Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nature Documentaries for Kids

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Remember when we got to watch a science video in class and it was the best day ever?! Well, nature documentaries for kids have come along way since I was in junior high.

Nature documentaries are a fun pastime for our family, and as homeschoolers, we can use these as part of our curriculum and get science credit. Disney, BBC, Pbs, and National Geographic have definitely stepped up their cinematography and story-telling ability from the 1990s and have some really great movies that families can enjoy together, that kids are enthralled with on their own, and that adults wouldn't be embarrassed watching by themselves, either.

Here are a few of our favorites, that can easily be used for science credit, research, or enjoyment for kids (and their adults):

*Bears is a Disney Nature film and the most recent doc we've watched together. This story follows a female brown bear and her two cubs over the course of one year in the Alaskan wilderness. The shots of the grizzlies all together fishing for salmon are unique (I've never even seen photos of that many grizzlies together!) and the cubs' shenanigans are entertaining. The scenery is top-notch, although the narration was probably my least favorite from a kids' nature doc; a bit cheesy at times.

*Born to Be Wild is an IMAX movie that is narrated by Morgan Freeman. With narration on the mind, Morgan could just retire and speak over animal documentaries for the rest of his career. He's just that good at it. This story is simultaneously about orangutan and elephant rescue, although the facilities followed in this movie are not the same. I enjoyed the elephant half of the movie more, but only because the release of the baby elephants at the end. No spoilers, but grab the kleenex.

*March of the Penguins is a National Geographic household name doc that came out years ago and perhaps set the ball in motion for all these top production & film companies to follow suit with kid nature documentaries. This is a gold-standard with Morgan Freeman, adorable babies, and captivating information told in story form following one-year with the penguins. Even the bonus features are worth the watch.

*African Cats is another Disney Nature imprint and gives a look at cheetahs and lions of the savannah regions in Africa. I particularly remember Lukka being the most interested in this movie, and the cuddly kitties didn't disappoint. There are some adorable shots of the cat families but also some powerful parts of ferocity (like the lion growling at the crocodile).
Want to learn more about lions after the kids are in bed? Check out the film The Last Lions. It's definitely NOT suitable for children but is an incredible nature doc about the pack cats. You can watch the whole thing for free HERE on youtube.

*Oceans is the third Disney Nature on the list, and in my opinion, their very best so far. The shots are incredible, truly BBC and NatGeo quality, and the doc is informative and playful. The focus of kids' nature docs are almost always on the relationships between animal, parent, community/herd, and earth/humans and this movie does a great job at all of those. Just watching the trailer for it makes me want to watch it again.

*Planet Earth by BBC is a series of nature documentaries that is split up between geographical locations, and it is the pinnacle of the nature doc, in our opinion. We own this box set on DVD and it's so good that we're willing to go so far as to say that just about any person will love these docs, whether you're a kid or an adult. They are narrated by David Attenborough, who is thoroughly entertaining, quick-witted, and British, making him the king of nature docs.

***Upcoming Nature Docs, 2015***

 Monkey Kingdom

 Island of Lemurs (narrated by our good friend Morgan)

So what are you waiting for? Pop your popcorn already and cuddle up this Fall and Winter with your family and a great nature documentary. You'll learn something new about God's spectacular creation and make memories worth savoring.

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