I sat down with my 5 year old son to watch a wildlife documentary. Normaly he is interested in cars and trucks so I thought I'd try something different.

I picked the latest BBC David Attenborough film: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0009tt8/seven-worlds-one-planet-series-1-1-antarctica

He absolutely loved the scenary and animals, and was very interested in what was going on, asking questions etc.

He particuarly liked, perhaps identified with, the baby animals. Unfortunately this particular documentary seemed to focus on the "struggle for survival", particularly baby animals being abandoned and dying from cold. Finally, when a pengiun was eaten by a orca, and my son wondered what its children would now do, it became too much for him and we had to stop. He was in tears.

My question is whether there is resource where I can read reviews of wildlife films with young children in mind?

Or, perhaps you might think that at 5 he is old enough to start learning about the "struggle for survival" in the real world? My instinct is that he's too small, but I'd be interested to hear if people disagree.

  • 1
    It also depends on where you grow up : a country kid will be well aware of dead lambs, calves etc but a townie may not even realize that milk comes from cows...
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 15, 2019 at 15:53

3 Answers 3


My kid is about the same age, and while the particular video you watched does sound grim, I've had some success getting my kid to be okay with predation on nature shows by telling her "Yes, it's sad for the birds when the little bird gets eaten by the fox, but the fox has babies too, and it's good news for them, because they get to eat". With a side of "If all the baby bunnies grew up, there wouldn't be enough grass for all of them. Predators eat some, and that way there is enough grass for the rest".

You also might consider sticking with Blue Planet; your kid might not be as sad at the deaths of non-mammals.


Or, perhaps you might think that at 5 he is old enough to start learning about the "struggle for survival" in the real world? My instinct is that he's too small, but I'd be interested to hear if people disagree.

I don't think 5 years of age is too early to start learning about death, although death as a concept in children shielded from actual death is often one of impermanence ("When will I see grandma again?") Personally, I think the earlier kids learn, the less horrified they will be when they encounter it again (and again and again.)

Tennyson stated (to paraphrase a bit), "Nature is red in tooth and claw." The truth is that everything from bacteria to blue whales dies and becomes a part of something else.

My 2.5 year old grandchild liked my dog Max, and wondered why they didn't see him anymore. The parents introduced the idea of death to the child. They seemed sad, but accepted it. Their understanding of it is that Max is gone and will never be back, and that Max didn't go anywhere, he's just dead. I don't know how they actually understand it, but when they see photos of my dogs, they say "Max is dead?" I answer, yes. "And Skye is dead, too?" I say yes, and that they were wonderful dogs and that I miss them. They sometimes say, "I miss Max too."

Death is everywhere - dead trees, dead plants, dead insects, dead animals (what kind depends on where you live.) Pointing them out may make talking about death more natural.

That doesn't mean that a child that young should watch something as cute as a baby penguin being ripped apart by predatory birds, though. But if it does happen to be viewed, it can be spoken about as something sad but natural, and that it's ok to be sad about it.

My opinion may be colored by my profession, in which I saw very many people die. I also had a farm partly to show my kids where their food came from (and at what cost.) As a result, I and my kids are very comfortable with death. That's one less thing to fear in this world.


I would use a Google search with the name of the film and not kid friendly added. In this case, search for: seven worlds one planet not kid friendly. I found quickly several relevant hits pointing to the issues your child found upsetting. For example, the Independent review mentions:


And so, along with dead seal pups, we see hungry gentoo penguins trying and failing to break through the slush caused by rapidly melting ice caps, allowing seals to pick them off like sashimi on a bed of ice. There’s the grey-headed albatross leaving its chick alone in the nest, only for a ferocious storm – increasingly a feature of life in this frozen wasteland – to blow it out of its cosy billet and on to the ground below.

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