Fine Print: Great Magazines for Kids

by Iva-Marie Palmer

Photo credit: Lisa Mckelvie, Photolibrary/Getty Images

I am what’s known in common parlance as a magazine junkie. My addiction started back in 1985 with an issue of MAD magazine that my dad brought home from the drugstore. The realization that a new issue came out each month was no small miracle to my 8-year-old self. As my crush on Alfred E. Neuman morphed into one on anyone named Corey, MAD grew into BOP and then TEEN, Seventeen, YM… Nowadays, I subscribe to an eclectic array of periodicals, and even though I read digital books, I think I’ll always opt to get my magazines in physical form.

So of course, as soon as my son was capable of sitting up, I got him a magazine subscription. We started with Ranger Rick Jr., and I quickly learned just how many periodicals there are for his age group.

All the magazines recommended here are available in both physical and digital form, but I’m a proponent of a mail subscription. The thrill of seeing their name on a mailing label gives kids a sense of ownership and makes them more interested in reading.

To help find the right magazine subscription for your kid, test-drive a few issues at your public library.

Infants and Toddlers
Yes, there are magazines for infants. These two choices are printed on heavy-duty paper with rounded corners and delivered in a staple-free format.

Hello — From the creators of Highlights, Hello is designed to engage the earliest of readers. Each issue features colorful illustrations, simple stories and songs, and activities for parents and tots to do together.

Babybug — Designed for children ages 6 months to 3 years, each issue of Babybug — from the editors of Cricket magazine — features rhymes, photos of the world from a baby’s perspective, and a new installation of Kim and Carrots, the adorable adventures of a toddler and her trusty stuffed bunny.

These mags are geared toward pre- and beginning readers. The articles may seem anything but meaty to us adults, but they’re the perfect length for a child who’s starting to learn to read.

National Geographic Little Kids — Every bimonthly issue of this magazine comes in a small, square format perfect for the 3- to 6-year-old hands it’s meant for. The bright photography and tear-out animal cards offer plenty of interactive fun.

Ranger Rick Jr. — Baby animals abound in the National Wildlife Federation’s magazine for 4- to 7-year-olds. Simple articles and great imagery help foster a love of reading in fauna-loving little ones.

High Five — Kids don’t have to wait until they’re in first grade to start their subscription to this classic mag. The High Five edition of Highlights magazine features lots of fun read-along stories and rhymes, as well as the age-appropriate puzzles and games for which the brand is famous.

School Age and Tweens
Magazines can help keep reading fun for school-age kids. If kids are bringing home a lot of homework or reading assignments that may feel like work, magazines remind them — without a huge time investment — how enjoyable reading can be.

National Geographic Kids — High quality and National Geographic go hand-in-hand. Delivered ten times a year, NGK features stories about protecting the planet’s resources as well as short pieces that teach kids about geography, adventure, wildlife, science, and their peers around the world.

Highlights — If you thought this magazine was only available at the dentist’s office, think again. Fresh and modern, the magazine offers up stories that investigate the world from a kid’s perspective, as well as science experiments, craft projects, and addictive puzzles and games.

Cricket— The venerable mag has been around for thirty-five years, publishing high-quality fiction and nonfiction. With a goal of fostering creativity in its young readers, Cricket sponsors regular contests where kids can submit their work to the magazine and be considered for publication.

MAD — A reluctant reader’s delight for more than sixty years, this magazine will get kids with a class-clown side reading. Topical humor on all things pop culture keeps the mag feeling fresh and keeps kids engaged (maybe because they feel like they’re getting away with something).

Chances are, teenagers are already dipping their toes into more grown-up fare. But literary-minded teens might be looking for something beyond celebrity gossip or sports news. These two mags are perfect for writers and readers alike.

Cicada — The teen offering from the folks behind Cricket, Cicada features poetry, art, and a nonfiction essay written by and for teens. In each of the six annual issues, editors solicit creative works on a theme. Inspired teens can submit their original pieces for consideration.

One Teen Story — One Story magazine — a Brooklyn nonprofit committed to delivering one short story each month in magazine form — now offers this option for teens. Any YA lit devotee will love the monthly stories: eleven come from known YA authors while the last is chosen in a contest for writers ages 14-19.