Things You Probably Didn’t Know about National Geographic Kids

I mentioned a while ago that I’m working as a National Geographic Kids Insider. I may not have talked that much about what that means.


I signed on to work with National Geographic Kids as a sort of unpaid ambassador for several reasons:

1. I have been in love with their magazine for as long as I can remember.

2. I love science. (Former science teacher here that thinks we can do a much better job as getting kids interested in the world around them).

3. They are a non-profit organization. Seriously. I didn’t know that until I started working with them.

4. The photos. Need I say more?

In my role as an Insider, I actually, for once, feel like an insider. Not only are they generous with their kids books for me to review or simply enjoy, but they also set us up with amazing conference calls with people like professional photographers for National Geographic, experts on wild cats, and even a veterinarian to teach us “how to speak dog.”

While I haven’t been able to join every call, I had a chance to chat with Rachel Buchholz, editor of both National Geographic Kids and Little Kids. It’s not every day you get to speak to a magazine editor so I came armed with questions and left with plenty of answers.

What goes into planning out a magazine?

If you’ve worked in any type of field that requires content planning, you’ll know some thought has to go into it. But when you’re dealing with print and the scope of a whole magazine, Rachel tells us you usually plan 12 months in advance. Yes, the content for all of 2014 has already been mapped out.

What type of content do readers like best?

Considering the “readers” aren’t always readers, the visual stuff is important. And in case you didn’t know, KIDS LOVE ANIMALS (more on this). But one of the most popular features of the magazine is the “Weird But True” section, which Evan and I happen to love. Our latest discovery? The Albanian language has 27 words for different kinds of mustaches.

Albanian mustaches

Which led me to my next question…

How true are the “Weird But True” facts?

And I jokingly asked if they verified everything on Wikipedia. Because we know that’s always true. Surprisingly, they sometimes start on Wikipedia because a lot of the information is footnoted and sourced and it gives them a starting point for fact-checking. Actually, each fact is verified by three sources with one of them usually being an expert in a relevant field.

What’s the secret formula for a good cover?

Yes, it is a secret formula that I am about to reveal to you… MAKE IT KID FRIENDLY!

Smiling Orcas

But how, exactly, do you make it kid-friendly? You usually show animals, usually full body images, and usually something that will evoke an emotional response. And that response shouldn’t be fear. They shy away from scary animals, or at least animals making scary or predatory.

Lynx, baby!

So what gives? The latest issue has gems on the cover!

Yes! Don’t you love it? It was a risk but they decided to try a departure from animals and try something different. It was colorful and fun AND my son loved it because he loves all things rocks and gemstones. One of the other Insiders said that her daughter was carrying it around everywhere telling people all about their birthstone!


All secrets, the best part of National Geographic Kids magazine for me is that once a month Evan gets excited to get mail and we have guaranteed nightly reading for at least 2 nights (we go through it quickly!).

What’s your favorite kids magazine?

  • GW

    That GEMS front cover has stirred some online debate:

    • FadraN

      Thanks for sharing the link. I can totally see where the author is coming from, although I’m not sure that the author has kids. My son is a huge fan of geology and he loves gems so it was fun for him to get a mix of facts and folklore.

      Also, what I love about NatGeo for both kids and adults is that it’s not a SCIENCE TEXTBOOK. It’s about the natural, cultural world around us. And as a mom, I can tell you that we loved reading the article.

      • Gina Vercesi

        The gems and minerals room at the Museum of Natural History in the city is one of my girls’ favorites. And it’s right next door to the room with the meteors. Fascinating stuff.