Got Netflix or Amazon Prime? There are some fantastic online documentaries for kids available. Below is a list of ten of THE BEST educational documentaries and series streaming right now!
As parents, we need to recognize (and teach our kids) that not all screen time is equal. In the blog post Why Our Family Doesn't Limit Screen Time, I explain...
Following along with a drawing tutorial, doing a lesson on Khan Academy, or playing Math vs. Zombie is different than playing Subway Surfers. Let's talk with and teach our kids about enriching ways they can use screen time.
I believe the same is true for TV screentime.
Kids can sit mindlessly zoning out watching sitcoms, cartoons, and made-for-tv movies, or they can use screentime to enrich their understanding of the world.
Think your kiddos will push-back and demand mindless TV? Here are three tips for moving forward:
- Sit down and enjoy some of these must-watch documentaries WITH your kids. They'll appreciate them more with your company (and maybe some popcorn too).
- Consider only allowing educational documentaries on the weekends. In an attempt to encourage more offline adventures, our kids are only allowed to watch educational programming on the weekends. We have a designated Netflix profile with pre-approved shows and series named "Ed" for them to search through.
- When you travel, try stocking your kid's device with educational documentaries. Side bonus — listening to David Attenborough is a lot more relaxing than cartoons.
I promise each of these educational documentaries and series is sure to capture your kiddos' heart. You've just got to jumpstart their interest!
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10 Of THE BEST Educational Documentaries + Series
Here's a list of ten of our favorite documentaries for kids.
1. Life in the Undergrowth
DOCUMENTARY DESCRIPTION: Open your eyes to the bizarre, ferocious, and surprisingly beautiful world of the invertebrates! Join David Attenborough on his ground-breaking exploration into a spectacular miniature universe never normally seen, but teeming all around us. Not just bugs and beetles, but exotic cicadas, neon glow worms, intricate silk-weaving spiders and iridescent dragonflies - not to mention a whole host of other incredible life-forms and intimate, startling behavior.
DOCUMENTARY NOTES: David Attenborough documentaries are THE BEST!
If you're scared of sitting your kiddo in front of a nature documentary because you imagine them being traumatized by a lion gruesomely devouring its prey, then THIS should fall under "documentaries to watch" for your family. While there are many free documentaries online, we purchased this series and have been so thankful for it.
Forget animal documentaries and start with this crazy-cool bug series instead. It covers all of the same significant circle of life topics, but they're a bit more digestible to watch and discuss when they revolve around bugs.
2. PBS SciGirls
SERIES DESCRIPTION: SciGirls is a PBS Kids show that encourages girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM.
DOCUMENTARY NOTES: PBS documentaries are always great, but this science series is excellent for girls.
Scroll through the SciGirl clips to find videos labeled as "FULL EPISODES." These mini educational documentaries follow girls through science experiments but are also integrated with cartoons to help keep the attention of younger audiences.
SERIES DESCRIPTION: From germs and emotions to social media and more, it's the science of your world explained in a way that's refreshingly relatable.
DOCUMENTARY NOTES: This educational documentary series will kickstart curiosity.
Pop over to Netflix and look at the episode titles, and you'll see why this is such a great documentary series for kids. Documentary topics covered include things like dreams, germs, space, social media, oceans, emotions, thinking, and hidden forces like gravity.
4. How the States Got Their Shapes
SERIES DESCRIPTION: The US is like a giant jigsaw puzzle, where every line on the map tells a different story.
DOCUMENTARY NOTES: This playful documentary series is sure to entertain the kids and WOW you. Add it to your documentaries to watch WITH the kids.
If your kiddos are studying the states that comprise the US, you'll want to watch How the States Got Their Shapes with them. With questions like these, you're sure to both be intrigued:
- Did money make our map? Through boom and through bust, the sweet smell of profit has drawn and redrawn our states.
- How have mastic geological events helped create the map? Long before the Founding Fathers drew the map, Mother Nature shaped some states herself.
- We all live in the same country, so why do we sound so different? And why do we have so many different words for the same things — like pop versus soda.
When I think of top documentaries for kids, this series pops into my mind!
5. The Who Was? Show
SERIES DESCRIPTION: Fresh voices bring some of the most famous names in history to life. A live-action sketch comedy show based on the series of best-selling books.
DOCUMENTARY NOTES: This documentary series is awesome for the kids, not-so-great for adults.
This might make the best documentaries for kids list, but feel free to skip sitting in on the show. The documentary list of people covered includes Gandhi, Ben Franklin, Einstien, Joan of Arc, Shakespeare, Marie Curie, Houdini, Picasso, Newton, and more. The show is an excellent introduction to famous names throughout history.
6. Blue Planet: A Natural History of the Oceans
DOCUMENTARY DESCRIPTION: David Attenborough narrates this definitive exploration of the marine world, from the familiar to the unknown, revealing the sea and its communities.
DOCUMENTARY NOTES: We love all things David Attenborough! Blue Planet is one of THE BEST documentaries on Netflix.
This collection is one of the top Netflix documentaries available! The Blue Planet is rated TV-G meaning that it is a bit more kid-friendly than traditional ocean documentaries. The blue whale description below gives you a small taste of how amazing this documentary is...
Dwarf by the vast expanse of the open ocean, the biggest animal that has ever lived on our planet — The blue whale 30-meters long and weighing over 200 tons. It's far bigger than even the biggest dinosaur. Its tongue weighs as much as an elephant. Its heart is the size of a car, and some of its blood vessels are so wide you could swim down them. Its tail alone is the width of a small aircraft's wings.
The Blue Planet is sure to pique your kid's curiosity and inspire awe.
A heads-up, episode three is entitled "Open Ocean" focuses on the predator-prey struggle in the ocean. It might be an episode to consider skipping if you've got a sensitive child.
7. Blue Planet II | Netflix
DOCUMENTARY DESCRIPTION: This sequel to the award-winning nature series "Blue Planet" dives beneath Earth's oceans to reveal the dazzling vistas and amazing creatures there.
DOCUMENTARY NOTES: This rates as one of the top Netflix documentaries currently available.
If your kids have an interest in the oceans, this family-rated series is a collection of the best educational documentaries available online. The cinematography is awe-inspiring.
8. 72 Cutest Animals
DOCUMENTARY DESCRIPTION: This series examines the nature of cuteness and how adorability helps some animal species to survive and thrive in a variety of environments.
DOCUMENTARY NOTES: Kid-friendly animal documentaries can be hard to find; this one makes our must-watch documentaries list for younger kids.
Documentaries for children are often integrated with silliness. This Netflix documentary focuses on the origin of cute and how it helps animals in the wild. The show is TV-PG, but my kids were a-okay watching the series solo.
9. Our Planet
DOCUMENTARY DESCRIPTION: Experience our planet's natural beauty and examine how climate change impacts all living creatures in this ambitious documentary of spectacular scope.
DOCUMENTARY NOTES: Our Planet is another one of the best documentaries on Netflix.
Our Planet is definitely one of the top Netflix documentaries and is beautifully made. When our family delves into documentaries that focus on mammals, we always proceed with caution. Our girls are more sensitive to the predator-prey focus when the animals are cute and furry. This collection might be a series that you sit down and watch with your kiddos.
10. The Life of Birds Complete Series
DOCUMENTARY DESCRIPTION: David Attenborough looks to the skies for this series, watching 300 different species of birds as he uncovers the private lives of these clever, engaging conquerors of the air.
DOCUMENTARY NOTES: One of the best documentaries for kids and worth every penny.
I said it before and I'll say it again, David Attenborough nature documentaries are the best. While The Blue Plant is a great streaming option if you have a subscription to Netflix, it definitely requires caution if your kids are sensitive.
We have loved owning Life in the Undergrowth and The Complete Life of Birds over the years. Both are unbelievably kid-friendly, amazing, and worth the cost. The best part about learning about birds is you can take that knowledge off-screen and into your backyard.
Additional Must-Watch Documentaries
If your family has older kids, be sure to check out this list of 3 Documentaries That Will Change How Your Kids See The World. These documentaries are sure to open in-depth discussions with tweens and teens!
What additional documentaries for kids would you add to the list above? Let us know!
Slowing Down + Being Intentional
I strongly encourage you to slow down, find some unbusy time, and connect with your kids while watching a few of these educational documentaries. Have the remote ready to press pause and turn screentime into an opportunity to bond over the conversation.
P.S. We truly do LOVE David Attenborough. My husband even shared this over on his UnBusy Dad Facebook page.
Love this list of documentaries for children? Sharing it would make our week. ?
It would make our week if you took a second to share this list of kids' documentaries on your favorite social media spot. (That's how we know we're on the right track and should continue writing more posts like this!)