Death-free nature documentary
March 12, 2014 11:32 AM   Subscribe

We're flying with our 2.5-year old and would like to find a nature documentary or TV show for her to watch on our iPad. She doesn't watch much TV, so this is a Big Treat that will hopefully distract her for at least some of the flight. The catch: we're not ready to deal with death yet, so I'd like something without predation/disease/starvation/etc. For simplicity's sake, I'd prefer something available on iTunes, but am willing to look other places, as well. We'd also prefer to avoid mass market characters (Elmo, Mickey Mouse, etc.). Any good suggestions?
posted by griseus to Science & Nature (34 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
posted by cnc at 11:35 AM on March 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

March of the Penguins.

Any episode of Animal Planet's Too Cute.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:39 AM on March 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

Echoing the recommendation for "Too Cute."
posted by desjardins at 11:46 AM on March 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

There's some death in March of the Penguins.
posted by cooker girl at 11:47 AM on March 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, wow, you do not want March of the Penguins.

You might want to check this thread.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:49 AM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Selective episodes of Life of Birds.
it's been a few years since I've watched, so some due diligence and pre-watching them is a good idea, but that should be ok as it's" a very good show"
posted by edgeways at 11:57 AM on March 12, 2014

March of the Penguins

Nope, definitely has death.
posted by Dasein at 12:00 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another vote against March of the Penguins. I'm a grown man and watching that was stressful.
posted by markbao at 12:01 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I cried during March of the Penguins. I'm much older than your kiddo.
posted by Houstonian at 12:05 PM on March 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Another vote for Babies! I love it (I am not 2.5, but it was my niece's favourite film when she was that age!).
posted by 9000condiments at 12:07 PM on March 12, 2014

Come Outside is a really nicely done documentary series for tots. You can find most if not all episodes on YouTube. Nothing bad happens in any episode, and it is entirely free of licensed characters. Auntie Mabel is quite watchable and not saccharin or otherwise irritating to adults. There are lots of episodes whose theme is nature-oriented, but "Crisps" and "Sewage" are cool too.
posted by kmennie at 12:11 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Planet Earth is on iTunes. It's gorgeous to look at. I don't remember super-gory death, but I think there is some in there and you'll probably want to preview them first.
posted by jquinby at 12:18 PM on March 12, 2014

You definitely want to see if you can download some episodes of PBS's Zoboomafoo. All about animals and very young-child friendly.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:32 PM on March 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Babies, Babies, Babies!!! Every child I've encountered who has seen it has been entranced and it's wonderful for adults to watch too.
posted by goggie at 12:33 PM on March 12, 2014

Penguins: Spy in the Huddle
posted by mmascolino at 12:33 PM on March 12, 2014

Too Cute! is basically the best thing ever when I'm in a delicate state. Nothing even the least bit scary or sad. Sometimes I cry at it but that's because sometimes it really is too cute to handle.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:47 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Disney Earth-Day Movies are pretty good.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:48 PM on March 12, 2014

Kipper is a cute, quiet cartoon available on Netflix which is not at all commercialized.
posted by lgyre at 1:05 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

ETA: not really a nature show, but wasn't sure whether you were asking for any tv show fitting that description.
posted by lgyre at 1:06 PM on March 12, 2014

I cried during the trailer for March of the Penguins. I'm ridiculously sensitive to animal death on screen. I more or less can't watch nature docs because of it, and I actually came in this thread to find recommendations. But yeah, just one more voice chiming in re MotP.
posted by janey47 at 1:18 PM on March 12, 2014

March of the Penguins traumatized my four year old so badly she still cries about it sometimes, and she's seven. DEFINITELY Babies.
posted by KathrynT at 1:21 PM on March 12, 2014

It's been a little bit since I watched, but would Winged Migration work?
posted by inigo2 at 1:35 PM on March 12, 2014

um, Babies? It really is great. We watched it just about every day for almost a year and I never got tired of it.
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:51 PM on March 12, 2014

As 3 year olds, both my kids liked Microcosmos. It features close-up photography of various small creatures, mostly insects, mostly without narration. I think there is one scene where some caterpillars die, but the way I recall it, it probably wouldn't be obvious to a 2.5 year old that they had died. I don't recall any other deaths, but you might want to preview it to be sure.
posted by Redstart at 1:59 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I re-watched some Planet Earth the other day. There's definitely some death but it's fairly mild.

For death-free viewing, how about documentaries that don't feature animals at all e.g. volcanoes (still nature), big ships etc.

While definitely not a documentary... Peppa Pig, the British cartoon series, is hands-down brilliant. My daughter has been watching it (with limits!) since she was 2½ or thereabouts and just loves it. She really seems to learn from it. It's a world apart from Disney dross. Plus it's also funny enough for adults to laugh at some of it. Every parent I've recommended it to has loved it.
posted by NailsTheCat at 2:02 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Along the lines of Too Cute!, which is absolutely peerless, Animal Planet also has Dogs 101, Cats 101, and Pets 101 (recommended episode: capybaras).

The former two have multiple seasons available on iTunes; here are links to their respective first seasons: Dogs 101, Cats 101.

There's also Born to Be Wild (iTunes), which has tons of amazingly adorable baby orangutans and elephants and no death aside from mentions of the fact that the animals in the film are/were orphaned.
posted by divined by radio at 2:09 PM on March 12, 2014

Winged Migration includes a scene where a crab is eaten alive by birds. The actual eating isn't shown onscreen, but as I recall the music and narration are very dramatic, and you see the crab crawl offscreen pursued by the birds. I'm a full grown adult and that scene bothered me, but it might go over the head of a preschooler.
posted by expialidocious at 3:20 PM on March 12, 2014

Actually it was a BIRD being eaten alive by crabs. Because I was going "No.. NO... NOOOO" and went through a lot of effort to find out that they'd faked that scene (bird was rescued, crabs were eating a fish-head or something with feathers added in last scene)
posted by The otter lady at 4:21 PM on March 12, 2014

I think Disney's Earth (mentioned above) had a few "upsetting" scenes, but no onscreen deaths that I remember (you may want to preview it first).

Some episodes of PBS' Nature may work (but not all). I don't know if they're on iTunes. From what I remember, "Raccoon Nation" was pretty safe and death-free, as was "Is That Skunk?" (but maybe boring for your little one). I am pretty sensitive to animal deaths/etc. and I don't remember anything bad about these (but I could be wrong).

But I do think "Too Cute" is probably the way to go, honestly, as people have said. It's gentle and adorable and should be interesting enough for your daughter.
posted by darksong at 5:06 PM on March 12, 2014

My cat loves Too Cute, so if it will occupy a 4-year-old tabby, it should be OK for a 2 1/2 year-old. She'll even watch 2 episodes, which is a LOT of TV for a cat. It's not a documentary, but she also likes the nature-based Sunrise Earths.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:33 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is a second scene in winged migration I remember as being quite scary - involving some birds in some industrial wasteland all covered in oil or something similar. I'm also not sure winged migration would be as captivating for a 2.5 year old as it would be for someone older.
posted by lab.beetle at 9:13 PM on March 12, 2014

You definitely want to see if you can download some episodes of PBS's Zoboomafoo.

The Kratt brothers are also in a later series called Wild Kratts that at least one 3-year-old likes very much.
posted by pracowity at 1:59 AM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Babies is such a soothing balm on everything that is wrong with the world, because it's just babies enjoying life. Unless you're me, and the San Franciscan family starts to annoy you. But the 2.5 year old will not focus on cultural appropriation and will, instead, go "Babiesbabiesbabies that cow drank the bathwater!"

it's not nature, but have you thought about How It's Made? Fascinating, soothing, and completely without trauma. I could watch the fusilli maker for hours.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:38 AM on March 13, 2014

Thanks for the great responses, everyone. We're going with some Babies and Too Cute for now, but I've earmarked the other suggestions for future reference. We'll get to March of the Penguins eventually, but it'll be a while --- I still get irrationally mad when I see a seal at the zoo :)
posted by griseus at 3:20 AM on March 13, 2014

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