While our children are taking a break this summer and not attending summer school, we still want to inspire our children’s learning throughout the summer months.
Netflix Titles for a Summer Brain-Power Boost is one way to strengthen and retain our children’s knowledge base. Keep in mind that summer is the perfect time to introduce hands-on learning activities that go along with these wonderful documentaries to our children and keep summer boredom at bay.
10 Netflix Titles for a Summer Brain-Power Boost
For your big kids:
1. Lewis & Clark: The Journey Out West
2. Walking with Dinosaurs
3. Secret Yellowstone
4. The Blue Planet
5. When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions
And your little ones:
1. The Great Mouse Detective
2. Busytown Mysteries
3. LeapFrog: Math Adventures to the Moon
4. Turtle: The Incredible Journey
5. The Magic School Bus
Want even more brain-boosting titles? Our friends at Common Sense Media shared 12 age-appropriate documentaries that encourage kids to explore worlds they may not normally encounter, all currently streaming on Netflix, they are as follows:
Wings of Life, ages 6+
Little kids are fascinated by the natural world, and this Disney movie taps into their curiosity by celebrating the earth's unsung heroes. Vibrant footage shows how interconnected the earth's greatest pollinators -- bees, bats, birds, and butterflies -- really are.
What to talk about: Discuss flowers and how your family can help pollinators in your own backyard or a community garden. What can you do to keep the cycle of pollination going strong?
A Place at the Table, ages 9+
In the urban streets of Philadelphia, the rural towns of Colorado, and the hamlets of Mississippi, kids are going hungry. Both experts and real families discuss the pervasive problem of food insecurity in this affecting documentary that'll make your kids grateful for what they have -- and possibly inspire them to help.
What to talk about: Discuss what your family can do. Can you join a local food bank through your community or house of worship? Can you write a letter as a family to your elected officials?
Walking with Dinosaurs, ages 9+
Got a budding paleontologist on your hands? This ambitious production unfolds like a documentary but with a twist: digital technology that recreates the 155-million-year reign of the dinosaurs. Paleontological discoveries from fossil remains and preserved footprint groupings provide the framework; the rest is best-guess speculation and a lot of imagination.
What to talk about: What sorts of things did the filmmakers have to guess about to create this film? Do we really know what color dinosaurs were? Do you think this was exactly the way they walked? Sounded? Cared for their young? Fought one another?
The Dream Is Now, ages 12+
If you want to get kids interested in world affairs, movies featuring real kids discussing their daily challenges are guaranteed to get their attention. The issue in this movie is immigration reform -- and, although it has a definite point of view, it illustrates how political hot potatoes affect all kinds of lives.
What to talk about: Some media, such as news stories and documentaries, often are expected to be objective in the way they present issues. Do you think it's OK for a documentary to take a position? Why, or why not?
Blackfish, ages 13+
Is it OK to hold killer whales -- known to be emotional and intelligent -- in captivity and train them to perform? That's the question this heartbreaking documentary explores in sometimes shocking footage. The movie unfolds like a psychological thriller, making its point with beautiful -- and brutal -- imagery.
What to talk about: Does this movie make a good argument for closing sea parks for good? What could be an argument for keeping them open?
Bully, ages 13+
Though it's not easy to watch -- and in fact originally received an R rating -- Bully provides an intimate portrayal of the daily lives of bullying victims. The movie's producers launched a national campaign to end bullying called The Bully Project, in which kids can get involved.
What to talk about: What is an individual's responsibility to stand up, not stand by? Is that easy to do? How do you think people can really make a difference against bullies?
Chasing Ice, ages 13+
Global warming is a hot topic, and it's hard to argue with this movie's time-lapse evidence of glacial retreat by National Geographic photographer James Balog. Whatever your opinion, Chasing Ice provides many opportunities for discussion.
What to talk about: What small changes can your family make to be more environmentally conscious? What kind of an impact would your community have if it got on board? Is ecological responsibility something the government should mandate?
Food Inc., ages 13+
For an exposé on the so-called "industrial food complex," this documentary offers a surprisingly simple and hopeful message: Putting your money where your mouth is -- on informed food purchases -- really matters. The movie's website TakePart offers several ways families can get involved.
What to talk about: Does this movie make you think twice about asking for chicken fingers? What about junk food in general?
Hoop Dreams, ages 13+
Mad skills on the basketball court aren't a guarantee of the good life -- you have to be lucky, too. Problems, pitfalls, and poverty lurk around every corner in this documentary about two young basketball stars competing for college scholarships.
What to talk about: Discuss the experiences of William Gates and Arthur Agee both on and off the high school basketball court. How do their family environments help and hurt them? Why do other young people -- particularly young black men -- find themselves in similar situations? What do you think about the boys' long-term goals? What would you have done differently? How are their predicaments similar to and different from those of other children in inner cities across the United States?
Miss Representation, ages 13+
For girls -- and boys -- interested in gender equality, Miss Representation isn't only a movie -- it's a movement. Using advertising images, interviews, and movie clips, this documentary invites viewers to challenge how women are portrayed in the media -- and to actually do something about it.
What to talk about: Discuss how the media shapes our views of women. What messages do you see on TV, in movies, and on the Web? How would you get other people to recognize when women and girls are portrayed negatively and as stereotypes?
Waste Land, ages 14+
"Trash talk" takes on an entirely new meaning in this documentary about the people who work in a landfill outside Rio de Janeiro. Incredibly poor -- but incredibly resilient -- these folks get viewers to see the dignity of people living in poverty.
What to talk about: What is the ability of one man -- in this case, Vik Muniz -- to make a difference in the world? What elements were included in the movie to make Muniz appear like a hero? What do you think was left out? Are there opportunities in your community to "give something back"?
The Square, ages 15+
This Oscar-nominated movie about the Arab Spring prominently features the modern communication tools teens love so much: YouTube, camera-phone videos, and social-media posts. It's raw, but it authentically chronicles events in real time, showing the power of people to affect change.
What to talk about: How were social-networking sites and camera phones used in both the documentation of this movie and the revolution itself? How would this revolt have been different -- in Egypt and on the international stage -- without access to this technology?
One popular summer activity is nature studies. Your children can pretend to be Great Detectives on an adventure. I give my kids some jars and set them free outside to catch a few bugs, tadpoles, frogs and snakes. They bring them all home and we have various "homes" for their new treasured pets. We learn what they need to eat to survive and care for them for a few days and then the children set them all free and we begin again!
If you are not that into bugs and critters, you can simply explore without bringing the new pets home. Look on plants, flowers and under rocks. Your children will be amazed with what they find!
My artistic daughters have sketch books and they draw what they see. Sometimes we even look up what they found to create a mini study session. The best part is, they don't even realize they are learning because they are having SO MUCH FUN! Kids always want to know: Who, What, Where, Why and How. Netflix Titles for a Summer Brain-Power Boost has all the answers!
Disclosure: This post is part of my involvement as a Netflix #StreamTeam Member. All opinions are my own. #NetflixKids #Netflix#NetflixMoms Want to learn more about Netflix Streaming? Subscriptions start at $7.99/month.