of the focus on the creatures we tend to relate to the most: warm-blooded mammals.
8. Turtle: The Incredible Journey
Follow a loggerhead turtle on an extraordinary 2 year, 9,000-mile journey from a beach in Florida, up to the frozen north, across the ocean to Africa, and then back to the beach where she was born.
This documentary is only on iTunes at the moment.
7. Nature: Animal Odd Couples
Remember in Ghostbusters when Bill Murray said: “Cats and dogs; living together — mass hysteria!” Well, that’s what this is, minus the hysteria. Cheetas and dogs. Fish and snakes. You get it.
This series is streaming for free on PBS.
6. Life in the Undergrowth
An up-close view of the lives of insects in such detail it feels like magic was used to capture this footage and not cameras. The footage will completely change the way your kids view the ordinary stuff they might usually just walk right over.
This series is streaming to rent on Amazon right here.
5. Life of Birds
Many movies and series on this list are narrated by the contemporary godfather of nature documentaries; David Attenborough. Do we like that this guy has a monopoly on excellent nature docs? Sure! As long as his stuff is as watchable as this bird documentary, let’s hope he lives forever. Like some of Attenborough’s other efforts, Life of Birds is series, meaning, there’s a possibility your kid could get hooked on several episodes.
You can stream Life of Birds for rental on Amazon here.
4. Blue Planet
You’ve heard of this one, and for good reason. It’s a masterpiece of oceanic proportions. A truly mesmerizing and educational glimpse beneath the surface. Watch this!
You can stream Blue Planet on Netflix right there.
Another super entertaining Disneynature doc. This one is super cute, but also educational. And what toddler doesn’t relate to a chimp?
You can stream Chimpanzee on Hulu right here.
2. Arctic Tale
This one follows a polar bear and a walrus cub as they struggle for survival in the arctic wilderness. This one is an important one to watch because the narrative demonstrates the devastating impacts of climate change, but on a microcosmic scale.
You can rent it on Amazon Prime right here.
1. Nature’s Greatest Events
A greatest-hits-collection of the most dramatic events in the natural world. Watch how different species react and adjust to events so massive they forever transform the landscape.
Stream it on Netflix right here.