1. Hayao Miyazaki's animated movies
Several of the amazing Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki's animated movies are very popular with my kids lately. And they have sparked an interest in a wide range of things, like Totoros, tree spirits, demon boars, and ramen noodle soup. The movies work great "just" as fairytales, but can also definitely spark some interest in Japan, Japanese folk-tales, and Japanese spirituality. Some of my kids favorite Miyazaki movies are:
This is a really brilliant movie from 1996, mixing live-action with puppets and animation. It's based on Roald Dahl's book by the same name. Lots of fun with some pretty scary bits too (James' aunts are particularly scary!).
This BBC documentary series is stunning and full of amazing scenery, amazing environments, and amazing creatures. It takes you to pretty much every part of the world, and is narrated by David Attenborough (I sometimes feel like he's narrated every BBC-documentary I've ever watched!). Educational and fun for kids and adults alike.
4. Tintin, the animated series
If you're from North America, you might not be all that familiar with Tintin, but chances are that if you're from Europe, you have at least heard of him. My 4-year old daughter has recently been watching Tintin, the animated series from 1991. (A new movie-version of Tintin, directed by Steven Spielberg, hit theatres a little while ago, but I haven't watched it yet). She loves the mystery-solving, the places he travels (the moon, South America, Egypt, Tibet, America, China) and the whole gang of characters that surround him: his dog Snowy, his friend Captain Haddock, bumbling police-men Thompson and Thompson, bad guy Rastapopolos, opera singer Bianca Castafiori, and Professor Calculus.
I remember reading the books back when I was a child and enjoying them hugely, much for the same reasons my daughter loves the TV-series.
This TV-show is also a big hit at our house. The Kratts brothers (in animated form) travel the world, going to different places in various countries, exploring various habitats while teaching kids about animals, ecology and the environment. Each show is high-energy and packed with information. I've had several lectures in the car on various animal species after the kids have watched Wild Kratts!
6. Other favorites
- Toot & Puddle - This show about the two pigs, one home-body, and one adventurous world-traveler are great fun.
- The Magic School Bus - Ms Frizzle always teaches the kids about something to do with the natural world, whether it be inside our bodies, space, the bottom of the ocean, deserts, or whatever else. Educational fun-time for my kids at least.
- The Backyardigans - Their backyard adventures take them to both real and imaginary places all over the world.
- Dora The Explorer & Go Diego Go! - Lots of traveling, maps, and a foreign language to boot. (Fun fact: in Sweden, Dora speaks Swedish and teaches kids English rather than Spanish!)
- Ni Hao, Kai-Lan - Yep, my kids have learned several Chinese words (and traditions!) from this show.
- The Wizard of Oz - It's such an old movie, but my kids love it to bits. Some stories are just that good and that timeless. I love it too. It's such a great tale of adventure, travel, and coming home.
- Babies - This documentary about babies growing up in various parts of the world has received high praise from several of my friends who watched it with their kids. Haven't watched it yet, but it's high on my must-see list.
- Kirikou and the Sorceress - This is an African tale about the adventures of a small boy named Kirikou, and includes music by the fantastic Youssou N'Dour.