Thursday 9th , 2014
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Like most kids I grew up loving cartoons. I loved watching cartoon network or putting on a Disney movie. But I also loved watching the Discovery or National Geographic channels! Those memories of being on the edge of my seat to find out what happens to the gazelle being chased by the cheetah or how on earth the kiwi bird came to be the way it is have been formative in my continuing fascination and passion for the world around me. Some of you may say that watching documentaries is still passively watching a screen but I ask you to consider the following documentaries before you write the idea off.

1546 Microcosmos is an amazing look at the world of the small animals that live in the grass of almost any field, meadow or pond you may have near your house. Filled with breathtaking close-up footage of ants, snails, ladybugs and more with minimal narration you are transported into their world. This documentary is a wonderful jumping off point for you and your children to go out and hunt through your local park and see these fascinating creatures for yourselves. Without such a documentary you may find yourself fighting an uninterested or squeamish child to get their foot out the door. And if you find that your children are now hooked to the life of bugs check out Life in the Undergrowth!

If you are looking for a great tradition to start with your kids that is both educational and fun Planet Earth is a fantastic documentary series that will give you food for conversation and further inquiry and investigation with your whole family. While you may never get to go to all the stunning places shown in this documentary the amazing quality of footage and information may be the next best thing. For the simple reason of exposing your children to the amazing diversity of life forms on planet earth this documentary is worth every moment. A wonderful series to pair this with is Blue Planet. Also made by the BBC team with David Attenborough as narrator, this documentary takes you underwater to explore the world’s oceans and seas with ground breaking footage of marine life across the planet.

1547 Another great pair of documentary series to share with your children, particularly if they are studying mammals and/or birds at school or home school is Life of Mammals and The Life of Birds. I actually discovered these series this year while exploring the Netflix bank of documentaries. Each episode covers a different aspect of life or group of adaptations and could be watched in such a way as to support chapters of school biology books… or just for the fun of it! (Another good one for learning about birds is Winged Migration.) The great thing is that if you are a bit rusty on your biology or whatever subject you choose to watch about, you can use a documentary as a way to learn with your kids!

1548 There are so many more nature documentaries I could share with you but if I’ve overwhelmed you we can switch over to other documentaries. How its Made is one that I haven’t actually watched but intend to do so very soon. It sounds fascinating and fun as it explores the making of everything from snow boards to string cheese. If you are trying to convince your child not to eat gum having them watch the episode on how bubble gum is made! If you are a fan of the wacky there is A Program About Unusual Buildings and Other Roadside Stuff.

Otherwise you can turn towards space. How the Universe Works is another series that I would like to explore more. It’s a great beginners look at how stars and black holes are formed, what makes the moons of Jupiter unique and even what it would take to travel through time! Another highly recommended one is Monster Black Holes.

1549 For younger kids a great one to watch is Babies. It has almost no narration like Microcosmos and allows the four babies from around the world to speak for themselves as you follow their first year of life. Another great documentary series that looks at the diversity of cultures around the world is Human Planet. Again the footage is breathtaking and your kids are bound to get an expanded perspective on their own lives and the world around them. For older kids you may also want to consider Blindsight the story of a group of blind children climbing Mount Everest!

Finally, if these don’t appeal to you, you can always take a trip with your kids to your local library or turn on Nat Geo Wild on your TV and see what other genres are out there. Whatever ends up catching your family’s interest, watching documentaries as a child can help your kids associate learning with entertainment and excitement and help set them on the path to a lifetime of inquisitiveness… as it has done for me.

So, whether it’s a rainy day, a sick day or just an evening of snuggling on the couch with your children, try changing things up and put on a documentary. With the wealth of documentaries available to us today you are sure to find something on whatever has been fascinating your kids these days.

If you are so inclined, let us know what documentaries you like watching- Kidspace Children's Museum on Facebook, or @KidspaceMuseum on Twitter!


Blog Entry by:

Louise Leborgne, Nature Specialist, has been with Kidspace Children's Museum since 2012. She is in charge of caring for all of our live animals as well as managing the Nature Exchange, developing curriculum for daily educational programs, and large events like Bug Fair and the Grand Butterfly Release.