One of the best ways for parents to get their kids off to a good start in school and in life is to encourage them to read. Reading on a regular basis helps children improve their vocabulary, focus, and abstract thinking. It also helps them build empathy by learning to see the world through another person’s eyes.
Most of all, reading is fun. It opens up countless new worlds to the reader, both real and fictional. Parents whose children are avid readers will never need to worry about keeping them entertained as long as there are books around.
If you want your kids to read more, one of the best ways to encourage them is to give them something to read that really interests them. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to get them a magazine subscription. Because most kids don’t get a lot of mail, finding a new issue in the mailbox every month that’s all for them is thrilling. And according to Scientific American, most people enjoy reading more and retain information better when reading off a printed page, rather than a screen.
There are literally thousands of magazines written just for kids, with something for every age and interest. However, they’re not all equal in quality. Here’s a list of 15 magazines for youngsters that parents, educators, and booksellers say are the best of the bunch, with picks for preschoolers, young school-age children, teens, and tweens.
Best Magazines for Preschoolers
You don’t have to wait until your kids are adept readers to introduce them to magazines. There are several publications aimed at the very youngest children, which engage them with colorful pictures, games, and stories. These early-childhood magazines can help beginning readers develop their literacy skills and get them excited about reading at a young age.
The Canadian magazine Chirp calls itself “The See and Do, Laugh and Learn Magazine for Children Ages 3 to 6.” In its pages, young children can follow the adventures of its mascot, Chirp, a curious and lovable yellow chick in red boots who encourages them to play and use their imaginations.
Chirp’s editors work with parents and teachers to choose content and ideas that help kids learn. Each colorful, child-size issue features content beginning readers can enjoy on their own or with a little help from a parent. Read-along stories, written and illustrated by North America’s most talented authors and artists, entertain youngsters while helping them develop their reading skills. (Audio recordings of the authors reading the stories are available on the Owlkids website.) There are also silly jokes, cartoons, simple games and puzzles, and kid-friendly activities, such as crafts and recipes.
A one-year subscription to Chirp includes up to 10 issues, each centering on a specific theme. For instance, a space-themed issue from winter 2019 included a “meteor maze” puzzle, a story in pictures about Chirp’s “moon cookies,” and facts about Mars and the International Space Station. In 2019, the nonprofit Parents’ Choice awarded Chirp its Gold Award, naming it one of the highest-quality magazines for children.
With CLICK, 3- to 6-year-olds can get an early introduction to the wonders of science and nature. The magazine plays into young children’s natural curiosity about the world around them, answering such questions as, “What do animals eat?” and “What’s out in space?” with kid-friendly articles, vivid photos, comic strips, and short stories.
Each of CLICK’s nine yearly issues delves into a specific topic of interest to kids – such as dinosaurs, the ocean, or the human body – exploring it from several different angles. For instance, an issue called “Amazing Journeys” examined the migrations of different types of animals and insects, from gray whales to globe skimmer dragonflies. One piece explained how scientists follow the movements of wild animals with methods such as bands, electronic trackers, and satellite data.
Parents’ Choice awarded CLICK its Silver Honor in 2019. That’s not quite as high an honor as the Gold Award, but it signals an excellent product that entertains children while helping them develop skills and moral standards. The parenting magazine Fatherly also names CLICK one of the best magazines for kids, though it notes the content may be a little too advanced for 3-year-olds.
Children as young as 2 can take delight in LADYBUG magazine. Each colorful, glossy issue resembles a picture book, filled with stories and poems by some of the world’s top children’s authors and adorable illustrations by award-winning artists. Many stories in LADYBUG expose children to other cultures and ways of life, such as a story about a school play in Botswana and a “Breakfast Around the World” feature looking at the morning meal in locations from Norway to Vietnam.
But the content in LADYBUG isn’t limited to text and pictures. The magazine also includes songs (complete with piano music), cartoons, and kid-friendly games and activities such as cutout crafts and hidden objects searches. Regular features include “Max and Kate” stories, centering on the day-to-day life of two young children, and the adventures of “Ladybug, Muddle, & Thud,” the magazine’s cartoon mascots.
One thing you won’t find in the pages of LADYBUG is advertisements. Like all Cricket Media publications, it’s completely ad-free. A one-year subscription to this Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winning magazine includes nine issues.
Best Magazines for Primary Schoolers
Kids who can read on their own can get even more out of a magazine subscription. They can truly dive into the content, savoring stories, articles, and activities aimed at their age group. Getting a magazine of their very own each month encourages school-age children to read at home, rather than confining their reading to the classroom. With a magazine that caters to their interests, reading becomes entertainment, not just an assignment to complete.
The name ASK is an abbreviation for “Arts and Sciences for Kids.” However, according to Parents’ Choice, which gave this magazine a Gold Award in 2019, its actual content includes “just about any topic that might arouse the curiosity of young readers” ages 6 to 9. Fatherly, which names ASK one of its top pics, says the magazine is usually a little over half science content, with the rest devoted to art and history. However, the magazine makes a point of drawing connections between the two categories.
Each ad-free, 32-page issue delves into a particular topic, such as “Fantastic Feathers” or “Bionic Bodies,” with fun facts, informative articles, and hands-on activities. For instance, the issue on “What’s News?” included features on how people got their news before TV, how newspapers and sites get different kinds of stories, and how a news photographer in the early 1900s changed the way companies treat their workers. The magazine also includes lighter fare, such as cartoons, contests, and letters from readers.
ASK comes out nine times a year and is available in both print and digital formats. All subscriptions renew automatically, but the publisher, Cricket Media, says you can cancel yours at any time.
Children who have outgrown Chirp will love the kid-friendly articles, stories, and other content in its sister publication, Chickadee. Fatherly, which names Chickadee one of its top picks, describes it as a version of Reader’s Digest for 6- to 9-year-olds. Its pages offer a little bit of everything, including fiction, jokes, comics, brainteasers, fun animal facts, photos, illustrations, crafts, recipes, and hands-on science experiments – all in a package the right size for small hands.
Chickadee isn’t just for kids, but by kids as well. The magazine’s editors work with an advisory group of 6- to 9-year-olds, along with curriculum experts, to make sure its content is age-appropriate and engaging. Much of the content comes from child contributors, such as a back-to-school issue in which real children share their feelings about starting a new school, taking tests, field trips, and school lunches. Its “You Asked” column takes on questions from young readers on a variety of topics, from silly to serious. And each issue includes pages of jokes, artwork, photos, and book and movie reviews submitted by readers.
This attention to young readers’ needs earned Chickadee a Silver Honor from Parents’ Choice in 2019. A one-year subscription includes 10 issues, and you can choose whether or not to auto-renew.
One of the most important ways to save money on food is to cook your own meals – and it’s never too early to learn how. The sooner young kids start getting comfortable in the kitchen, the more prepared they’ll be to live on their own as adults. And cooking with kids can also be a way to get them more interested in different kinds of food and encourage healthier food choices.
That’s the thinking behind ChopChop, a cooking magazine for kids and their families. Developed by a group of children’s hospitals and nonprofits, this quarterly magazine is loaded with tasty, healthy, and inexpensive recipes from a wide range of world cuisines. The content is appropriate for kids from ages 2 to 12, with help as needed from their favorite adults. Each issue includes a simple recipe for the youngest cooks, such as spreading cream cheese on a cracker, plus useful info for experienced cooks, like why it’s important not to overmix pancake batter.
Along with the recipes, ChopChop contains all kinds of useful features related to food. Appetizing photos sit alongside fast facts, games and puzzles, educational features pertaining to math and kitchen science, and a “Quick Bites” column on healthy snacking. All this useful content has made ChopChop the winner of numerous awards. Besides being a top pick in Fatherly and a Gold Award-winner at Parents’ Choice, it’s endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and has been named a Publication of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.
ChopChop is available in both English and Spanish. You can choose a one-, two-, or three-year subscription, with lower costs per issue for a longer commitment. Back issues are also available for a flat fee per issue.
Many of today’s parents, and their parents too, can remember growing up with Highlights. Since 1946, this monthly magazine has been helping 6- to 12-year-olds develop the skills they’ll need in school and have fun at the same time.
The motto of Highlights is “fun with a purpose.” Each 40-page, ad-free issue is packed with features that are both educational and entertaining: stories from different world cultures, games, puzzles, riddles, science experiments, and craft projects. Regular features include Hidden Pictures puzzles and “Goofus and Gallant,” which uses good and bad examples to teach kids how to show respect for themselves and others.
A one-year subscription to Highlights includes 12 issues and comes with a 100% money-back guarantee. Highlights also publishes magazines for younger readers: Hello for babies and toddlers and High Five for preschoolers. If you subscribe to any of these publications, you can switch your subscription to any of the others at any time.
The quarterly magazine Kazoo is written for girls between the ages of 5 and 12. Its founder, magazine editor Erin Bried, created Kazoo when she couldn’t find a great magazine she and her 5-year-old daughter could read together. Bried’s Kickstarter campaign, which promised a magazine that would inspire girls to be “strong, smart, fierce and, above all, true to themselves,” became the most successful journalism campaign in crowdfunding history.
Since its 2016 launch, Kazoo has delivered on its promise. Each bright, colorful issue features stories by and about fabulous female role models, including artists, writers, chefs, activists, scientists, and explorers. In the year 2018 alone, the magazine offered profiles of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Eleanor Roosevelt, Julia Child, Dolores Huerta, Rosa Parks, and Ellen DeGeneres. Kazoo also includes kid-friendly science experiments and art projects, such as constructing a wooden catapult or balloon-powered car. And there are just-for-fun features like recipes, comics, jokes, puzzles, and games.
Through this content, Kazoo seeks to counter the social forces that turn many girls from active, inquisitive, and bold preschoolers into self-doubting adolescents. By showing girls positive examples of powerful women in male-dominated careers, from politics and art to the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math), it sparks their interest and shows them they too can be successful in these fields. Kazoo was a Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winner in both 2018 and 2019, and it’s the only kids’ magazine ever to win the National Magazine Award for General Excellence.
9. Ranger Rick
For over 50 years, Ranger Rick has inspired children with a love of nature and wildlife. Published by the National Wildlife Federation, this magazine for kids age 7 and up offers an array of nature-themed photos, stories, facts, and activities.
Each issue of Ranger Rick features several articles about specific animals, such as black bears, moose, or penguins. There are also seasonal articles that tie in animal behavior with the time of year, such as a Halloween-issue piece on how animals show fear. Vivid color photos accompany each article to bring the featured animals to life.
In the front section of the magazine, you’ll find letters from readers, along with photos and riddles about animals. Toward the back are games and puzzles such as word searches, as well as a comic strip about the adventures of Ranger Rick, the magazine’s raccoon mascot, and his animal friends. In each issue, this cartoon discusses a different problem related to wildlife preservation. This approach helps make environmental issues understandable to the youngest readers.
A one-year subscription to Ranger Rick includes 10 ad-free issues. It also comes with a digital subscription app and a collectible item for your child to enjoy.
Kids who have outgrown LADYBUG can move up to SPIDER, Cricket Media’s publication for 6- to 9-year-olds. It offers similar content written for children who are old enough to read on their own.
In the pages of SPIDER, grade-schoolers can find top-notch writing by well-known authors, spanning a variety of literary genres, such as fantasy, mystery, folktales from around the world, biographies, poetry, and nonfiction articles. Many of these pieces center on themes related to important character traits for young children to develop, such as friendship, responsibility, and communication. Like LADYBUG, SPIDER accompanies its offerings with delightful illustrations by celebrated children’s artists.
Sprinkled between the longer pieces are lighter features, such as recipes, jokes, craft activities, and reader contributions. Along the bottoms of the pages, kids can find informative and amusing comments from Spider, the magazine’s cartoon mascot, and his insect pals. The last pages of each issue are a fold-out section with cutout toys and game pieces for kids to play with.
SPIDER is a Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winner for 2019. A one-year subscription includes nine issues.
Best Magazines for Tweens & Teens
Older kids who are confident in their reading skills are ready to take on more challenging material on a wide variety of subjects. But these days, kids this age also have a lot to distract them, from TV to Facebook to online gaming. It takes a truly well-written, absorbing publication to capture and hold their attention. These five magazines are up to the challenge, with a variety of subject matter to appeal to tweens’ and teens’ particular interests.
Cricket Media’s flagship publication, CRICKET, has been publishing award-winning fiction and nonfiction since 1973. Its slogan is “the realm of imagination,” and its engaging stories, poems, artwork, and other content open up new worlds for kids ages 9 to 14.
CRICKET’s core is its literary content. In 2018 and 2019, its offerings included a folktale from Persia, a biography of the female Revolutionary War soldier Deborah Sampson, and a story about the real-life 19th-century amusement park attraction known as the “Haunted Swing.” Some longer stories appear in serial form, stretched out over multiple issues. You’ll also find poetry here by such noted writers as Langston Hughes and Charlotte Zolotow.
CRICKET never dumbs down its content for the sake of younger readers. Instead, it uses the same device as Spider: cute cartoon bugs in the margins to define potentially difficult words and explain complex concepts. And it’s all paired with stunning illustrations by leading artists.
In between these meaty pieces, CRICKET offers up lighter fare, such as puzzles and recipes. The last few pages of the magazine are devoted to readers’ writing, artwork, and book reviews. And in each issue, the characters of Cricket and the “gang” of bugs have an adventure of their own. Each year of this Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winning magazine includes nine issues.
12. Military Kids’ Life
Being the child of a U.S. service member can be tough. Military kids often move frequently from place to place throughout their childhood, so they’re constantly adjusting to new schools and neighborhoods. During deployments, they may not get to see one of their parents for months or even years at a time.
Kids in this position can find help and encouragement in the pages of Military Kids’ Life. This quarterly publication from Chameleon Kids doesn’t just help youngsters deal with the challenges of life as a military kid; it also helps them discover the benefits of their unique lifestyle.
Aimed at children ranging from 6 to 16 years old, Military Kids’ Life spans a wide variety of topics. Much of the content is particular to kids in military families. For instance, each issue includes a story about a specific military posting, an advice column dealing with problems military kids experience, and at least one interview with a military child. Interviewees talk about everything from family hiking trips to living with disabilities, often with an emphasis on the importance of resilience and giving back to society.
However, there’s also material on more mainstream subjects. Each issue features at least one article on a general-interest topic, such as fashion design, outdoor adventures, horseback riding, dog training, or women in STEM fields. The magazine also includes colorful photos, puzzles, and creative activities. With its wide variety of useful and entertaining content, Military Kids’ Life received a Silver Honor from Parents’ Choice in 2019.
Kids fascinated by science, technology, and the arts will love MUSE. In articles, photos, and illustrations, it explores the twin marvels of creativity and discovery in language appropriate for 9- to 14-year-olds.
Each issue of MUSE focuses on a specific topic, such as space, chemistry, or computer security. For instance, the sample issue on Cricket Media’s website, “Explore Earth,” includes articles on a crystal cave in Mexico, deep-sea exploration in the Mariana Trench, the liquid sea beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet, a plant that shows where diamonds are located, and the language of an isolated tribe in the Amazon.
Interspersing these features are regular sections that appear in every issue. The “Muse Mail” section offers letters from readers, some of whom can get pretty creative, writing in the persona of a housecat, a dragon, or an alien from another galaxy. “Muse News” covers science-related stories in snippet form, “Science @ Work” interviews modern scientists, “Do the Math” explores a math-related topic, and “Parallel U” chronicles the adventures of cartoon teens from an alternate universe. There’s also a contest in each issue that challenges readers to submit original stories or art on a specific theme.
MUSE is a Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winner for 2019 and is also highlighted in Fatherly. A one-year subscription includes nine ad-free issues.
For over 40 years, OWL has inspired preteens ages 9 to 13 to learn more about their world. It offers a wide variety of content on science and related topics, all in an honest and humorous style preteens can relate to. This Parents’ Choice Silver Honor-winner includes:
- Breaking news stories about new inventions and discoveries
- Interviews with notable people in STEAM fields (STEM plus art)
- Nature articles on topics from the rise of urban coyotes to the lives of spiders
- Infographics that illustrate science concepts
- Cartoons about preteen characters
- Quizzes, such as “What’s Your Back-to-School Personality?”
- Puzzles, such as mazes
- Art and photo contests
- Submissions from readers, such as tips, reviews, and advice
A one-year subscription to OWL includes 10 issues. Along with their print subscription, preteens get a subscription to the biweekly OWLconnected eMag, an email newsletter that includes news of the week, feature stories, sports, entertainment, quizzes, and more. They also get access to OWL connected, a kid-friendly daily news site.
Unlike many kids’ magazines, OWL includes some ads. However, they’re mainly for nonprofit organizations related to science or nature, such as Canada’s Girl Guides and the Invasive Species Centre.
15. Sports Illustrated Kids
Kids who love sports will love reading Sports Illustrated Kids. Launched in 1989, this spinoff of the adult publication Sports Illustrated focuses on covering sports in a way that’s educational for 8- to 14-year-olds.
Sports Illustrated Kids includes a wide variety of kid-friendly sports-related content, such as profiles of young athletes and kids’ perspectives on major sports events, all accompanied by professional photos. The magazine tends to steer clear of more controversial topics related to sports, such as performance-enhancing drugs or the national anthem protests in the NFL. Instead, articles often focus on the character-building aspects of sports, with themes such as teamwork, goal setting, and perseverance. Along with its sports coverage, Sports Illustrated Kids includes health-related content, such as nutrition tips.
Sports Illustrated Kids’ style is personal, humorous, and action-oriented. The magazine has received several awards from Parents’ Choice, most recently in 2008, and has been recognized by the Educational Press for excellence in publishing. A one-year subscription includes 10 regular-length issues and one double issue.
Magazine subscriptions make great gifts for kids. It’s often hard to figure out what to give to children, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews because they seem to have too much of everything already: toys, clothes, even books. A magazine subscription is an ideal solution that doesn’t contribute to clutter. After kids finish devouring each new issue, they can simply toss it in the recycling bin.
Another great perk of magazine subscriptions is that they’re a gift that keeps on giving. Kids can soon tire of a new toy or outfit once the novelty wears off, but a magazine will continue to delight them with each new issue that arrives. And you can give an entire year of most of the magazines listed here for the cost of a single month of many subscription box services for kids.
Best of all, a magazine subscription on a topic a child loves can help inspire a lifelong love of reading. That’s a gift that will really keep giving into adulthood and beyond.
Which of these magazines would a child in your life appreciate most? Do you have any other favorites that didn’t make this list?