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26 Kid-Friendly Documentaries to Watch with Your Children

26 Kid-Friendly Documentaries to Watch with Your Children

Add these true-life films to your daily schedule—they will educate and entertain the whole family.


Want to show your children a documentary, but unsure of which ones are okay for them to watch? Common Sense Media shares 26 kid-friendly documentaries for kids of all ages. These videos for kids will entertain (and educate!) the whole family.

In our house, homeschooling includes one documentary a day, because certain films, like the ones below selected by Common Sense Media, are a tremendous source of education. They have the power to transform one’s view of the world and expand horizons in ways even the best books can’t. Plus, all of these are both adult- and kid-approved, meaning they’re perfect for a family movie night, or afternoon, or, um, morning.

Kid-Friendly Documentaries for Ages 6-8

Batkid Begins
Where you can watch it: 
Amazon Prime, FandangoNOW, Google Play, VUDU, and iTunes
This unabashedly emotional documentary is about the day in 2013 when the city of San Francisco transformed itself into Gotham to help a young boy's Make-A-Wish dream come true. The film’s message: People (and sometimes social media) really can make a difference.

The Elephant Queen
Where you can watch it: Apple TV+
Narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor, this big-hearted wildlife documentary focuses on a herd of elephants as they make a perilous journey for food and water. 

March of the Penguins
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, FandangoNOW, Google Play, VUDU, and iTunes
Morgan Freeman narrates as the penguins make their annual trek from the Antarctic shore in Antarctica. It’s not all good news for the penguins—but the journey is worth it.

The Biggest Little Farm
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, FandangoNOWHulu, Google Play, VUDU, and iTunes
This multi-year-spanning documentary about sustainability follows Southern California filmmaker John Chester (an Emmy-winning documentarian) and his wife, personal chef Molly Chester, who embark on a journey to go back to the land and run a traditional farm. 

Imba Means Sing
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, FandangoNOW, VUDU, and iTunes
Twenty young members of the African Children's Choir go on an 18-month tour of the United States, with stops in Canada and the U.K. Everything is seen through the eyes of the kids and the grim circumstances of their life in Uganda is not ignored. Still it’s a hopeful story with uplifting music and dancing.

Spellbound
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, Google Play, VUDU, and iTunes
This documentary follows eight kids from different socioeconomic and geographic areas as they prepare for the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. The message: Always work hard and accept who you are.

Dream Big: Engineering Our World
Where you can watch it:
Netflix
This 42-minute STEM-themed IMAX documentary shows how engineers who work on a variety of projects, from building earthquake-proof structures to foot bridges in developing countries, are responsible for important technological innovations that propel us into the future. 

Kid-Friendly Documentaries for Ages 9-12

Chasing Coral
Where you can watch it: Netflix
This tragic but awe-inspiring film interviews filmmakers and scientists who attribute the decline of one of the ocean's most essential living creatures to climate change. 

Kindness Is Contagious
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, Google Play, and iTunes
This engaging, feel-good documentary uses research, statistics, anecdotes, and theories to validate the effect of good deeds. It features the author of the book-turned-film Pay it Forward, Catherine Ryan Hyde. 

Far from the Tree
Where you can watch it: Amazon PrimeHuluGoogle Play, VUDU, and iTunes
Based on writer Andrew Solomon's best-selling 2012 book about parents who are raising children completely unlike themselves, the film follows families who have dealt with dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, sexual orientation, and social-emotional issues.

Fed Up
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, FandangoNOW, Google Play, VUDU, and iTunes
An engrossing account of the harm sugar does to the body—statistics, historical facts and figures, research, and interviews will teach both kids and adults about healthy eating. 

Living on One Dollar
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, FandangoNOW, Google Play, VUDU, and iTunes
Created by four college kids, this earnest film shows the harsh and disturbing realities of poverty in rural Central America.

Aquarela
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, FandangoNOW, Google Play, VUDU, and iTunes
This is a powerful film about the immense power of water, demonstrating how humans are insignificant compared to it, especially in this age of climate change. 



Kid-Friendly Documentaries for Ages 12-15

Advanced Style
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, Google Play, VUDU, and iTunes
In this spirited documentary about NYC women ages 62-95, photographer Ari Seth Cohen has turned his personal affinity for the artistry and wisdom of his own grandmother into a tribute to mature women who think that living well is the best revenge.

Behind the Curve
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, Netflix, and iTunes
An exploration of conspiracy theories and the very human tendency to construct our own realities despite what common sense and logic might say. We learn why some people are more likely to find conspiracy theories and believe in them, even at the expense of losing friends and loved ones.

Dancing in Jaffa
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, HuluGoogle Play, and iTunes
A ballroom dance teacher returns to his home in Israel to teach Palestinian and Jewish kids to dance together. In the process, he learns about religious tolerance—and intolerance.

Time for Ilhan
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, Google Play, and iTunes
Director Norah Shapiro and her team follow Ilhan Omar's successful quest to become the first Somali American Muslim woman elected to public office in the United States. 

Hoop Dreams
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO GOGoogle Play, and iTunes
A long-celebrated, Oscar-winning film about two black teens trying to make their dream of playing in the NBA come true. As they vie for scholarships, they face issues of race and class, urban blight and violence, and teen pregnancy. 

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana
Where you can watch it: 
Netflix
An important film for girls and teens about self-worth—we see Swift’s evolution from a musically gifted child to an illustrious superstar. Only a few songs are filmed in their entirety, so it’s more of an intimate look at Swift's journey as she wants it told. 

Kid-Friendly Documentaries for Ages  15 and Older

Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine
Where you can watch it: Google Play, VUDU and iTunes
Learn about the life and tragic death of Matt Shepard, a young gay man killed in a terrible hate crime. Despite the tragic subject, the film explores friendship, love, and forgiveness, rather than focusing on the anger and intolerance that triggered Shepard's death. 

Minding the Gap
Where you can watch it: Hulu
This Oscar-nominated documentary made by filmmaker Bing Liu follows his three skateboarding friends who come from abusive homes. Liu observes and interviews his friends with a sensitivity that makes their struggles seem both relatable and, sadly, preventable.

My Scientology Movie
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, Netflix, FandangoNOW, Google Play, VUDU, and iTunes
Broadcast journalist Louis Theroux attempts to find a way into the inner workings of Scientology. The film will inspire discussion about how information and the truth are pursued by documentarians, and the media as a whole. 

People's Republic of Desire
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, Google Play, and iTunes
This subtitled documentary follows two of China’s streaming platform YY's biggest stars over the course of a year, showing how both get sucked into the panic of trying to keep their success going, no matter the cost. 

For Sama
Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, FandangoNow, Google Play and VUDU
An intimate documentary chronicling filmmaker Waad al-Kateab's life in Aleppo, Syria, during the country's civil war: first as a student during the Arab Spring in 2011 and then as a citizen journalist who falls in love, marries, and has a baby girl named Sama. 

One Child Nation
Where you can watch it: 
Amazon Prime
A brutal look at China’s one-child policy and how it played out in the lives of regular people, including truly horrific acts like forced abortions and sterilizations, the destruction of houses, and even babies who were born alive but killed by midwives. 

They Shall Not Grow Old
Where you can watch it: 
Amazon, FandangoNOW, Google Play, HBO GO, VUDU and iTunes
Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson takes century-old footage of World War I and restores it in color with sound effects, spoken voices, and narration. The effect is astonishing although the war-time violence makes it best for older teens. 
  

For more information about these films and other recommended documentaries, check out Common Sense Media

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Shana Liebman

Author:

Shana Liebman is the features editor of NYMP. She’s a writer and editor who has worked for magazines including New York MagazineSalon, and Travel & Leisure—and she is the mom of two energetic little boys.

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