A gift for the imagination


Last updated 12/12/2023 at 10:01am

Photo by TL Brown

What if kids could read and focus? Hey, it happens! Magazines for kids, youth, and children of all ages bring them inspiration and knowledge.

Reading on paper helps people develop a level of sustained concentration-a skill that comes with fringe benefits for the brain. Undistracted readers develop the ability to think deeply and with focus, enlivening their imaginations.

This process gets interrupted by digital news, social media, and video games. More info is available in Nicholas Carr's "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains" and Gloria Mark's "Attention Span."

To encourage the kids in your life to develop reading skills, focus, and imagination, consider a magazine subscription. A good magazine is fun and interesting, not just educational-something a kid can look forward to receiving all year round.

If you're ordering holiday presents a bit late, some of the publishers below offer gift announcements and add-on, quick-ship issues. You can always print up the magazine's logo and make a homemade gift certificate explaining to the kid that they will be soon receive this magazine in the mail.


I remember Cricket from my dentist's office waiting room back in the '80s. Poring over the stories and illustrations, I fantasized that I might someday write for magazines. (Bucket list item successfully checked!)

Appropriate for kids and youth ages 9–14, this classic magazine has won the Parents' Choice Gold Award. Cricket has been going strong since 1973, publishing fiction, nonfiction, and entertaining commentary by a cast of bug characters. It contains no advertising.

Cricket Media also publishes other magazines with various subject areas, for different age groups. Ladybug is great for preschoolers. Faces introduces kids to a different culture each month, with stories of daily life, folk tales and traditions of many people and places.

The publisher provides an option to add an immediate gift issue to a subscription; gift announcement instructions are also on their website. See cricketmedia.com or call 1-800-821-0115.

Stone Soup

Got a budding young writer or artist on your hands? Inspire them with the nonprofit literary magazine, founded in 1973 (a good year for kids' magazines, apparently), that is 100 percent written and illustrated by kids. Publishing a print magazine and a blog, Stone Soup runs poetry, fiction, essays, and artwork along with book reviews, a poetry podcast, travelogues, and responses to current events-all by kids and youth under 14.

This isn't just "cute" stuff you might see submitted to some magazines. Much of the work is of notably high quality. The Stone Soup nonprofit also publishes novels and poetry collections by young writers, and runs an annual book contest. More at stonesoup.com.


Prefer a magazine founded in this century? Look no further than Anorak. As one might guess from the title, it's a contemporary, hipsterish re-envisioning of the children's magazine. Nice design, cool illustrated covers, distinctive look and feel.

The publisher calls it "the Happy Mag for Kids," published quarterly. Stories, games, activities, and lots of illustrations aim to entertain and inspire creativity in kids aged 6 and up. For the younger ones, there's Dot. The magazines are printed on recycling paper using vegetable ink. Visit anorakmagazine.com for more.


Speaking of hipster youth magazines, Illustoria looks like something that would come out of Portlandia. Or Brooklynia. It features illustrations by talented artists like Carson Ellis (The Decemberists, "Wildwood Chronicles") and is distributed by McSweeney's. It is lauded by important East Coast media and refers to its retail outlets as "stockists" (none of which is located in Central Oregon). I've never read a copy myself, as it costs a whopping $16 per issue. Learn more at illustoria.com.


Back to the classics: this one has been around since 1946. Highlights magazine combines lighthearted stories and fun activities with more serious opportunities for learning.

Highlights can absorb the interest of kids in a wide age range. While a 6-year-old might not fully understand the subtleties of social interaction explored by the recurring character Arizona, by age 10 or 12 they'll enjoy it immensely-even if they've outgrown some of the magazine's cuter, younger activities.

Preschoolers and kindergartners can get started with a subscription to the publisher's High Five magazine, while tiny ones and their caregivers can read Hello magazine together. See highlights.com; use code MERRY30 for discount.

Ranger Rick

Kids are drawn to nature and animals, when given the chance. In a world where people spend so much time inside and on screens, good ol' Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick Jr. provide a bridge between the real natural world and the indoor lifestyle. Anthropomorphic cartoon animals amuse with quests and adventures; articles and nature photography inform and entertain. Published by the National Wildlife Federation, these titles are available at rangerrick.org/magazines.


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