As many kids are still cooped up at home due to the pandemic, and often — and quite understandably — sitting in front of a television, parents might consider showing them something other than Baby Shark or Frozen 2 again. That’s why we’ve compiled a short list of the best documentaries for kids (and parents) to stream on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and other streaming services.
When it comes to finding documentaries for children, there’s no lack of options. The best ones, however, encourage the pursuit of further knowledge — while also being beautiful, entertaining, and heartwarming. Organized in this list by age appropriateness, these documentaries can entertain, teach and hopefully develop a lasting interest in their subject matter.
Here are 10 great documentaries for kids aged 5 and up that cover nature, sports, life and culture. They are also films that you wouldn't hate watching, either.
Born To Be Wild (2011)
Narrated by Morgan Freeman, Born to be Wild is a brief (40-minute) nature documentary about conservationists who adopt and raise displaced orangutans and elephants in Borneo and Kenya, respectively, preparing the animals for re-entry into their natural habitats. The stories are compelling, teaching valuable lessons about environmentalism and empathy, and the animals themselves are wondrous.
Available on: Amazon Prime, Hulu.
Further viewing: For a look at these majestic animals in their natural environments, Planet Earth, available on YouTube and Amazon Prime, remains the best (and most widely available) nature-based docu-series on the market.
A Reindeer's Journey (2019)
Meet Ailo, a newborn reindeer who embarks on an incredible odyssey with the help of his mother. Narrated by Donald Southerland and set against the frozen majesty of northern Finland, their journey is an uplifting story for the whole family.
Available on: Amazon Prime
The Short Game (2013)
A group of eight 7-year-old golfing prodigies travel to compete in the World Championships of Junior Golf. These kids are the best of the best — and might give your kid a bit more appreciation for all those golfing tournaments on ESPN.
Available on: Netflix
Further Viewing: For kids 12+, Hoop Dreams, available on Hulu and HBO Now, is a great documentary about basketball players navigating issues of race and class.
Kindness Is Contagious (2015)
Kindness Is Contagious is an engaging, feel-good documentary that compiles research, statistics and anecdotes about the effect of good deeds, featuring the author of the book-turned-film Pay it Forward, Catherine Ryan Hyde. Studies are woven throughout snippets from interview subjects from all walks of life, who recount the nicest thing anyone did for them, while various experts weigh in on why being nice pays off.
Available on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV
Further Viewing: For kids 8+, Imba Means Sing, available on Amazon Prime, is an uplifting documentary that follows 20 young members of the African Children's Choir on an 18-month tour of the United States, Canada and the U.K.
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020)
In his 93 years, Attenborough has visited every continent on the globe, exploring the wild places of the planet and documenting the living world in all its variety and wonder. But during his lifetime, Attenborough has also seen first-hand the monumental scale of humanity's impact on nature.
Available on: Netflix
Paper Clips (2004)
Paper Clips is a powerful documentary to the testament of the scale of the Holocaust. In Tennessee in 2004, school officials ask students to collect millions of paper clips to represent every single Jewish person who died in concentration camps, which they then put in a rail car. The documentary is moving and a good introduction to the Holocaust for children.
Available on: Vudu, iTunes
Further viewing: For kids 12+, Bully, available on Tubi, Vudu, and Amazon Prime, is another socially-justice minded documentary that addresses the corrosive effects of bullying.
I Am Eleven (2011)
Similarly aged kids will love this documentary showing kids around the world sharing their thoughts on the things that affect them and the things that don’t yet. From a kid in an Indian orphanage to a kid living in Melbourne to a kid who lives in Thailand, kids can peek at worlds that don’t look like theirs — and learn how kids their age are feeling and thinking.
Available on: iTunes
Further viewing: Babies, available on Hulu, is the version of this film about babies.
The Last Man on the Moon (2014)
When Eugene Cernan stepped off the moon in 1972 he left his footprints and his daughter's initials in the lunar dust. Only now, 40 years later, is he ready to share the details of his personal story of fulfilment, love and loss.
Available on: Amazon Prime, YouTube
No Small Matter (2019)
An exploration of the impact of high quality preschool education.
Available on: YouTube
John Lewis: Good Trouble (2020)
Inspiring, timely biography of Congress' legendary activist.
Available on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, HBO MAX