Getting young kids to process the impact humans can have on the world's many ecosystems isn't easy. But with the right starting point, conversations about being aware and taking action can happen a little more easily. Below, we've picked a few of our favorite movies that make understanding the natural world—and taking positive action within it—a little more real. These films (the first two for the under-6 set, and the rest for kids 7 and up) touch on the concepts of interdependence, pollution and more—perfect to help you talk to your little ones about the importance of celebrating Earth Day every day.
1. The Lorax (2012)
Though this adaptation of the beloved 1971 Dr. Seuss book got mixed reviews, the message it sends is powerful: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” The movie tells the story of 12-year-old Ted who is looking to find a real live Truffula Tree—years after the lush forests of them have been cut down to make materials for the townspeople—to impress the girl of his dreams. Bonus: You can tell your kids it comes from the same people who made Despicable Me and features the voice work of Taylor Swift.
2. Finding Nemo (2003)
Though not explicitly a conservationist film, this Disney hit provides a great entry point for talking to younger kids about ecosystems. When young Nemo is caught in a fisherman's net off the coast of Sydney, his father Marlon teams up with a forgetful fish named Dory to get him back. The captured Nemo is brought to live in a dentist's aquarium—and Nemo figures out that if he can go down the drain there, he can get back into the ocean. (Two things to note: The opening scene features a barracuda attack, which happens offscreen but kills Nemo's mom Coral, and there are a trio of periodically bloodthirsty sharks who mean well but can get a little intense.) The long-awaited Nemo sequel, Finding Dory, is out this June.
3. Wall-E (2008)
This Pixar/Disney collaboration follows a robot named WALL-E, who's designed to clean up waste on a 2805 version of Earth. As a result of consumerism, the world is covered with heaps of garbage and megacorp Buy 'n' Large has evacuated the human race into space while robots attempt to clean up the mess. But the helper robots are almost all inactive, save for WALL-E, who remains in operation and has even managed to find a growing seedling. When another robot, named EVE, is sent to Earth to search for vegetation, WALL-E falls in love... and kicks off a grand adventure that leads to both the robots and humans working together to get the Earth habitable again.
4. March of the Penguins (2005)
This Academy Award-winning documentary tells the story of one year in the life of a flock of emperor penguins—focusing on one couple in particular—as they trek across the Antarctic towards their breeding grounds for mating season. Narrator Morgan Freeman explains the impact of weather, predators. and other natural threats on the survival of the penguins and their eggs—a good movie to get your kids talking about the impact of the environment on survival.
5. Earth (2007)
The companion film to the BBC's cinematic Planet Earth TV series and released under the Disneynature banner, Earth features brilliant vignettes on species from the North Pole to the Kalahari Desert. Narrated by James Earl Jones, the film discusses the environmental changes that are threatening wildlife all over the planet—like rising temperatures that lead to the melting of sea ice and the disruption of weather systems. Importantly, it stresses the interconnection of all of the species—and our own.