8 Childhood Cartoons That STILL Hold Up

As a kid, I loved watching Nickelodeon’s Doug. It’s a show about a sort of dweeby, imaginative pre-teen dude who is riddled with anxiety and chronic awkwardness. His world includes colorful (literally) characters like his goofy best fried Skeeter Valentine; his perpetual crush, the sweet and sporty Patty MayonNaise; his thespian, dramatic AF sister, Judy; and the nasally, leather jacket wearing bully, Roger Klotz. Given how much some of the episodes were seared into my brain because of watching them so damn much as a kid, I assumed the show would hold up, would be as fun to each as an adult as it was as a kid. I was disappointed to discover that, well, it didn’t. I mean, it was still endearing and cute, but the humor and scenarios Doug found himself in just didn’t do it for me like they used to.
You might be wondering, “Uh, obviously, because you’re not a damn child anymore.” But that’s not entirely true! There are a lot of shows that are geared toward kids or and teens that remain excellent and incredibly watchable no matter how old you are. In fact, some kids shows actually get funnier when you’re older because they contain a lot of humor or references you wouldn’t understand when you’re, say, 11-years-old. To get a better idea of what I’m talking about. Check out these eight old cartoons that still hold up, no matter how old you are.

As Told By Ginger

As Told By Ginger is one of the most underrated Nickelodeon cartoons ever. This show about a not-so-popular middle schooler who goes through the motions of love, friendship, and social hierarchy was the ultimate show for anyone who was growing up and didn't necessarily feel like they were as cool as everyone else. It was a show for the weird girls who had a weird group of friends, and felt just fine with that. I also appreciate the fact that this show touched on pretty mature issues, like depression, classism, divorce, etc. It might be early 2000s AF, but it still hits a lot of relevant topics that any young girl can appreciate.

Hey Arnold

Real talk: I'm an adult who watches at least one episode of Hey Arnold a week now, because it's still just as good--no. better--than I remember it being as a kid. Of course, kids can appreciate this show. I know I did! But there are a lot of slick references thrown in that you can only appreciate if you're a little older. Plus, even though this show is about a bunch of nine-year-olds, it manages to not feel juvenile. The fact that this show didn't sugarcoat dark elements of growing up or family life definitely helps. I mean, Helga's home life is beyond depressing, which I understood as a kid, but I definitely think it's more compelling now that I'm not, like, seven-years-old.


MTV's Daria might not have been for little kids, but it was definitely marketed to teenagers. But as someone who watched it as both a little kid and a teenager, I understand and appreciate the show even more now that I'm older. Everything about it is super '90s, from the music, to the technology, to the clothes, and more, but it still manages to feel timeless...because what's more timeless than teen angst?


There's a reason why this damn show is still so meme-friendly: It's because even when you become an older teen or adult, Spongebob and its ridiculousness sticks with you and stays hilarious. I swear, there's a new Spongebob meme every month, and it's not a bunch of 10-year-olds making 'em. It's, like, 20-year-olds popularizing things like the infamous Krussy meme. There's something about this show that continues to charm people years later. I mean, try to watch an episode of Spongebob without giggling. It's impossible.


I remember watching this show as a kid and distinctly recall my dad watching it with me. At the time I was like, "WTF, why does my dad like a kids show?" But then I got older and realize that this show's concept is actually really accessible for anyone, regardless of age, despite being about kids. I think it's because so much of the show is about playground politics that you can appreciate the humor of a lot more when you're not a little kid anymore. Also, can we talk about how their teacher, Ms. Grotke, was low key woke? She was, like, teaching about white colonizers harming the Native Americans in a way that even our teachers IRL wouldn't do. Go Recess!

The Fairly Odd Parents

Sure, most of us can agree that Fairly Odd Parents kind of started to get too over the top when the series dragged on (and when Poof was introduced...like...why?). But for the most part, Fairly Odd Parents still holds up, especially the earlier episodes. Part of the show's charm is its ability to make light of otherwise dark scenarios. I mean, let's be real: Timmy's parents are riddled with benign neglect and are barely there for him, but somehow the show turns their bumbling parenting skills into something that's kind of funny and can even feel a little relatable for those of us who grew up with constantly busy/working parents. It's zany, but the humor is pretty smart for a kid's show. Its goofiness shouldn't be mistaken for vapidness.

Total Drama Island

Before Adventure Time and Steven Universe, Cartoon Network wasn't really known for its kid-centric cartoons being particularly clever. Some of the best shows relied on a lot of gross out humor or things blowing up. But Total Drama Island helped change that a bit. It was a surprisingly clever show, especially given its premise: A spoof of the Survivor-esque reality television that dominated the 2000s. While it relies on a lot of cliche stereotypes to work, it's still pretty damn funny even if you watch it as an older teen or even as an adult.


Let's not get it twisted: Animaniacs is a really silly show. I mean, I even found it really silly when I was a kid. But this show also had some of the most clever pop culture references that you'll only really understand when you're older and more experienced. Plus, who said that silly humor has an age range?

What other shows should be on this list? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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