Spending time in nature is one of the best things you can do as a family. But sometimes the better thing is piling on the couch and watching a nature documentary.
Here are seven streaming documentaries about nature that you can enjoy watching with kids of almost any age. While nature is "red in tooth and claw," these docs minimize the gory, traumatic parts of the predator-prey relationship. They also show very little animal mating. (Remember the Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom program? So much awkward animal mating.) It's important to teach kids about the circle of life, but you don't always want end your day with that conversation with your kids.
1. The Greatest Places
Seven of the world's most geographically incredible locations come to life in your living room in THE GREATEST PLACES, a dazzling IMAX adventure now newly remastered in breathtaking high-definition for an unparalleled home theater experience. The Greatest Places
2. A Sloth Named Velcro
In 2000 in the jungles of Panama, a young journalist, named Ana, has a chance encounter with a tiny orphaned sloth, which she names Velcro. For nearly two years, the pair is inseparable until finally Ana travels up a remote river to reintroduce Velcro back to the wild.
This is the story Ana’s return to Central and South America to see how much has changed since Velcro came into her life. Sloths, once largely ignored, have become a hot topic of scientific researchers. New studies are showing that they’re not so sloth-like after all, that they have social structures, they move like primates, and that males keep small harems. Sloth sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers are also springing up throughout the Americas as development displaces these gentle creatures. Shot on location in Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia this is a story of friendship and a growing network of people working to learn more about sloths in order to protect them. The Greatest Places
Primarily a record of detailed interactions between insects and other small invertebrates. The film holds a 97% rating from the consensus of 32 critics on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes,<4> and a 91% from a collective 5,555 user reviews. Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote, "...this quick, captivating film offers a taste of the exotic to viewers of any stripe (or spot). And it's a breathtaking reminder that Mother Nature remains the greatest special effects wizard of all Microcosmos
4. The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos
Discover one of nature's last great mysteries in The Crimson Wing, a miraculous story of love, courage and survival from Disneynature, the studio that brought you EARTH. In a place like no other on the planet, the dramatic and desolate Lake Natron in northern Tanzania, you'll witness a spectacle unlike anything you've seen before: a million crimson-winged flamingos arrive to continue the circle of life. Focusing on the adventures of a single chick set against a backdrop of never-before-filmed landscapes, The Crimson Wing is a visually stunning journey into the life and struggles of the mysterious and inspiring flamingo. Stream on Netflix
5. Hidden Kingdoms
Hidden Kingdoms is an innovative new series from the BBC's Natural History Unit. For the first time it takes the viewer into a unique and unexplored miniature world, immersing you into the action-packed lives of the planet's smaller animals. Based in six of the planet’s most iconic landscapes: the open plains of Africa’s savannah, Arizona’s desert, the forests of Borneo, the woodlands of North America and the urban jungles of Rio and Tokyo. We’ll experience and see these habitats from a new visual perspective, pushing between blades of grass will feel like journeying deep into the densest jungle, while running from a hunting lizard will feel like a visit to Jurassic Park. This is a different approach to a traditional wildlife series. Based entirely on biologically accurate behaviour, it employs a unique range of filming techniques and constructed storytelling to recreate these animals' own distinctive perspectives and to illustrate the dynamism of their lives. Stream on Netflix
6. Disneynature: Wings of Life
This documentary covers the birds and the bees — literally — as well as bats, butterflies and flowers. It focuses on the complex relationships between plants and the flying creatures that aid in the process of pollination. While a film like Earth takes the long view in its sweeping vista of a continent, Wings of Life gets close up and in slow motion to provide a detailed view of the delicate processes and structures involved in the relationships between plants and animals. Caveats: Very mild violence: A spider traps prey, some birds fight over a flower. Stream on Netflix
7. Planet Earth: The Complete BBC Series
Recommended for ages 7 and up; rated G; released 2009 This is the 90-minute version of the epic 11-hour BBC/Discovery Channel series Planet Earth. This gorgeously filmed documentary follows animals on each of the seven continents over the course of a year. Like all nature documentaries life for these animals can be hard and death is always present. Caveats: While there's nothing particularly gruesome in this one you do see predators catching their prey so sensitive viewers should be aware. With an unprecedented production budget of $25 million, and from the makers of Blue Planet: Seas of Life, comes the epic story of life on Earth. Five years in production, over 2,000 days in the field, using 40 cameramen filming across 200 locations, shot entirely in high definition, this is the ultimate portrait of our planet. A stunning television experience that captures rare action, impossible locations and intimate moments with our planet's best-loved, wildest and most elusive creatures. From the highest mountains to the deepest rivers, this blockbuster series takes you on an unforgettable journey through the daily struggle for survival in Earth's most extreme habitats. Planet Earth takes you to places you have never seen before, to experience sights and sounds you may never experience anywhere else. Stream on Netflix
Bonus: More than Honey
An in-depth look at honeybee colonies in California, Switzerland, China and Australia. Stream on Netflix