Though screen time for kids might not be harmful in the long run, there’s no substitute for reading off of a paper page directly. Not only is it more fun for kids to hold a real object, but most studies also show you retain more from reading from a physical page than a screen. In fact, the heft and physicality of the printed page might actually contribute to a deeper understanding of reading, too. So, for all those reasons, getting your kid a magazine subscription is not only cool, it’s intellectually responsible.
Kids can read about science, nature, and art while looking at beautiful photos of things, places, or animals they’ve never seen before and by playing games and completing activities. Like all things, some magazines are better than others. Kids magazines should be “vibrant, beautiful, interactive, and entertaining,” says Erin Bried, the founder, and editor of Kazoo magazine, one of the latest (and greatest) entries into kids publishing. “It should take its readers on a journey that starts on the first page and ends on that last page.” Below Fatherly has compiled a list of great magazine subscriptions for kids that will have your kids eagerly running to the mailbox to look for their next issue.
ChickaDee is sorta of like Reader’s Digest for kids. It offers a wide range of topics, like people and animal profiles (but sadly not people animals, like Pan), kid-friendly fiction, brain games, jokes, comics, and hot takes on topical kid stuff. And, like Reader’s Digest, they fit neatly on top of the potty.
Ages 6 to 9
National Geographic for Little Kids
From the makers of National Geographic and Nat Geo for Kids comes a kids’ magazine that’s aimed at even younger kids. And, because this comes from the explorer society that has lasted for 128 years, you can bet your lost-tribe hunting that it’s full of factual information. Best case scenario: Your preschooler runs around with a fedora saying everything “belongs in a museum!”
Ages 3 to 6
Muse is a science and arts magazine for tweens that includes stories about the hip aspects of STEM education; think pieces about ladybugs and at least one kid’s narrative from her first Burning Man. It’s kind of like training wheels for when you bust out Utne Reader, but without all the adds for Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.
Ages 9 to 14
Bazoof has the standard comics, games, and wacky stories — but it also serves up a healthy portion of information about clean living. Inside is information about nutrition, personal care, exercise, and general happiness. Think of Goop, but instead of Gwyneth Paltrow, there’s a totally-jacked alligator named Jerry that talks about blasting his quads.
Ages 8 to 12
In an effort to curb childhood obesity and hunger epidemics a group of nonprofits and children’s hospitals created a cooking magazine for kids. By addressing these young gourmets directly, the James Beard Award–winning ChopChop hopes to get kids to make healthier food choices. (And their own damn lunch for a change.)
Highlights has been printed since 1946 and it’s probably safe to say they’ve learned a thing or two about how to get kids all jazzed on reading (that’s old-timey for “excited”). Each 40-page issue has hours of activities, games, and stories that aim to fulfills its “Fun With a Purpose” motto. Also, it’s straight out of Columbus, Ohio, so you get wholesome Midwest values at no extra cost.
Ages: 6 to 12
As old as the mountains in its pages, you subscribe to Ranger Rick because it’s the longest-running children’s magazine about nature. Produced by the National Wildlife Federation since 1976, the content has a conservationist bent and makes environmental issues accessible for third graders and climate-change deniers alike.
Written exclusively for girls between the ages of 5 and 10, Kazoo is about to go from a limited indie press to bookstores and airport kiosks everywhere. Mom and long-time magazine editor Erin Bried saw the absence of worthwhile periodicals for the powerful little women-to-be. So she created a kids’ magazine that highlights badass women in STEM fields, experiments to do at home, and crafts that aren’t just throwing glitter and macaroni on construction paper.
Ages 5 to 10
Click plays into the idea that kids are explorers and researchers. Because so much is new to them, they are constantly searching for answers and information on new objects, phenomena, and animals. This magazine has nine issues per year and each issue explores a single topic in-depth. Click has an entire issue on snakes, which definitely is of interest to their demographic. In the magazine’s issue about the ocean, they interviewed ocean explorer Sylvia Earle. This magazine is truly meant to challenge your child and expand their horizon beyond just some basic animal facts. Although Click says kids as young as 3 can enjoy the magazine, it does skew a little bit older than that.
Ages: 3 to 6
New Moon Girls
It’s for girls, by girls — and if your boy wants to read it they’ll be ahead of you when it comes to understanding them. Behind the print and electronic kids’ magazine is a mission to connect with young women in their tweens and teens. The younger edition has less feminine fiction and more activities than its older counterpart. But the spirit of showing your daughter she can throw that copy of Cosmo in the trash is still strong.
Ages: 9 to 16
It’s essentially grown up news, made digestible for the young mind. It’s like The Week — co-founders Sapna Satagopan and Joanne Suen break down the week’s news (minus the coverage of horrific things like Aleppo refugees) and deliver it to your kid. They’ve opted to forego the trappings of creating an actual print publication, but it’s probably for the best. How many kids do you know that can fold a newspaper for a commute?
Ages 6 to 12
Started in 1973 in Santa Cruz, California, Stone Soup is a literary arts journal comprised entirely of stories, poems, and illustrations by kids. The Children’s Art Foundation — the nonprofit responsible for the kids’ magazine — is dedicated to encouraging childhood creativity and puts out six issues a year. And unlike you, your kid can even get paid for their submissions. (Everybody knows the New Yorker cartoon contest is rigged.)
Ages 8 to 13
SI For Kids
If sports is one of the things that you and your kid bond over, then a subscription to SI for Kids is a no-brainer. There’s a lot of hero worship in the pages, and it generally steers clear of sticky subjects like PEDs, domestic violence, and National Anthem protests. What it will do is get them up to speed in time to dominate on DraftKings for Kids (which isn’t a thing — yet).
Ages 8 to 13
This visually stunning magazine is a British export aimed for elementary-aged kids (6 to 12). It is a magazine that is worthy of collecting thanks to its beautiful design, sturdy (and recycled) paper stock, and bright, happy pages. It has plenty of engaging activities, games, and compelling storytelling, but this magazine stands out for its design — and will no doubt inspire the young artist in your house.
Ages: 6 to 12
Kids are always asking questions. “But why?” might as well be their refrain until they’re teenagers. The magazine Ask tells them why and encourages them to keep asking questions. Although each issue is 32 pages, each page packs a punch. Usually, more than half the issue is dedicated to science and the other half explores history and art. One issue explores miniature worlds while previous issues have delved into the history and mechanics of bicycles and the link between tigers and tabby cats. As a parent, you might even enjoy learning alongside your kids with Ask.
Ages: 6 to 9