Science magazines for kids?
November 27, 2005 7:12 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to find a good science magazine for my 10-year old son. Any suggestions? I used to love Scientific American, but that is probably too stiff and technical, while some of the other things I've seen are too fluffy. Any non-science magazine ideas welcomed too, for him or for my 4-year old.
posted by Clyde Mnestra to Education (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Discover is probably the best option for a 10 year old. (For full disclosure, I've worked at Discover.)
posted by etc. at 7:22 PM on November 27, 2005

I say go with Scientific American. I got my first subscription when I was 10 -- concurrent with my first subscription to MAD magazine. Even if some of it is above his head, he'll grow into it, and quite quickly.

My best friend got Science News and Nature and they always seemed stiff and technical to me at the time. SA is relatively pop.
posted by xueexueg at 7:23 PM on November 27, 2005

I used to love Odyssey back in the day. Very space and science centric.

National Geographic World, now National Geographic Kids also used to be a favorite. Lots of natural science stuff there too. National Geographic by itself is pretty good too.

And Boys Life was also in my mailbox. More craft and adventure oriented, but good stuff, nevertheless.

Later on in high school, we had a subscription to Science News, although I suspect this will be a bit dry for a 10 year old.

Now I'm an ex-scout, who's becoming a scientist and enjoys photography on his days off, go figure.
posted by Mercaptan at 7:27 PM on November 27, 2005

Other options are SuperScience from Scholastic, and three titles from Carus Publishing: Odyssey, Muse and Ask. The Scholastic page is for teachers, but I linked to it because you can download a sample issue. Use the toll-free number for individual subscription info. (For full disclosure, I've worked at Scholastic.)
etc.: jinx!
posted by rob511 at 7:28 PM on November 27, 2005

You could consider Yes magazine (for 8-12 year olds). They're also apparently release one for 6-8 years olds, called Know.
posted by ykjay at 7:29 PM on November 27, 2005

I don't know your son; but generally speaking, I don't think Scientific American is too technical. If anything, I'd say it tends in the other direction. Give it a try.

When I was young, somewhere between four and ten, I remember reading some magazine about animals (Zoo-something), Highlights, and I think there was a magazine for 3-2-1 Contact. The latter had a neat factoid section, bits of which I still remember today. (Did you know the first flavor of soda was celery?)

I'd say the best option would be to encourage them to wander the periodicals in a library or bookstore and let them experiment. That's how they'll eventually find what interests them. (Although even if they only learn what doesn't interest them, you've still made progress.)
posted by cribcage at 7:58 PM on November 27, 2005

Discover and New Scientist are great options. In particular I love New Scientist because of the diversity of science they cover, including social sciences. Its UK origins will also make it interesting on an international perspective, too (I'm assuming you're US-based). Scientific American is probably going to be too dry (I love science, and love reading, but sometimes even looking at that magazine makes me drowsy.)

Some neat kids science magazines will probably already be too little, but would be worth checking out to make sure. 3-2-1 Contact might have a short life for him, or already be too easy - take a look at the library. Zoobooks is awesome, but again might be ho-hum for him by now.
posted by whatzit at 8:10 PM on November 27, 2005

surprised no-one has mentioned new scientist. is it uk-only? maybe it's available from a specialist supplier? it tends to be a bit lighter/more varied than scientific american, so is perhaps a bit more attractive to a 10 year old (on the other hand, it's probably more overtly political).
posted by andrew cooke at 8:11 PM on November 27, 2005

There is a US edition of NewScientist, $51/year. I believe it's identical to the UK edition except for a US jobs section.
posted by trevyn at 8:28 PM on November 27, 2005

Ranger Rick. As you can see, the NWF has magazines oriented towards several age groups.
posted by ilsa at 9:09 PM on November 27, 2005

If I may ask some clarification questions:

1) Does your son already show a strong interest in science? Is your primary goal to:
--a) stimulate interest?
--b) supplement his knowledge?
--c) both?

2) Are you hoping to encourage an interest that isn't as strong as you would hope?

4) How does he prefer to learn? Is he more about hands on things, more into reading, or maybe doing puzzles?
posted by dsword at 9:17 PM on November 27, 2005

I've always loved Invention & Technology, and when they started offering a free gift subscription with renewal, I sent it to my nephew. He was 10 at the time, and 6 years later my brother reports he still gobbles up each issue.
posted by Marky at 10:37 PM on November 27, 2005

So glad to see a mention of Ranger Rick! While geared more toward biology and wildlife studies than the hard sciences, it's a great magazine for kids. In fact, I still have a Ranger Rick decal on my bedroom mirror (at my parents house). When I got a bit older, my parents got me National Geographic and National Wildlife instead. Both of those were a bit over my head, but I loved going through them.

Also, I remember Zoobooks as being quite cool. Each issue was devoted to a different animal, and had great illustrations of their skeletal and muscular systems. I remember reading the elephant issue and thinking "that's how elephants work!" as though I might build one of my own.
posted by aladfar at 10:57 PM on November 27, 2005

Clyde, you must subscribe to Muse Magazine. I vividly remember loving it as a 12-ish-year-old. It's published by Smithsonian Magazine, so it's very reputable, but has a charm to it I never found elsewhere. Example: the pages are filled with doodles of Greek gods and goddesses (muses) cracking jokes about the articles.

A few articles I can remember off the top of my head: A history of the toilet and modern plumbing, a refute of the we-never-landed-on-the-moon theory, the story of the USS Maine, an understandable summary of the theory of relativity, the architectural design of an English castle, and the practical uses of prime numbers. This mag has a wide scope but presents every article in a really engaging, almost gleeful way that will mesh well with any curious child.

Muse has never been widely known, I think, so you probably won't see anyone second my recommendation. But it's absolutely worth it.

Here's a few pages from a recent issue to look over. Seriously, don't miss this one. I can't recommend it enough.
posted by Sfving at 11:04 PM on November 27, 2005

If your son is already interested in the sciences, I don't think Scientific American or Science News are too technical. Sure, they'll be challenging, but if he's interested in science, it'll be the good sort of challenging. I know I've been reading both of those magazines [which my father subscribed to] since I was his age or so. The SA articles generally include overviews of all the specific scientific principles you'll need to understand their subjects. They also cover everything from anthropology and ecology to physics and mathematics, so he'll get exposed to a lot of different stuff, in a fair amount of detail.

Muse is a pretty decent magazine [my youngest sister got it for a while, and I've read through a bunch of them], and I used to get 3-2-1 Contact and another magazine [World, or something like that] as a kid, but those sorts of magazines didn't go into great enough depth for me. I generally preferred running into occasional articles that I just didn't understand to understanding everything and wishing for more. If your son is really into science, they probably won't be enough. He'll be looking for more thorough answers, and he won't find them in magazines aimed at kids. If your son has a more casual interest in science [and you are trying to get him more interested], kids' magazines may be appropriate, although you should be aware that most won't cover much chemistry, physics, or math. Muse spends as much [more] time on historical and cultural stuff as it does on science, and is one of the higher quality kids' magazines I've seen - probably the best choice if you want a really good kids' magazine, but it does not particularly focus on science.
posted by ubersturm at 12:15 AM on November 28, 2005

Pick up a copy of both at a newsstand/bookstore/wherever and see which one he likes more. He may enjoy both. Discover is quite a bit more fluffy, but that's not always a bad thing.
posted by borkencode at 1:11 AM on November 28, 2005

Does he mostly like machines or animals? I find that some science magazines cater mostly to the biology-loving crowd and others more to technical minded people.
Although, in general, I think a ten year old boy would enjoy Discover, as suggested by multiple people above. I don't find it that fluffy, and it covers a wide range of topics.
But if he has some very specific interests, it might be too boring to read short articles on everything. And if you're planning on getting a subscription, you'll probably have it for a while, and he might outgrow the easy stuff fast.

I personally enjoyed National Geographic when I was 10. I just skipped the political bits and went straight to the animals, rocks, and travel articles. But there is nothing technical in there, no "hard science".
posted by easternblot at 5:47 AM on November 28, 2005

By the time I was 10, I resented the tone of fluffed-up science stuff "for kids." Scientific American is a good way to go, and if it's over his head, he'll catch up soon.

New Scientist is a good one if the reader isn't too concerned with the nitty-gritty of the primary research.

Would it be silly to suggest a (relatively inexpensive) student subscription to Science? There's plenty of short "news and views" type stuff in the front to grab the attention of a layman, and a lot of it goes on to give easy-to-understand explanations of the research published in the back. As the kid gets more adventurous, he can start reading the research itself. I feel like the biggest mistake made in the scientific education I was exposed to as a kid was that I was never shown any of the actual work. Like most people, I ended up just assuming that scientists were making things up as they went along, or blindly following some special textbook. To get to see the exact process used to come to scientific conclusions is a great thing.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:36 AM on November 28, 2005

is 'Popular Science' or 'Popular Mechanics' still around?
posted by Wild_Eep at 7:38 AM on November 28, 2005

I've been enjoying Make lately. Its like 'Popular Science', and like many here are saying, if its over his head, he'll catch up.
posted by tetsuo at 8:09 AM on November 28, 2005

I second 'Popular Science' - he will grow into the others if that grabs his interest/attention.
posted by jkaczor at 10:47 AM on November 28, 2005

I think "Popular Science" got very watered down since my own childhood. I used to really love Scientific American, Ranger Rick, Zoonooz (the kids' mag of the San Diego Zoo), National Geographic, Smithsonian, and even the SAMPE journal (my dad's aeronautical engineering society rag.) I told my mom I wanted to keep getting Ranger Rick long after I outgrew the article text because they had such good photography.

You can't go over a kid's head with science, especially if there are good photos; the mysterious words, jargon and equations stimulate a sense of wonder and a habit of inquisition into the unknown. It may not be a bad idea, however, to invest in a dictionary that can be available to the child while he's reading.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:16 PM on November 28, 2005

Consider Science News. It's a weekly that is this side of Scientiic Anerican on the technical jargon, but doesn't over-simplify.
posted by INFOHAZARD at 6:04 PM on November 28, 2005

Thanks for all these terrific suggestions -- they are very much appreciated. In answer to the question posed above, he already has an interest that I am simply trying to satisfy (in a way that's stimulating), and he's probably the usual mix of reading/doing, with a definite interest in puzzles.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:23 PM on November 28, 2005

I totally loved Popular Mechanics as a young geek (even more than Popular Science) and wheedled a subscription out of my parents, but last I saw it, it had really become a shadow of its former self.
posted by kindall at 1:31 PM on November 29, 2005

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