Young Lives, Big Stories: Top 10 Documentaries on Childhood

April 17, 2024


Childhood is not just a time of scraped knees and ice cream trucks; it's a complex universe of growing pains and glittering firsts. Today's digital kids navigate a maze of high expectations and hyper-connectivity—a far cry from the analog days of yore. Documentaries, or "docs" as the cool kids call them, provide an unfiltered peek into these miniature human habitats. They show not just the whimsy but also the weight carried by our future leaders, artists, and thinkers.


In an age where Netflix reigns supreme and YouTube is a playground, the doc, docuseries, and docudrama have found fertile ground on Guidedoc. They dissect topics from environmental issues to mental health, as seen through the eyes of the most honest critics—the children. These films are not just shows; they are visual essays that challenge the viewer, revealing the raw realities that shape the fragile phase of childhood.


As we delve into the curated worlds of these documentaries, it's clear that childhood isn't just about facing challenges; it's about blossoming despite them. These docuseries and films weave narratives that connect us to our global village, showing us that despite cultural divides, the essence of growing up is universally challenging. They prompt us to question—whether are we nurturing our young sprouts to thrive or merely to survive.


Top Ten Childhood Documentaries to Watch: 




Despite not being a Documentary, this film has a lot of documentary and the theme of childhood. Imagine filming a movie over 12 years and capturing the literal growth of a child into a young man. That's "Boyhood," not just a film but a groundbreaking piece of art. This docudrama slices through the layers of Mason's life, offering a piecemeal view that somehow sums up modern American childhood with startling clarity. *Where to watch:* Netflix provides a home for this longitudinal study of adolescence, inviting viewers to observe, reflect, and perhaps reminisce.


My Family is a Circus

This heartwarming documentary follows the life of young Romy as she bids farewell to her classmates to join her family's traveling circus in France. Unlike a typical holiday, Romy's journey is filled with the bustling activities of circus life, where performing, homework, and learning new tricks fill her days.


Amidst her busy schedule, Romy still finds moments of joy and relaxation, especially in her after-hours adventures with Quintin, exploring the amusement park. Through letters to her classmates, Romy shares the unique challenges and joys of being a young circus artist, along with her aspirations and dreams for the future.


Born into Brothels 

Calcutta's red-light district might seem a world away, but "Born into Brothels" brings it alarmingly close to heart and home. This Academy Award-winning documentary zooms in on the lives of children born to prostitutes, aspiring to escape inherited fates through the power of art and education. 



Bryan's life oscillates between the weight of tradition and the pull of potential as he navigates a childhood framed by his dream: to reunite with the father who once left for the United States and vanished without a trace.


In his small town, where the echoes of horse hooves and rodeo cheers fill the air, Bryan feels the magnetic pull of his family’s storied cowboy legacy. Yet, his devoted mother labors tirelessly, investing every ounce of her strength to ensure Bryan’s path can veer towards a different, perhaps brighter horizon.


As he stands at this pivotal crossroads, Bryan's choices beckon him to decide not just his future, but also to redefine what legacy means to him. Each decision is a thread weaving the tapestry of his destiny, capturing the essence of hope, heritage, and the pursuit of something beyond the familiar.



This thought-provoking documentary tackles the all-too-common issue of bullying in American schools. Following five kids and families over a school year, "Bully" showcases the often cruel reality of bullied youths and the responses from their communities. It's a call to arms, wrapped in a docuseries format, urging an end to the passive dismissal of bullying as just another part of growing up. 



Stanley, a vivacious 6-year-old, revels in the pure joy of his carefree days, frequently transforming into Disney’s Queen Elsa with a sparkle in his eyes and a twirl in his step. These moments of uninhibited role-play are precious gems, as the looming commencement of formal schooling threatens to curtail his boundless expressions of imagination.


As each day passes, Stanley seizes every opportunity to let his creativity soar, fully embodying Elsa’s regal and resilient spirit. In doing so, he not only captures the magic of childhood but also imparts vital lessons in joy, acceptance, and the transformative power of embracing one’s true self to everyone around him.


Life, Animated

From the Oscar-winning director comes a film that portrays the life of Owen Suskind, who, at three years old, was diagnosed with autism and stopped speaking. It was through Disney movies that Owen found his voice again, allowing him to connect to the world in a way that seemed lost forever. This documentary is a touching narrative about the healing power of cinema and stories, available on Showtime.


Bowen's Heart

Bowen is an extraordinary child, a beacon of resilience in the face of congenital heart disease—a condition that claims the lives of half of its sufferers within their first year. Yet, Bowen has triumphantly navigated this perilous terrain for eight remarkable years. As he stands on the brink of his third open-heart surgery, the stakes are immensely high.


This procedure represents more than just another battle against his chronic condition; it is a poignant intersection of hope and fear for Bowen and his family. They find themselves at a critical crossroads, caught between the optimistic prospect of a healthier future and the daunting possibility that the surgery could complicate his fragile trajectory. This upcoming challenge tests their courage and underscores the precarious balance of living with a severe, lifelong medical condition.


The Short Game

This gripping documentary follows the lives of the best seven-year-old golfers in the world as they train for and compete in the World Championships of Junior Golf. This Netflix documentary offers a glimpse into the pressures of competition infused with the innocence of childhood. It’s a contrasting and compelling look at how these youngsters balance the scales of competition and life lessons at such a tender age.


Finding Hope Home

In 1996, Pastor Lucy and her husband Duncan Ndegwa moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where they started by feeding the street children and gradually befriended them. This compassionate outreach led the couple to open their home to these children, eventually formalizing their efforts by founding the "Gathiga Children's Hope Home," also known as the "Tuwape Tumaini Children's Foundation."


Their mission was simple yet profound: to transform the lives of neglected children by providing them not just shelter and food, but a nurturing environment filled with hope and opportunities for a brighter future.



These gripping documentaries offer more than just a movie night option; they provide a mirror to our societal dynamics and the unfiltered realities of childhood today. As you explore these docuseries and docudramas, from the comfort of YouTube or via the curated selections on Netflix and Guidedoc, remember they do more than just document lives—they whisper truths about our culture and the legacy we leave for the new generations. Watching these films is not just an act of observation but one of introspection. How are we contributing to the nurturing or negating of these young lives? As the credits roll, let that question linger, perhaps guiding us towards betterment.


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