Zero Waste Living

30 Shows, Movies, and Documentaries for Young Kids about Earth

I am the kind of parent that looks to shows and movies for help address certain topics my son is dealing with. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Additionally, media can be a great way to learn about issues and open up conversations in an age-appropriate manner.

As someone with anxiety, I’m hyper-conscious of causing it in my son. Therefore, I find myself being cautious of how much I talk to him about things like climate change. I was looking for shows, movies, and or documentaries for kids – anything that could help start and facilitate the conversation without being too scary. While there are a lot of great documentaries out there, I had trouble finding any that were appropriate for the 5 and under crowd.

Because of this, I started researching documentaries for pre-schoolers, and looked for shows and specific episodes that my son and I could watch together to start talking about our world.

Although the items on this list aren’t all climate change related, they are all earth/nature related. In my opinion, exposing kids to nature early on sparks an interest and a connection, which is important for getting them to actually care!


So, without further ado, let’s dive into the list of 30 shows, movies, and documentaries for kids (generally preschooled-age and younger, but of course appropriate for any age) about our earth.


Related post: Eco Anxiety and Guilt: The What and The How (to Manage)

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Documentaries for kids (all ages)

Documentaries are great learning tools, but my concern as a parent to a kid under five is the content being too intense or scary, even if it is ‘just nature’. I scoured the interwebs looking for documentaries that would be appropriate for preschool-aged kids and younger. The ones I found are rated G, and I included any type of specific ‘incidents’ to look out for as mentioned in reviews. As always, use your best judgment in relation to your kid and what would be appropriate for them. 

For each of the following documentaries, I researched what it was about, and scoured the reviews on multiple sites to try and discern if there were any scenes that could be upsetting for young viewers. I made note of such scenes as I found information about them.



Ants! Nature’s Secret Power

Looking for fascinating information for the ant lover in your life? This documentary follows a handful of ant species and highlights all the amazing traits they have. And at less than an hour, it is a good length for short attention spans. 

Availability:


Bears (Disneynature)

This story follows a family of bears throughout the span of a year, coming out of hibernation and surviving in the wilderness. Reviewers mentioned this being a great video for young kids as there are no killing scenes. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Amazon to buy or rent
  • Youtube to buy
  • Google Play to rent or buy
  • Vudu to rent or buy


Born to be Wild

This short documentary follows orphaned orangutans and elephants. The length and adorable animals resonates with young kids, as well as the absence of highly disturbing scenes. The two main characters are women, which is a plus. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Amazon to buy or rent
  • Youtube to buy
  • Google Play to rent or buy
  • Vudu to rent or buy
  • iTunes to rent or buy



Microcosmos

For the bug and insect lover in your life, this film follows along the lives of, well, bugs and insects. From what I can tell, it is age appropriate for kids 5 and younger, with no mention in reviews of any highly disturbing scenes. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Amazon to buy
  • iTunes to rent or buy
  • Youtube to buy
  • Google Play to rent or buy


Monkey Kingdom (Disneynature)

Have a child interested in monkeys? Set in south Asia, this film follows a family of monkeys through the trials of life. According to reviews, there is one scene where a lizard drags one of the monkeys off as prey, but it is subtle. Tina Fey narrates. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Amazon to rent or buy
  • iTunes to rent or buy
  • Youtube to buy
  • Google Play to rent or buy
  • Vudu to rent or buy



Oceans (Disneynature)

This documentary gives viewers an eye-opening view of the world below the surface of the ocean. The reviews mention this video being appropriate for young children, but be aware there is a scene involving a great white shark hunting a seal that may be upsetting for really young children. Pierce Brosnan narrates. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Amazon to rent or buy



Turtle: The Incredible Journey

This film follows the journey of a loggerhead turtle, an endangered species that also happens to have one of the longest journeys from egg, to sea, and back to lay eggs. The story starts with a loggerhead hatchling and follows as it grows, then back to lay eggs on the same beach it hatched from. While the film showcases a few ‘close calls’, there is not any disturbing scenes to be aware of. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Amazon to buy





Winged Migration

This documentary follows groups of migrating birds in 40 countries and on all seven continents. This film focuses less on narrative and instead makes up in visuals- perfect for younger kids. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Amazon to rent or buy
  • Vudu to rent or buy
  • iTunes to rent or buy



Related post: 19 Ways to Prevent Food Waste with Kids



Movies for kids (of all ages)

Fern Gully: The Last Rain Forest

The title of this movie will probably cue you in as to the environmental topic covered in the film- the rain forest. Plus, since the Fern Gully series came out in the 90s, you may already be familiar with the premise. 

This particular film came out in 2009, but follows the characters of Fern Gully as they fight a common rainforest destruction enemy: humans. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Amazon to rent or buy
  • Vudu to rent or buy
  • iTunes to rent or buy
  • Youtube to buy
  • Google Play to rent or buy



Happy Feet & Happy Feet 2

I haven’t seen Happy Feet 2, but the plot sounds very similar to the first one. In the first one, we meet a penguin family who has a chick. In the penguin village, all the penguins can sing, and that’s how they find a mate. The penguin chick can’t sing, but instead can dance. However, he gets made fun of and runs off. Along the way, the concept of earth conservation topics get woven in, and the penguin chick meets unlikely enemies (spoiler, humans) and ends up in a zoo. Again, not 100% sure on the plot of the second one, but it does seem to weave environmental issues through the plot as well. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Amazon to rent or buy (linked above)
  • Vudu to rent or buy
  • iTunes to rent or buy
  • Youtube to buy
  • Google Play to rent or buy




Jim Henson’s The Song of the Cloud Forest, Fraggle Rock: River of Life, and Animal Show with Stinky and Jake

I mean, do I need to say more than Jim Henson? In this series of short movies, Jim Henson and his amazing puppet team showcase nature, common threats, and include ways to take action. Topics include: rainforest threats, water conservation/pollution, and other animal and nature topics. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Amazon to buy 



Over the Hedge

A group of animals wake up from hibernation and find out their home (the forest) has been developed into a town. The animals are concerned about finding food, when one of them points out the amount of food that humans waste. The animals decide to venture ‘over the hedge’ (get it) to find food from the humans. While this may not be the most straight-forward movie on the list, it does open up conversation about urban development and food waste with kids.

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Amazon to buy or rent
  • Youtube to buy
  • Google Play to rent or buy
  • Vudu to rent or buy
  • iTunes to rent or buy




Schoolhouse Rock: Earth 2009 

You may remember the awesome-ness that is Schoolhouse Rock: How a Bill Becomes a Law. Well, you can now relive the excitement in the most recent release from Disney in the series. This video covers all sorts of earth topics such as conservation, ecology, recycling, urban gardening, and climate change. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Amazon to buy 



The Lorax

You know the book, but did you know there are two movies? One is from the 1970s, and a remake from the 2000s. This classic environmental story follows the Lorax as his environment is being destroyed due to deforestation and development. 

I wasn’t successful in finding availability for the original Lorax, so any links below link to the 2012 version. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Amazon to buy or rent
  • Youtube to buy
  • Google Play to rent or buy




Wall-E 

This Pixar classic is one of my family’s favorites. It has very little dialogue until the end, so has the unique component of being a beautifully visual movie. The topics today are still as relevant as when the movie came out in 2008. 

In the movie, we meet Wall-E, a garbage compressing robot. Earth is a wasteland; the humans destroyed it and now live as boneless blobs in outer space. Every so often, they send down a robot (Eva) to check for any sign of life. Eva and Wall-E meet, and then Eva finds a plant. It’s a wonderful movie, and I would highly recommend. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Amazon to buy or rent
  • Youtube to buy
  • Google Play to rent or buy
  • Vudu to rent or buy




Related post: 33 Zero Waste Bloggers and Instagram Accounts You Need to Follow




Shows/Single Show Episodes for Kids

Berenstain Bears: Don’t Pollute (Anymore)

Brother and Sister Bear have an ‘earth week’ assignment to figure out ways to protect nature in Bear Country. This is an (almost) 6 minute clip- so something quick and perfect for smaller kids!

Available on: Youtube (full episode linked above)



Bubble Guppies

Much to my chagrin, my son loves this show. I don’t know why, but it drives me bonkers. Nevertheless, it is a good show for pre-school aged kids, and they do have a few earth-specific episodes to introduce kids to the topic. One thing I do like about it is each episode they sing a song about going outside to try and encourage kids to get outdoors. 

Earth-themed episodes:

  • “Boy meets squirrel” (season 1, episode 14)
  • “Check it out” (season 2, episode 9) – this episode isn’t earth related directly, but introduces kids to checking out books at the library and getting a library card. I’m a big fan of libraries because not only does it get kids involved in their community, it teaches responsibility, and helps reduce clutter and waste!
  • “The Arctic Life” (season 3, episode 9)
  • “The Bubble “Bee-athalon” (season 3, episode 17)


Availability: 




Daniel Tiger 

Ah, Daniel Tiger. Truly, my favorite kid show. The episodes and songs have helped us out of a bind more than once. While Daniel Tiger doesn’t focus specifically on earth/nature related topics, the show does have some great episodes on getting kids outside, exploring nature, and more. 


Episodes:

  • “Backyard camping” (season 1, episode 20) – Daniel, O, and Dad Tiger camp outside and explore how to address potential fears of the outdoors. 
  • “Neighborhood cleanup” (season 1 episode 22) – A storm blows trash all over the neighborhood, and the neighbors work together to clean it up. 
  • “Daniel explores nature/Daniel’s nature walk” (season 2, episode 16)
  • “Sometimes it’s good to go slow” (season 3, episode 15) – The kids are out exploring nature and talk about how it’s easy to miss things when you go too fast
  • “Daniels blueberry paws/Wow at the library” (season 4, episode 11) – This episode is not specifically nature related, but introduces the importance of enjoying the moment in whatever you are doing (essentially practicing mindfulness). 


Availability: 



Dinosaur Train

Dinosaurs, paleontology, natural science and history, and Jim Henson’s studio? Yes, please! This popular show introduces natural topics to young kids in a fun and easy to understand way. You may even learn a thing or two as well! 

Availability: 



Fishtronaut 

This show is a new favorite for my son. It follows a secret agent fish named ‘Fishtronaut’ who has a special suit that allows him to operate out of water. Together with a group of friends, they solve a different mystery each episode following a number of clues. 

The show is not nature/earth themed on it’s own, but there is one particular episode that I really liked. “The Case of the Spooky Night” (season 1, episode 15) finds the group looking for clues to find out what the mysterious ‘ghosts’ are flying around the forest scaring all of the animals. Spoiler alert: the ‘ghosts’ turn out to be plastic bags. 

Availability:

  • As of right now, I could only find it streaming on Netflix




Go, Diego, Go!

Diego is Dora the Explorer’s cousin, and loves learning about nature and saving animals. Each episode follows Diego on an animal rescue mission. Kids learn observation skills and about different scientific tools, as well as facts about different animals! 

Availability: 


Handy Manny: Manny’s Green Team

This is a DVD compiled of five episodes of Disney’s show Handy Manny- all specifically focused around eco-friendly topics. Highlights of this show include a more diverse character cast  than other kids shows, and a focus on fixing broken items.

Episodes include:

  • Saving the Turtles
  • Manny Goes Solar
  • Science Fair
  • Light Work (fixing broken items instead of trashing them)
  • Bloomin’ Tools

Availability: 




Magic School Bus 

I know I’m not the only one who remembers the episode where the kids go into Ralphie when he has a cold, right? Magic School Bus was such a great show when I was growing up, and not only is it back in a newly revamped series, but the old ones are available for streaming as well. 

Even though this show may be geared towards school-aged kids, but 4-year-old son LOVES this show, and has learned a lot about natural and health science-related topics. 

There are way too many earth-related episodes to list, but here are a few of my son’s favorites from the new series:

  • Magic School Bus Rides Again – “Monster Power” (season 1, episode 12)
  • Magic School Bus Rides Again – “Ghost Farm” (season 2, episode 3)
  • Magic School Bus Rides Again – “I Spy with my Animal Eyes” (season 2, episode 5)
  • Magic School Bus Rides Again – “Tim and the Talking Trees” (season 2, episode 10)
  • Magic School Bus Rides Again – “The Magic School Bus Gets Planted” (season 3, episode 11)
  • Magic School Bus Rides Again – “The Magic School Bus in the Rain Forest” (season 3, epsiode 12)


Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming (at the time of post both series were streaming on Netflix)
  • Amazon to buy or rent
  • Youtube to buy
  • Google Play to rent or buy
  • iTunes to rent or buy 
  • Vudu to rent or buy 


Nature Cat

Nature Cat follows an indoor house cat who is curious about the great outdoors. When his family leaves for the day, he steps out with a handful of friends to explore. General nature-topics include: life, earth, and physical sciences, and environmental education. 

Availability: 



Nick Jr. Favorites: Go Green

My son and I have not personally seen this DVD, because my son has never really gotten into any of the shows in this grouping (mostly because we don’t get the Nick Jr channel), but wanted to include it anyway. The episodes include the following shows: Dora the Explorer, Go, Diego, Go!, Wonder Pets!, Yo Gabba Gabba, Blue’s Clues, and Ni Hoa, Kai-Lan. Topics include general environmental conservation topics. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • PBS Kids App/website (for free)
  • Amazon to buy or rent
  • Youtube to buy
  • Google Play to rent or buy
  • iTunes to rent or buy 


Related post: The ‘So Big it Should’ve Been an E-book’ Guide to Growing Your Own Vegetables (Zero Waste Style)

Octonauts 

This show is about a group of animals who go on undersea adventures exploring and learning about exotic animals and their habitats. Each episode also includes a ‘creature feature’ to highlight what was learned during the show. Some episodes include environmental specific topics as well. 

Availability: 



Paw Patrol 

If you have a young kid (or more than one), chances are you’ve heard of Paw Patrol. And while I couldn’t find information on a specific episode (although I’m sure there is at least one), many of the episodes have to do with helping animals or nature. Additionally, one of the main pups, Rocky, is the group’s environmentally-conscious pup. Two of his main sayings throughout the epsiodes are: “don’t lose it, reuse it”, and  “green means go!” Rocky can often be found reusing items instead of throwing them away, recycling, and composting. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Nick Jr. TV and/or website
  • Amazon to buy or rent
  • Youtube to buy
  • Google Play to rent or buy
  • iTunes to rent or buy 
  • Vudu to rent or buy 


Pocoyo

This minimalistic show follows Pocoyo, a young boy, on a ton of different adventures. My son loves this show! It is simple, colorful, and fun. 

Here are some earth-themed episodes:


Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Youtube (linked above)
  • Amazon to rent or buy



Sesame Street: Being Green

Sesame Street needs no introduction, so let’s get into it. Abby accidentally turns Elmo green in this short movie. The characters join others and Paul Rudd to host a telethon where people call in with tips on how to ‘be green’. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Amazon to rent or buy



Sesame Street: Love the Earth

This short movie follows Elmo and other characters on a trip to a national park, where they are looking for a specific species of bird. Along the way, they learn about nature and discover ways to keep it clean and beautiful for all. Topics include: picking up trash, recycling, reusing, and water conservation. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Amazon to rent or buy


Other nature/earth related Sesame Street episodes:

  • Earth Day (season 49, episode 23)
  • 99 (yes, 99) additional clips on Youtube


Sid the Science Kid

Yet another Jim Henson Co creation, Sid the Science Kid follows Sid, a bi-racial young boy who wants to be a comedian. He performs in front of his stuffed animals and asks scientific-related questions. He then spends the rest of the episode finding the answer to said question. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • PBS Kids App/website (for free)
  • Amazon to buy or rent
  • Youtube to buy
  • Google Play to rent or buy
  • iTunes to rent or buy 



Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!: Wubbzy Goes Green

In this short movie, Wubbzy and his friends go green to help transform their city into an eco-friendly place to live. Topics include: cleaning up trash, reusing items, planting trees, incorporating natural elements into their city, and more. 

Availability: 

  • Your local library
  • Local community groups/friends/family/neighbors
  • Rent from Redbox
  • Secondhand book/movie stores 
  • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime streaming
  • Amazon to buy (linked above)



Did your favorite make the list? Which ones would you add?


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newest oldest most voted
Claire
Guest

Some really great shows here.

I can highly recommend David Attenborough’s BBC shows, plant earth. My son loved them from a young age x

Darrah
Guest

Very cool! I have a couple of science-loving kiddos and we would LOVE to watch these as a family. Thanks for the recommendations and where to find them.