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Nature Documentaries for Kids and Families

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Kids absolutely love watching shows about nature and animals, so high quality documentaries offer parents a great way to entertain and educate. The following documentaries are fun and interesting for the whole family; they are a good length with a fast enough pace for kids. The movies are not aimed solely at children, though, so very young kids may not be able to sit all the way through them, but school-aged children and adults will be awed by the beauty and fascinated by the creatures shown in the real live footage from all over our world.

1. IMAX: Born to Be Wild (2011)

Born to Be Wild Blu-ray
Photo © Warner Bros.
Born to Be Wild is a family-friendly documentary about two dedicated people who are doing amazing things for animals. Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas and her team rescue orphaned orangutans in the wild rainforests of Borneo. The babies are raised with love and care until they are ready to be released into the wild. Also, in the rugged Kenyan savannah, Dr. Dame Daphne M. Sheldrick and her dedicated team rescue baby elephants. They elephants are given love, affection and 24-hour care in order to help them survive the trauma of losing their mothers and live long enough to be returned to the wild with an equally dedicated pack of adult elephants, who unbelievably come to check on the young elephants every now and then before helping them adjust to life in the wild. (Rated G, narrated by Morgan Freeman)

2. African Cats (2011)

African Cats Blu-ray
Photo © DisneyNature
African Cats, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, portrays the remarkable lives of Mara, a lion cub who must learn and grow despite challenges her mother faces; Sita, a strong cheetah struggling to keep her five mischievous newborns safe; and Fang, a proud leader of the pride who is forced to defend his family from rival lions. The documentary exposes the fascinating habits of these big cats and their sometimes startling relationships with each other and their enemies. In conjunction with this film, Disneynature's "See African Cats, Save the Savanna" campaign donated money to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) for each ticket sold during opening week. Find out more about the AWF and download educational materials and more at the African Cats website.(Rated G)
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3. Oceans (2010)

Oceans
Photo © Disneynature
Narrated by Pierce Brosnan, Oceans dives into the depths to bring audiences fascinating footage of ocean life. As home to some of the world's most fascination creatures, the ocean is certainly worth exploration and worth preserving. Without the hard work of filmmakers who create documentaries such as these, we would never know what goes on beneath the Ocean's often seemingly barren surface. Disneynature donated money to preserve marine life with the initiative "See Oceans, Save Oceans" in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy. Materials for parents and educators can be downloaded on the Oceans website. (Rated G)

4. Life

Life
Photo © BBC Worldwide Ltd.

Life, narrated by Oprah Winfrey, is an 11-part series that aired on the Discovery Channel. The series presents amazing footage of animals and nature from around the world categorized in a way that is educational and interesting for families. The first episode, called "The Challenges of Life," is an overview of the series. Other episodes include:  "Reptiles and Amphibians," "Mammals," "Fish," "Birds," and "Insects."

The narration by Oprah often times even sounds like it is narrated for kids, but there are a couple of mating scenes in which Oprah uses words like "sex" and "sexy," which may throw parents for a loop. Also, the series presents some footage of animals attacking or eating other animals that could be disturbing to young kids.

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5. Earth (2009)

Earth
Photo © Disney. All rights reserved.

Narrated by James Earl Jones, Earth is the first film under the Disneynature label. The documentary provides a stunning look at the planet we call home, featuring creatures and landscapes from the top of the globe to bottom, and highlighting the majestic cycles of transformation the earth undergoes each year as the seasons change. In it's portrayal of wildlife and discussion of climates, the film follows three animal families closely: a mother Polar bear and her two cubs, a mother elephant and her son, and mother and daughter Humpback wales. (Rated G)

6. Nature's Most Amazing Events

Nature's Most Amazing Events
Photo © BBC Worldwide
Each episode of Nature's Most Amazing Events depicts an immense natural event that happens over a vast area of the world and affects various wildlife communities. The unparalleled images shot using high-definition cameras and cutting-edge filming techniques create a natural masterpiece that will fascinate the whole family. Children may be disturbed by some images of predators hunting, catching, and eating their prey, but the series is highly educational and inspiring.

7. Under the Sea (2009)

Under the Sea
Photo © Warner Bros.

This IMAX adventure transports moviegoers to some of the most exotic and isolated undersea locations on Earth, including Southern Australia, New Guinea and others in the Indo-Pacific region, allowing them to experience face-to-face encounters with some of the most mysterious and stunning creatures of the sea. The movie is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Special features on the Blu-ray disc allow viewers to see the incredible lengths filmmakers went to in order for audiences to see fantastic aspects of life under the sea. Narrated by Jim Carrey. (Rated G)

8. Deep Sea

Deep Sea IMAX
© Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Narrated by Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, Deep Sea takes viewers into the deep sea for a look at some of the ocean's most exotic creatures. Oceanic filmmaker Howard Hall (Into the Deep) captures on film wonders that most people would otherwise never see, or even conceive of. As viewers travel to through the deep, the narrators point out the fascinating ways in which the creatures of the deep are dependent on each other, and how our destiny is tied to theirs. (Rated G)

9. Arctic Tale

Arctic Tale
Photo © Paramount Pictures
Arctic Tale explores life in the Arctic for Nanu the polar bear cub and Seela the walrus cub. Nanu and Seela may be different links in the long and connected food chain, but as they grow, they will both face challenges that are new and difficult for all Arctic creatures. The changing global climate is greatly effecting life in the icy kingdom, making it more difficult to find food and places to live. Survival will be more difficult for Nanu and Seela than it was for their parents, and it will require them to sacrifice and adapt in astounding ways. (Rated G.)

10. March of the Penguins

March of the Penguins
Photo © Warner Independent Pictures
Morgan Freeman narrates this real-life story about the Emperor Penguin’s journey to create and sustain new life. The cameras follow the arduous trek the penguins make to their breeding grounds each year (as far as 70 miles) in order to find a mate and create a child. Enduring exhausting travel, starvation, and danger from predators, the male and female take turns guarding the egg and baby chick for a period of several months. The film beautifully captures the funny, sad, scary, and endearing moments that occur in the remote Arctic, where we would never otherwise be able to travel.(Rated G.)
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