Please weigh in: Magazines for kids?

By Mir
October 21, 2010

Pretty Theresa writes:

I’m trying to get ready for Christmas, and I have 9 nieces and nephews to buy for. They all have so much STUFF, that I thought magazine subscriptions may be the way to go. I did this for my nephews last year and it was a big hit – they loved getting mail every month, and enjoyed reading the magazines as well (and their sisters were jealous!) In looking on line at the multitude of choices, I can’t decide what’s a good pick – there’s such a large selection. I would like something at least a bit educational, but enjoyable as well. Their ages range from 18 months to 15 years, and while magazines may not be the solution for all of them I’m hoping that it’ll work for at least some. I’ve got girls in preschool, boys in kindergarten, girls in 1st, 3rd and 6th grades and a boy in high school. Do you or your readers have any suggestions?

First, I just want to say that I love that Theresa is doing this. Magazine subscriptions are fabulous gifts for kids with too much stuff, and they foster reading, too. Win!

I have a few suggestions, and then I hope y’all will chime in.

I love, love, love the Cricket family of magazines unabashedly. Cricket is for ages 9-14. Spider is for ages 6-9, Ladybug is for ages 3-6, and Babybug is for baby-3. Love them all. And if you’re ready to buy, The Savvy Source is currently discounting subscriptions, which means savings ahoy.

I’m also a fan of Highlights and High Five, and Ranger Rick.

All of these magazines I’ve mentioned so far are things I read as a kid. That means they’ve been around for a million billion years, of course. Heh.

The magazine my son enjoys the most now is the LEGO Club magazine. The good news is that it’s free! The bad news is that it’s a not-so-subtle multi-page advertisement for all of the wonderful things he could build if only we would buy him hundreds (more) dollars worth of Lego. So. Maybe not the best gift…?

My daughter’s current magazine love affair is with Kiki Magazine, which is kind of pricey but I happily pay full price for it because 1) it has no advertising, 2) it’s extremely diverse in the models it uses, 3) it has craft projects instead of tips for getting boys to look at you, and 4) it is smart and sassy yet appropriate for girls as young as 8. It is the most girl-positive publication I’ve ever encountered, and I recommend it to everyone. We love Kiki!

Alright, readers: What are your kiddie magazine recommendations? And does anyone have a recommendation for the high school boy on Theresa’s list? I have no idea what high school kids read these days.


  1. LOVE this idea – magazines were such a special treat when I was a kid. For the high school boy – a magazine covering his favorite sport? If he is a science geek, something in that field. Do boys like crossword and other word puzzles?

  2. The Cricket people also make a couple of science-y magazines; Click for 3 through 6-year-olds and Ask for 6 though 9. I got my four-year-old nephew a copy of the Click back issue on dinosaurs to see if he liked it and he was so happy with it he’ll be getting a full subscription for Christmas.

  3. My Lego-loving geeky 10 yr old son loves Popular Science — some of it is over his head but that doesn’t bother him in the least. Also National Geographic is a great family mag and there is a kids version as well. My kids also loved Zoobooks.

  4. In addition to High Five, which my toddler and preschool girls love, we get My Big Backyard. I believe that’s the younger version of Ranger Rick. The magazines were gifts, and we were so thankful not to get more stuff– AND the girls love getting something just for them in the mail. We read them over and over. Great idea Theresa!

  5. Oh! New Moon – I loved this magazine when I was little. Had great literature and was so wonderful to read.

  6. For the preschoolers, instead of a magazine to read, what about Highlight’s Puzzle Buzz? It has lots of simple picture and some word puzzles and both my daughter and my son love them. My daughter, now 7, gets Puzzlemania instead of Puzzle Buzz. It is a little more challenging.

  7. My 2 high school boys love ESPN magazine. Granted they are both really into sports. For younger ones I’d recommend National Geographic Kids and Click (which is part of the cricket group).

  8. National Geographic Kids and Kids Discover are two favorites around here. Also, Cobblestone is a good one for the history fan.

  9. We’ve subscribed to High Five for 2 years now as a birthday present for our 3.5 y/o son. He loved it the first year (excitement of getting mail, loved the stories, songs, pictures etc etc etc), but seems to be a bit over it this year, so I’m on the fence about whether to renew. It’s pricey b/c there’s no advertising.

    But I love the fact that it’s not made of plastic, goes in the recycling bin or can be cut up for crafts, and doesn’t endorse a particular line of toys, etc. (he also gets the Thomas the Train magazine, which is exactly as Thomas-overload as you might expect).

    We also have subscribed to Animal Baby for a year, which is the preschool version of Ranger Rick, and neither of my kids has been into it at all.

    My other suggestion to avoid the “STUFF” route is a family membership to a local zoo/aquarium/children’s museum. Our local parks/rec department has seriously awesome classes for kids of all ages, from swimming and other sports to dance, music, crafts, photography, etc etc etc. I wonder if you could purchase some type of gift certificate to let them enroll in a class of their choice.

  10. National Geographic Little Kids is great for preschool, and I like even the 18-month old would enjoy looking at the animals and listening to the short articles. My mom just renewed my 4-year-old’s subscription but changed it to National Geographic Kids, which I am disappointed in – it’s way too advanced for the 5-year-old bottom of its advertised age range, and it seems like every other page is ads. We won’t be renewing that one next year…

    I’ll second the cricket magazines – we have a subscription to that as well, and it’s lovely – excellent content, nice illustrations, no ads. I wasn’t sure what to expect with a literary magazine for preschoolers, but it’s awesome.

  11. If you have an animal-lover, Zoobooks is a fantasic magazine. I believe it’s put out by National Geographic (could be mistaken, though). I received it as a kid and loved it!

    I’ve already suggested to my siblings that they get either Highlights or Zoobooks for my 6-year-old. He’s just learned to read and reads *everything* he can get his hands on!

  12. Don’t forget Sports Illustrated for Kids. Older kids might like Games magazine.

  13. There are a ton more from the Cricket family (from Carus). Click, Calliope, Muse, Faces–they all have different subject areas–ancient history, archaeology, arts, world culture, etc. Disclosure–my husband used to write for them but hasn’t for a few years.

    Another good one for 8-12 yr old girls is Stone Soup. I’ve looked at New Moon and am not so crazy about it, but maybe that’s b/c my daughter just isn’t quite there yet, age-wise.

    Oh, just looked at your link & it lists all the Carus publications. Oh well, consider this another vote. 🙂

    BTW, I *don’t* like National Geographic Kids. Too many adds/commercial tie-ins.

  14. For whatever it’s worth, though I see opinions here are mixed: I specifically did not recommend National Geographic Kids because I personally feel the quality has fallen way off, and—as many have already said—it has way too much advertising. To each her own, of course.

    I loved Games magazine as a high schooler. But I was a giant nerd. (I’m sure you’re shocked.)

  15. My 11 year old daughter loves American Girl magazine.

  16. Such a timely post! Thank you! I am looking for something for my preschool daughter as well. We have gotten hand-me-down copies of Ladybug, High Five, and My Big Backyard. She told me she prefers High Five to Ladybug and has not asked to read My Big Backyard even one time. (And she usually loves books with real photographs, so I don’t know what is up with that.)

    I really, REALLY wanted to love Ladybug because I have such fond memories of reading Cricket…but I have to admit that High Five has better drawings and a greater diversity of subject matter. (Ladybug is almost all poetry and short stories, whereas High Five also has a recipe, a project to cut out, and a seek-and-find page.)

  17. Also along the lines of not buying “stuff”, is sponsoring a child through World Vision and really making that child part of the family. Write letters, kids can create art, fun family photographs to send, etc. My kids really like learning about the areas where we have sponsored children and they want to save their money to buy the children a goat or some chickens.

  18. My sister-in-law asked for suggestions for my (then) 5-year old last Christmas and I almost suggested Nat Geo Kids, but after I looked at them in our library I decided they had a little too much…just TOO MUCH…the layout was a bit overwhelming and set up in a style that reminded me of a comic book, what with the various boxes of info all over the place.

    I went with Ranger Rick, which has loads of big color pictures and a fact-based narrative to go along with it. She loves it.

  19. My boys 5 & 8 both love High Five, Zoo books, and Kids discover.

  20. Our kids love National Geographic-the regular one. So many beautiful pics and they’ve learned so much.

  21. I cannot believe that there have been 20 responses already and NOT ONE person has made the obvious recommendation for the high-school boy. Playboy, anyone?

    Kidding! I kid! (I mean, I don’t kid that that’s probably the one he would … er… “enjoy” the most. But I kid that auntie Theresa wants to open that particular can of worms on Christmas morning.

    You’re welcome.

    Lots of great ideas here for the littles. For a highschool kid, I’d go more like I would for an adult — what’s he interested in? There are magazines for every hobby imaginable (see also: above suggestion. I’m sorry. I’ll stop now.)

  22. We love love love High Five here – my little one (14 months) steals her sister’s magazines and carries them around and flips thru. My big girl – nearly 5 yrs – still loves them because she can “read” them by herself (ok not really read them, but interpret or quote from memory. I thought this year she’d be ready for something bigger – but she continues to love the short poems, short stories, recipes, crafts and well the whole thing.

    Another note – these were awesome while potty training – we kept the basket right by the potty and she’d happily sit while we read storiy after story out of these magazines.

  23. My 14 yo son gets Shonen Jump, a manga magazine. He used to absolutely love it. Now he likes it, but he says its not as good as it used to be (has gotten smaller – it used to be something like 400+ pages, now is not quite 300). He’s thinking of not renewing it.

    I got Games mag as a teen and loved it. I’ve been known to pick up an issue even now, esp if I am going to be traveling.

  24. My two high school boys love different things. One was into golf and enjoyed getting Golf magazine for awhile. My other loves sports of all kinds – he has a Sports Illustrated subscription that we keep renewing; he reads it the moment he gets it, cover to cover. My 8 year old girl loves Highlights. When she was younger, Baby Bug was a favorite too.

  25. My 4yo currently gets “Your Big Backyard” magazine from the National Wildlife Federation (received as a gift from his grandfather) and it’s fantastic for the preschool crowd. Big real-life pictures of a variety of animals, basic animal facts, no ads, stories to read, often a craft idea.

  26. Although typically there are way too many ads in sports magazines, it is my opinion that getting boys in the 15 year old range to read is difficult at best, and so having ads in a magazine they WILL read instead of no ads in a magazine they WON’T read is ok. That being said you still have to be fairly picky; many sports magazines have a lot of provocative models in some of their ads. My son was in Cross Country, so Runners magazine worked well at that time, now at 20 he’s into all sports, so ESPN works well. There are sports magazines and car magazines (Watch out for those, they are ripe with scantily clad women!) for nearly any sporting interest.

  27. My 8 year old daughter loves her National Geographic Kids magazine. Educational and fun.

  28. My 6 year old likes Highlights (when he was younger, he liked High Five, highlights for littler kids) and Spider (from the same folks who make Cricket). We also like My Big Backyard (it might be Your Big Backyard, I can never remember) and National Geographic Kids and National Geographic Little Kids.

  29. Another vote for Sports Illustrated for Kids for any mid-to-upper-elementary or middle-school aged sports-loving kids. My kiddo gets so excited when it comes in the mail.

    And another vote for Games magazine for puzzle lovers. We get it and the kiddo does some of the puzzles with us, though the majority of them are too hard for him right now – wouldn’t be when he’s in high school.

  30. Nintendo Magazine is a fave ’round here (girl, 13, and boy 9).

    Highlights was a bust for all three (then… 11, 7, and 5).

  31. Mir – Can you give any information regarding the Savvy Source? Do they send a coupon for the magazine (to order from that point) or do they send directly to the address you put in? I wanted to order but couldn’t find the information about that.
    Thanks so much!

    Oh and thanks to the person that commented about puzzle buzz – I just received something in the mail about that and am considering that for my daughter.

  32. Another vote for anything from Carus Publishers (we started with Babybug, and are now the gleeful recipients of both Ladybug AND Click – they really are fantastic presents!)

    This year, my 4 year old and I will be picking out 3rd world orphans to sponsor – that’s going to be her Christmas present from us. She gets way to much “stuff” (and it’s good stuff – books, mags, etc, but it’s still STUFF) and I want to increase her worldview and sense of charity. We already sponsor an orphaned elephant in Africa, so we’re moving up to kids now. lol.

    Actually, the World Wildlife Fund has a nice animal sponsorship program; if you donate $50, the recipient gets a plushie of the animal.

  33. My 10-year-old loves National Geographic KIDS magazine. Yes it’s somewhat commercialized and has movie tie-ins with every issue; so what? That’s what she likes.

    The Canadian magazines Chirp, Chickadee and Owl are really good and not overflowing with ads. Chirp is for ages 4-6, Chickadee is aimed at 6-8s and Owl is for 8 and ups.

    I was also a teenaged nerd who loved GAMES magazine. It’s gone a bit more high-tech now and includes a lot of videogame reviews, so it might work for a teenaged boy. For those who like the paper-and-pencil puzzles best, GAMES now has a sister publication, World of Puzzles.

  34. My daughter loves the American Girl magazine.

    My son loved Zoo Books when he was 6, MAD when he was 13, and now at 15 he reads Rolling Stone.

  35. My son is 5 and my daughter is 7 and our hands-down favorites are RANGER RICK and MY BIG BACKYARD!! We’ve read tons of others, including Click and National Geographic offerings, but my kids always come back to Ranger Rick.

  36. Savvy Source sets up the whole thing, you’ll get the magazine in due time. But if it takes too long, be sure to e-mail them. I have had one subscription fall through.

    Mir, I LOVE the Cricket group, and if you hadn’t mentioned that, I might have had to… well, something.

    Also, I think the Highlights corp makes Puzzlemania and Math Mania. I know it’s kind of dorky, but I find back issues and my 8yo really enjoys them.

  37. It’s funny because I loved Cricket as a kid but haven’t heard of it in years. Then I saw it on 2 blogs in the same number of days. Fridayplaydate has a discount running on Cricket:

  38. CLICK Magazine is our family’s current favorite magazine. My 4 year old waits by the mailbox when he knows it is time for his newest issue to arrive.

  39. I can’t say enough about American Girl. My daughter has received it for the past year or two (she’s almost 10) and it’s perfect for her.

    When she was little, she had Baby Bug and Lady Bug – excellent magazines. And, even though she loves animals, she never really enjoyed Your Big Backyard or Ranger Rick.

    My middle school son love Sports Illustrated Kids; I’m thinking the 15 year old would enjoy the regular SI, minus the swimsuit issue, of course! : ) He also loves Nintendo Power and reads it cover to cover as soon as it arrives!

  40. I second the Mental Floss suggestion: I really like that magazine, and I would’ve loved it as a high school kid.

  41. My oldest boy (20) loves Outdoor magazine.

    My ten year old son loves Mad magazine and Readers Digest (yeah, don’t ask me why).

  42. My 13 year old son loves Popular Science too so I second that recommendation

  43. All of our faves have been mentioned already – I do second American Girl magazine though!

    I actually had to comment to thank Jan for her post – I’m still giggling

  44. when my girls were preteens they loved American Girl Magazine. Not about the dolls at all. Very nice articles and craft projects.

  45. For young children, we liked the National Wildlife Federation, Your Big Backyard and Ranger Rick. Excellent for learning skills such as beginning reading and problem solving. There is also Wild Animal Baby. My children enjoy Highlights and National Geographic Kids. Age ranges are listed for all magazines on website.

    Once a child is over 14 years old it may be more specific for what they like to do such as horses, hiking, electronics, teen magazines, etc.

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