Even in the digital age, getting some old-fashioned postal mail — that isn't a bill — is exciting. (Maybe that's why we order so many things through Amazon Prime?) And even though today's kids don't even remember a time before the internet, chances are they get psyched about snail mail too — which is why a magazine subscription is such a great kid gift idea.
These magazines are designed specifically to keep kids interested (and, yep, reading) from cover to cover. They touch on topics from science to trivia to fiction, so they're sure to entertain — and you can feel good about supporting great writing and the not-yet-lost art of print publishing.
Here are the best magazines for kids these days.
1. National Geographic Kids
National Geographic Kids is designed for children ages 6 to 14. The magazine is published by the National Geographic Society and has been in publication since September 1975. With each issue, young readers enjoy a wide array of regular features, such as "Amazing Animals," "Weird but True," "Cool Inventions" and "Guinness World Records." For the younger set, there’s National Geographic Little Kids, which targets preschool children ages 3 to 6. A one-year subscription (10 issues) for either magazine costs $15.
This magazine, launched in January 1997, features nine cartoon characters known as the Muses. The articles expose kids ages 9 and up to history, science and the arts. Regular Muse content includes fun facts, a question-and-answer page and fun underlying themes such as extraterrestrial life, urban legends, pirates and so much more. A one-year subscription (nine issues) is $34.
A version of this article was originally published in May 2016.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed this award-winning nonprofit quarterly magazine for kids ages 5 to 12. ChopChop is filled with fabulous recipes, interactive games and educational food facts and is intended to inspire and teach kids to cook real food with their families. A Scholastic pick for best magazine for elementary school and preschool students, ChopChop received the 2014 Parents' Choice Gold Award and was named the James Beard 2013 Publication of the Year. A one-year subscription (four issues) is $15, and each subscription bought helps pay for a subscription for a family in need.
You likely also grew up reading Highlights magazine — either at home or just at the dentist's office. Every 40-page issue helps children explore exciting new topics, investigate cool subjects and learn about our wide world. Highlights is ideal for ages 6 to 12 and features stories, puzzles, games, riddles, science experiments and craft projects. High Five, the preschool version of Highlights, is intended for little ones ages 2 to 6. A one-year subscription (12 issues) is $40.
5. Time for Kids
Time For Kids, a division magazine of Time, brings eight pages of news and activities to children. It's available for four different age groups: The Grade K – 1 edition is theme-based for young readers; the Grade 2 edition challenges kids' critical-thinking skills; the Grades 3 – 4 edition encourages children to better understand the world; and the Grades 5 – 6 edition engages kids to become active as informed citizens. What more could you ask for? A one-year subscription (28 issues) is $30.
Next: Ranger Rick
6. Ranger Rick
Liz Rampy, a kindergarten teacher in South Carolina, says her students always enjoy Ranger Rick, a nature magazine that has been in publication since 1967(!). The award-winning magazine promotes environmental activism and is bursting with spectacular photos, fabulous stories and awesome activities. Ranger Rick appeals to children ages 7 to 12, and Ranger Rick Jr. is for kids 4 to 7. A one-year subscription (10 issues) costs $15, and all profits support the National Wildlife Federation.
Next: Stone Soup
7. Stone Soup
Founded in 1973, Stone Soup features the creative stories, poems and artwork of children from all over the world. This unique literary magazine was once referred to as "The New Yorker of the 8-to-13 set." Each 48-page issue, published by The Children's Art Foundation, also includes photos of the young contributors. A one-year subscription (six issues) is $37.
There are few things 3- to 6-year-olds love more than animals, right? Zootles presents gorgeous photos, wonderful stories and silly cartoons that nurture a child's love of wildlife (and learning). Each issue focuses on one animal group and explores its habitat, anatomy, communications and social organization. Pullout pages offer games, puzzles and easy-to-do science projects and activities. Fellow magazine Zoobies is ideal for children 0 to 3, and Zoobooks targets kids 6 to 12. A one-year subscription (six issues) is $30.
The read-aloud stories and poems in Ladybug magazine are perfect for children ages 3 to 6 (and those who are ready to move up from Babybug magazine). The award-winning periodical is written and illustrated by some of the world's best children's authors and artists. A one-year subscription (9 issues) of fantastic stories and adventures is $34.
Next: New Moon Girls
10. New Moon Girls
Girls are so much more than sugar and spice. They should be seen and heard; that's why moms and daughters alike love New Moon Girls. The advertising-free magazine skips diet tips and gossip columns in favor of content that encourages girls 8 and up to express their true voices. A one-year subscription to the paper or e-magazine (6 bimonthly issues) is $56. New Moon's safe social network lets girls connect with peers around the world for just $4.99 per month.
For nearly 40 years, Cricket has brought high-quality fiction and nonfiction stories to the mailboxes of kids who want to know more about history, science, culture and the arts. Respected founder and editor-in-chief Marianne Carus believes young readers (ages 9 to 14) will happily dive into reading with "beautifully illustrated, lively, well-written, interesting stories… with a witty tone and a sense of humor." A one-year subscription is $34.
Raising almost $175,000 on Kickstarter is nothing to sniff at, and that's how the new Kazoo magazine for girls got its wings. Creator Erin Bried, a former Condé Nast editor, got her project off the ground with the help of crowdfunding in 2016 — making Kazoo officially the most successful journalism Kickstarter campaign in history. So clearly, the world wants what Bried has envisioned for young girls everywhere: an empowering print magazine that will inspire girls from ages 5 to 10 to be smart, strong, fierce and true to themselves. A subscription to this quarterly print mag costs $50 a year in the U.S., with additional shipping charges for Canada and international orders.