Without a doubt, kids and young adults have a lot on their plates. Even as summer rolls around and children have more time to spend with family, camps, activities, and playdates can keep us busy. For kids who are passionate about the environment, or simply love to learn, it can be a delicate balance to find fun ways to teach and engage your children while also spending time with them. While science camp is likely great for their brains, it doesn't necessarily bring the kids in your life closer into the family unit.
That's why watching eco-focused movies can be such a win-win solution: Not only are you educating your kids about the world around them, but you're spending quality time together as a family. And for kids who aren't yet in tune with the environment, movies can be a great means of engaging kids and getting them passionate about new topics and ideas.
If you're in the process of teaching your kids about green living and environmentalism, why not select a flick that can do some of the work for you? There are many to choose from, and they're as entertaining for adults as they are for young ones. Here are five kid-friendly movies with environmental themes that will get your kids talking about the planet, no matter their age.
If one were to judge WALL-E on its basic premise alone, the movie might sound pretty grim. One little robot is left all alone on earth, after over-pollution forced the human race away. With only a cockroach for company, WALL-E toils day and night picking up an endless field of garbage, even though all the other clean-up robots around him fell apart long ago. The humans have fled to a distant star ship, where they've grown unhealthy and overly-dependent on technology and corporations. It sounds more like a dystopian literary novel than a Disney film.
In reality, though, WALL-E is a charming story, staring an adorable robot, on an equally-adorable journey of self-discovery. Though some of the underlying concepts may be dark, they are presented in a light, humorous way that makes them relatable and not-so-scary for kids. It is also worth pointing out that the film is full of hope, with a decidedly happy ending--something one almost never gets when reading dystopian st0ries.
2. Fern Gully
Children of the '90s will likely remember this animated classic, which hold up just as well today as it did during their own childhoods. It's time to pass on the magic of Fern Gully to the next generation! Loaded with great music and fantastic voice acting, Fern Gully's message is just as important today as it was when it was first released. At its heart, this movie is about the importance of conservation, particularly of the rainforest and its resources. Don't let the fairy on the cover trick you into thinking that this movie is "only for girls," either. Fern Gully has a plethora of both female and male characters that any kid can relate to.
3. Happy Feet
This hit film from 2006 still hasn't faded from public consciousness. It already has a sequel and toys from the movie can still be found on store shelves. It's no wonder this movie about adorable dancing penguins became so popular. But what some parents may not realize at first glance is that this film has a strong environmental message.
Throughout the course of the movie, viewers watch the baby penguin on the cover grow into an adult, and learn about the impact of pollution and environmental changes on his Antarctic environment. The penguin is even captured, at one point, and imprisoned in a zoo. Kids can learn a great deal more than dance moves from this movie...not that they won't be dancing long after the film has ended!
4. Furry Vengeance
Not all eco-conscious movies have to be animated! Though Brendan Fraser may not be a name that immediately pops into parents minds when they think of kid-friendly movies, Furry Vengeance's PG rating makes it safe for most young children. With lots of slapstick humor that kids will love, Furry Vengeance is a bit like a more family-friendly version of Eddie Murphy's Dr. Doolittle--a tale of what happens when animals take matters into their own hands. Watching Brendan Fraser's sleazy real estate developer character get overtaken by various forest critters is pretty enjoyable, even for adults. If you can handle a bit of cheesiness for the sake of a good message, then this movie is a solid choice.
5. The Lorax
This classic children's book from the legendary Dr. Suess became a full-length movie in 2012. The Lorax was always a tale about environmentalism, but the movie tells a more in-depth story than the original book. It's the tale of a young boy who lives in a world devoid of real trees, and his journey to see one.
The Lorax himself, brilliantly voice-acted by Danny Devito, is a lovable character, though frustrated over the loss of the trees and his original home. This film sends the same clear message as its source material: that people must strive to change their behavior in order to stop harming the environment. In other words, "unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."