23 All-Time Best Documentaries for Kids (and Parents)

If you are looking for the best documentaries for kids to watch, this article is for you. We will list a comprehensive list of the best documentaries for kids and parents to watch together.

Besides playing with toys or taking physical activities, watching something at home can be a nice alternative especially when the weather is bad.

Comparing to TV shows and movies, documents are more structured and educational. Not only will they sparkle your child’s curiosity in this world but also teach your child the skills of story-telling.

What Is A Documentary?

When you introduce documentaries to your child, expect that the first question they will ask is “What is a documentary, mommy?”

A documentary is a genre of videos or films. Unlike other genres such as action moves, comedies, or drama, documentaries are based on real events instead of fictional stories.

Traditionally, documentaries last between one to two hours like a regular movie. However, documentaries have evolved in recent years and it’s common to see mini TV series for documentaries.

why are documentaries good for kids

Why Are Documentaries Good for Kids?

Now that your child heard your explanation of what a documentary is. But this alone is not enough to convince them to sit down and start watching one.

“Why do I need to watch a documentary?” Your child may ask.

Documentaries are a great source for children to learn a new subject in detail. Unlike classroom training or instructional videos, a documentary usually expands the subject around a story or features real people who have experienced the event first hand.

Besides gaining in-depth knowledge about a particular event or subject, your child also learns how to develop a story, how to engage in meaningful conversations, and how to organize and present information effectively.

A Comprehensive List of The All-Time Best Documentaries for Kids

Some of you may have gotten anxious already. Without further ado, let’s take a look at this comprehensive list of the best documentaries for kids to learn various subjects.

Best Documentaries for Kids to Learn About Animals

1. Dancing with the Birds

Dancing with the Birds • International Wildlife Film Festival

What Your Child Will Learn: This documentary shows exotic birds and their beautiful feathers, fascinating dance moves, and interesting courtship routines. Your child can learn about different types of exotic birds and their habitats.

  • Service: Netflix
  • Duration: 51m
  • Year: 2019
  • Google Rating: 82%

2. March of the Penguins

March of the Penguins 2' Takes a Step Back - The Heights

What Your Child Will Learn: This documentary shows how emperor penguins that live in the South Pole migrate to their breeding grounds in brutal weather conditions. Your child will learn how penguin parents build nests and take care of their offsprings.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 1h 20m
  • Year: 2005
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 94%

3. Pick of the Litter

Is 'Pick of the Litter' (2018) available to watch on UK Netflix -  NewOnNetflixUK

What Your Child Will Learn: This documentary shows how newborn puppies were selected and trained to become guide dogs for the blind. Your child will learn the emotional interaction between dogs and their human companions.

  • Service: Netflix
  • Duration: 1h 20m
  • Year: 2018
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 97%

4. Bears

Bears (2014)

What Your Child Will Learn: This documentary tells the story of mama bear Sky and her two cubs. It’s an interesting documentary for your child to learn how the members of the bear family work together to conquer difficulties and survive.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 1h 17m
  • Year: 2014
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 90%

5. The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos

The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos (2008)

What Your Child Will Learn: This documentary tells more than just the mysterious lives of flamingos, but teaches your child love and courage. It’s an inspiring documentary film where your child can also enjoy the stunning landscape of Tanzania.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 1h 40m
  • Year: 2008
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 75%

Best Documentaries for Kids to Learn About the Universe

6. A Beautiful Planet

IMAX - A Beautiful Planet - Preview Clip - YouTube

What Your Child Will Learn: This documentary shows a breathtaking view of our Mother Earth from space. Your child will see spectacular footage of the magnificent blue planet and be motivated to protect its future.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 47m
  • Year: 2016
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 100%

7. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

Watch Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey | Disney+

What Your Child Will Learn: Cosmos is a series of documentaries hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. He will walk your child through the laws of nature and human beings’ pursuit of truth. It’s a great documentary to binge-watch with the entire family on a long weekend.

  • Service: Amazon and YouTube
  • Duration: 13h
  • Year: 2014
  • Google Rating: 95%

8. Particle Fever

PBS – Particle Fever (2013) | HD Documentary

What Your Child Will Learn: If you are looking for the best documentary to satisfy your child’s curiosity in the big bang theory, Particle Fever is a great choice. This documentary details some of the most inspiring scientific breakthroughs in history. It’s the best documentary for kids who are interested in learning the origin of the universe.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 2h
  • Year: 2014
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 96%

9. The Last Man on the Moon

THE LAST MAN ON THE MOON (2015) review | Keeping It Reel

What Your Child Will Learn: This documentary interviews astronaut Eugene Cernan and shares the detailed story of his journey to the moon. Your child will not only learn Cernan as a great scientist but also as an affectionate parent.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 1h 35m
  • Year: 2014
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 94%

10. Mars

About Mars TV Show Series

What Your Child Will Learn: MARS is a hybrid of a documentary and science fiction. It depicts a spacecraft’s mission to take over Mars in 2033. Comparing to other documentaries, this one is more futuristic and engaging. Your child will be inspired to explore the unknown and to dream big.

  • Service: Netflix
  • Duration: 2 seasons
  • Year: 2016
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: not available

Best Documentaries for Kids to Learn About Science

11. Brain Games

The 20 Best Brain Games for Android Device in 2020

What Your Child Will Learn: Are you looking for a series of documentaries that can keep your child entertained for weeks or even months? Well, Brain Games is not a typical documentary but it uses real-life experiments to teach interesting and useful science that your child can apply in his everyday life. My family has learned so much by watching these mini-episodes every day after dinner.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 8 Seasons
  • Year: 2011
  • Google Rating: 93%

12. Dream Big: Engineering Our World

DREAM BIG: Engineering Our World Opens in IMAX 3-D at the National Air and  Space Museum Feb. 17 | Smithsonian Institution

What Your Child Will Learn: Is your child interested in engineering? Then there is no better documentary for them than Gream Big: Engineering Our World. It showcases lots of advanced technologies such as underwater robots and smart cities. It explains to your child how science and technology can bring better lives to humans beings.

  • Service: Netflix
  • Duration: 42m
  • Year: 2017
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 100%

13. American Genius

Watch American Genius Season 1 | Prime Video

What Your Child Will Learn: American Genius is a series of mini-documentaries that tell the inspiring stories of some of the greatest inventors in history. It is the best documentary for kids to learn what it takes to make remarkable innovations and how to stay persistent in the face of failure.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 1 Season
  • Year: 2015
  • Google Rating: 95%

14. Megastructures

Watch MegaStructures Season 1 | Prime Video

What Your Child Will Learn: Science is not only about robots and rockets, it’s also about human magnificent structures and skyscrapers built by exceptional engineers. This documentary showcases some of the most breathtaking buildings all over the world. It is the best documentary for kids who love civil engineering. There are 12 seasons to keep your child busy for a few months.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 12 Seasons
  • Year: 20104
  • Google Rating: 92%

15. Food, Inc.

Ethics on Film: Discussion of "Food, Inc." | Carnegie Council for Ethics in  International Affairs

What Your Child Will Learn: Is your child interested in food and nutrition? Well, Food, Inc. is a mind-blowing documentary that will teach your child what our daily food is actually made of. Your child will also learn about the businesses behind the food supply chain in the US.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 1h 34m
  • Year: 2008
  • Google Rating: 87%

Best Documentaries for Kids to Learn About World Culture

16. Living on One Dollar

For the Everyday Documentarian: From Idea to ImpactFor the Everyday  Documentarian: From Idea to Impact - Cinema of Change

What Your Child Will Learn: Do you want to teach your child the value of money? Living on One Dollar tells the story of four friends who lived on one dollar a day for two months. This documentary teaches your child what life is like when facing extreme financial stress. It’s the best documentary for kids to perceive money and value from a different angle.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 56m
  • Year: 2013
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 74%

17. Miss Representation

Miss Representation | Kanopy

What Your Child Will Learn: It can be challenging to explain gender inequality and sexism to your child. Miss Representation is a wonderful documentary that shows many incredible women from various industries. Though this documentary generated some controversies as viewers interpreter the messages in this documentary from different angles.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 1h 29m
  • Year: 2011
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 80%

18. Jane

Jane documentary at Macquarie University

What Your Child Will Learn: If you are looking for a documentary that sparks your child’s interest in nature as well as how human beings and animals can develop real friendship, then we strongly recommend the documentary, Jane. This documentary shows rarely-seen footage about the love and affection between Jane and the chimpanzees she studied in Tanzania.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 1h 30m
  • Year: 2017
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 98%

Best Documentaries for Kids to Learn About The Environment

19. Chasing Coral

Chasing Coral: 5 things we learned from the vital Netflix documentary | BT

What Your Child Will Learn: This documentary shows how coral reefs are vanishing around the world due to environmental changes. Your child can take a peek at the most stunning coral reefs around the world and how global warming is responsible for their disappearing.

  • Service: Netflix
  • Duration: 1h 29m
  • Year: 2017
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 82%

20. Waste Land

Waste Land | Kanopy

What Your Child Will Learn: Do you have difficulty convincing your child to sort and recycle garbage? This documentary is one of the best documentaries for kids to understand how much waste human beings are producing and how it is impacting our lives. This documentary shows mind-boggling images of the largest garbage dump in Brazil. It can be visually shocking to kids but will definitely get the message crossed.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 1h 40m
  • Year: 2010
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 100%

21. Chasing Ice

Chasing Ice (2012) | Watch Free Documentaries Online

What Your Child Will Learn: We all hear about global warming but do we know the urgency of it? This documentary is for kids and parents to see how the world’s glaciers are changing rapidly due to the increasing temperature. It’s the best documentary for kids to understand that global warming is real and we all should act responsibly for our planet’s future.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 1h 16m
  • Year: 2012
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 96%

22. More Than Honey

More Than Honey (Theatrical edition, John Hurt narration, trailer) - More  Than Honey - Official USA Website

What Your Child Will Learn: The changing environment doesn’t only affect human society but all the organisms around us. This documentary shows the alarming signs of a decreasing bee population around the world. It makes kids think about why it is important to us and what we should do to keep the harmony between humans and the creatures around us.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 1h 35m
  • Year: 2012
  • Rotten Tomato Rating: 100%

23. A Plastic Ocean

Green Spirits Movie Night: A Plastic Ocean - Downtown Jacksonville

What Your Child Will Learn: Every child loves the beach and going to aquariums, but do they know the crisis that our ocean is facing. A Plastic Ocean is a phenomenon documentary to show our kids the not-so-appealing side of the ocean and how we can act to change it.

  • Service: Amazon
  • Duration: 1h 35m
  • Year: 2017
  • Google Rating: 79%

Many adults know that there are six types of documentaries: expository documentaries, off-screen narration, impressionistic, observational documentaries, reflexive documentaries, and experimental documentaries.

When it comes to the most suitable documentaries for kids, it’s not necessary to worry much about the technicality or the forms of the documentary. Rather, we should focus on what message is the documentary sending and what our kids can learn from it.

The most popular types of family-friendly documentaries for kids to watch are:

  • Animals and nature documentaries
  • Culture and people documentaries
  • Event documentaries
  • Science documentaries

Where Can I Find Documentaries for Kids to Watch?

As online streaming services become more available, not only are documentaries for kids more accessible, but also more affordable.

The most popular places to find the best documentaries for kids include YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, and of course, our regular TV stations and the traditional DVD rentals.

The benefit of online streaming is that most of the service providers give you a free trial period so that you don’t have to commit to something right away. For example, Amazon Prime offers a 30-day free trial so that you can enjoy on-demand video streaming without any charge for 30 days.

Another benefit is that your child can watch the documentaries any time they want. Plus, most platforms also make recommendations of great documentaries based on your child’s interests.

Summary

Have you found your favorite documentary to watch with your kid? Watching documentaries together is a great way for parents and kids to learn new things together, and for parents to help kids shape their point of view about the world.

The best documentaries for kids should be both educational and entertaining. We will continually update our list to bring you the latest documentaries!