As a parent, one of my goals is to introduce my kids to a world that's bigger than their little corner of it. When the going gets tough, I want them to know that people around the world struggle - and can come out on top or, at the very least, learn something from the experience.
That's why I love to travel. And that's why I love to line up a family-friendly documentary on those Friday evening family movie nights. Here are eight documentaries, currently streaming on Netflix, that are perfect for families.
Born in China
From Disneynature, this 2016 nature documentary
is absolutely stunning with sweeping landscapes and up-close video of a baby panda nestling with her mother or a mischievous golden monkey. The 80-minute film follows the story of mother and daughter pandas, an extended golden monkey family and a snow leopard and her two clubs. There are a few scenes that almost get a little gory, but Disney knows how to cut at just the right time. Best for ages 6 and up.
This 2009 documentary from Focus Features
follows four babies from around the world in their first year or so of life. They come from Namibia, Mongolia, Japan and San Francisco. Though their lives are dramatically different, the film also captures what we all have in common. I'd rate this one best for ages 6 or 7 and up. Of note: Breastfeeding is depicted (and there are some topless moments), which is totally fine and completely natural in my book. That's what breasts are for. The movie runs about 80 minutes.
Remember Batkid? The five-year-old young boy with cancer who wanted to be Batman for a day? Make a Wish Foundation in San Francisco made his dream come true, turning the city into Gotham for a day. The story received international headlines. Thousands of people gathered on the city streets to witness Batkid in action. This 2015 documentary from Warner Bros.
tells the story of the hardworking people who made it all possible. It will warm your heart. Batkid Begins runs about 90 minutes. Best for ages 7 or 8 and up.
The Short Game
This 2013 documentary
, produced by Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, follows some of the best seven and eight-year-old golfers from around the world as they make their way to right here - Pinehurst, N.C., specifically, to compete to become the next world champion at the 2012 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship. This movie is full of so many teachable moments as you watch these young kids and their parents spend hours preparing to compete on the world's stage. Of note: There are a couple of minor curse words (used by the parents). It runs 1 hour, 40 minutes. Best for ages 7 and up.
Flight of the Butterflies
Released in 2012, this 44-minute documentary
tells the story of how a scientist spent nearly 40 years to uncover the spot in Mexico where monarch butterflies migrate to each year. Told with the help of some really beautiful images and captivating cinematography, it's best for ages 8 and up.
This 2011 documentary
shows what it takes for young dancers to make it in the world of ballet. The movie tells the story of six dancers as they get ready for the Youth America Grand Prix in New York City. Top dancers in the event earn coveted spots at major ballet companies and schools around the world. The competition is intense, but the kids, with their sights set on greatness, are even more intense. Like "The Short Game," there are many moments throughout the movie that provide opportunities to talk about how to deal with pressure, loss and success. Best for ages 10 and up. It's about 90 minutes.
Living on One Dollar
In this 2013 documentary
, follow four American guys as they attempt to survive two months in an impoverished area of Guatemala living on just $1 a day. Along the way, they run into some amazing, hardworking people, who manage to live their entire lives on very little. The film offers an interesting discussion on the real benefits of microfinance loans and savings clubs, which is why I think this one is best for kids ages 11 or 12 and up. It runs just under an hour.
This 2016 documentary
tells the story of Norwegian chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen, called the Mozart of Chess, as he becomes a grandmaster at age 13 and world champion in 2013. Kids will find it fascinating because it starts at just about the very beginning - when he was a young boy. With plenty of family videos, interviews with his father and tense chess scenes, we learn that Carlsen has faced lots of struggles, including bullying, as he worked his way up to become the best chess player in the world. Best for ages 10 and up. This runs about 78 minutes.