Much outrage today over the news that National Geographic Kids mailed an issue wrapped in an advertisement for Arby's, and the shocking revelation that the magazine carries a number of ads for fatty foods in general. The publishers claim that the ads bring in necessary revenue to help with the society's educational mission. Well, OK, but NG Kids' mission sometimes includes multi-page features on eye-opening topics like "Finding Nemo." Overall, it's a fine magazine, but the pop-culture tie-ins on its editorial pages are a bit too frequent for our taste, at least while we have preschoolers. And the problem with the ads isn't so much that they'll inspire obesity, but that they're simply too distracting. Small Fellow has never seen either "Shrek" or "Spongebob Squarepants," but he recognizes both characters when he sees them on licensed products, and who needs Spongebob popping up in an ad in the middle of an educational article about, say, whether a jaguar could take a puma in a fight.

(Hey, bonus Million-dollar Idea: A special issue of National Geographic dedicated to settling the question of who would whip who in the animal kingdom, styled like the NCAA tournament bracket, so in the first round, the top-seeded tiger gets to rip apart the 16th-seeded ostrich before eventually staring down a rhino in the Final Four. . .)

And we're back. FD.com's recommendation for preschool parents, especially in the NYC area, is to become members of the American Museum of Natural History, the Bronx Zoo, and/or the Metropolitan Museum. Among other benefits, membership at each institution will get you a free subscription to its magazine (links to AMNH and Bronx Zoo's monthly magazines above; no link available for the Met's quarterly Bulletin). The magazines, while not written for children, feature stunning pictures in every issue, which you can sit down and discuss with your child, while they can feel pride of ownership of "their" subscriptions. The AMNH and zoo magazines carry ads, but they're not targeted at kids and so they're easily ignored. The Met Bulletin has no ads.

July 21, 2004 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS


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