One of the best parts about most people's childhoods was probably hurrying home after school to sit on the floor way too close to the TV and watch their favorite TV shows. As much as the kids of today are into technology and marathon watching their favorite TV or YouTube shows, the majority of us were the same way as kids and there is nothing like the comforting nostalgia of your favorite childhood TV shows. This particular ranking of the 26 best kids shows in TV history might not mirror everyone’s, but chances are, there are at least a handful that everyone can relate to obsessing over at some point.
Maybe you loved Salute Your Shorts because of the catchy theme song that’s probably going to be in your head for hours now. Or you might have been all about Sesame Street until it was no longer *cool* for you to watch it. No matter which of these shows touched your childhood in some way, at least one of them will bring back some vivid memories of your first marathon watch.
There are probably a lot more kids shows that I have watched in my life, but these are easily some of the best — ranked from good for a weekly watch to worthy of an after school marathon. In other words, these are ranked from good to great.
26. Hannah Montana
Hannah Montana gets a special shout-out on this list because without it, we might not have the multi-faceted star that is Miley Cyrus today. Plus, the show had a pretty unique premise of the title character literally living a double life so that she could go to school like a regular teenager and have a singing career at the same time.
25. Small Wonder
This ‘80s show may not be as familiar to some kids as Hannah Montana, but Small Wonder is another classic kids series that didn't need animation to draw in its younger viewers. It follows a family who adopts a robot designed to look like a little girl whose name is Vicki, which stands for Voice Input Child Identicant.
Not only is Arthur still good for educating kids on emotions and relationships, but it also gave us the many amazing Arthur memes of today — like that infamous fist clench. If it wasn't for this PBS show, how would any of us properly express our emotions on social media?
23. Pee-wee’s Playhouse
If you can get over Pee-wee’s general wackiness (or maybe that's why you love him), then you probably appreciated Pee-wee’s Playhouse back in the day. The show followed Pee-wee and his friends on this sketch show that followed his stage show and the HBO special, The Pee-wee Herman Show.
22. The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle And Friends
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends aired in the ‘50s and ‘60s and although that certainly makes it feel a little more dated for some kids, that doesn't make it any less influential of a kids show. As the title suggests, it was about the adventures of Rocky, a flying squirrel, and Bullwinkle, a goofy moose.
21. Batman: The Animated Series
The Batman cartoon from the '90s only aired for three years, but it was the perfect way to introduce young viewers to the Caped Crusader and all of his many enemies. Robin and Alfred were also featured on the show, though most of the characters were just a tad darker than you might find in different renditions of Batman.
Animaniacs was oofthe animated sketch show kids never knew they needed. The main characters were the Warner brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and their sister, Dot. The show also featured some other wacky characters, but the best part was probably the occasional adult humor thrown in under the radar.
19. He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe
Before Netflix premiered She-Ra and the Princesses of Power in 2018, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe introduced most of the characters from He-Man’s world. It also gave kids a new kind of supernatural superhero to look up to in the form of Prince Adam, who turns into He-Man.
Whether you watched the show or just recognize the title character, ALF is an easy classic as far as kids TV shows go. It follows ALF, an Alien Life Form, who crash lands in the suburbs and ends up living with a family to hide out from the Alien Task Force.
17. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
There have been multiple versions of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers over the years, but the ‘90s TV show might be one of the most memorable incarnations. It followed the uniformed warriors as they battled robots and big bads while trying to live secret lives as average high school kids at the same time.
16. Paw Patrol
Paw Patrol might not have hit cult status just yet, but most kids seem to love the pups who inexplicably save the day every episode. Maybe parents don't quite get why toddlers are drawn to the dogs of Paw Patrol. That doesn't mean it isn't one of the best kids shows ever, though.
Any adult who was a ‘90s kid can probably admit to loving Doug at some point. And it wasn't about teaching kids about numbers or letters. Doug was about the title character and his awkward adventures with school friends, his dog, Porkchop, and his crush, Patty Mayonnaise.
14. Even Stevens
Before Shia Labeouf made it big with Transformers, he played Louis Stevens, a seventh grader who isn't taken seriously and would rather goof around than be anything like his jock older brother or studious older sister. Even Stevens was downright hilarious at times, which set it apart from some other Disney Channel Original series.
13. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was like a rite of passage for kids. If you never watched the mild mannered cardigan-wearing host speak gently to the camera, then did you ever even watch PBS?
This one was part of ABC’s One Saturday Morning weekly animation block. It told the stories of kids who made up their own rules and, sometimes their own societies, while outside of their elementary school during recess. It also paved the way for four different movie spin-offs.
11. Hey Arnold
Hey Arnold was another classic ‘90s animated series that moved up to cult legend status years after it ended. The show was about Arnold, who lived in a boarding house with his grandparents and always seemed to see the brighter side of things. Even when it came to his bully and secret admirer, Helga.
Rugrats was one of those shows that had the right amount of adult humor sprinkled in to keep things rated G, but add a little something extra to entertain parents while their kids watched the show.
9. Clarissa Explains It All
Before Melissa Joan Hart became a household name with Sabrina the Teenage Witch, she was the star of Clarissa Explains it All. The sitcom followed Clarissa as she navigated high school, family drama, and teenage boys.
8. Reading Rainbow
Reading Rainbow was another PBS classic. The show featured reading skill lessons that kids could really use and brought on different celebrity guest readers too.
For some kids, the Goosebumps anthology series was their first real taste of horror. It was like watching Stephen King movies with a kid filter on them and the show featured a lot of present day stars when they were just starting out, including Ryan Gosling and Hayden Christensen.
6. Salute Your Shorts
It’s hard to believe that Salute Your Shorts, which was about a group of summer camp kids and their counselors, lasted just two seasons on Nickelodeon. But if you want some serious ‘90s nostalgia, I highly suggest marathon watching the entire series as soon as possible.
5. Sesame Street
There’s a reason why Sesame Street has been on for decades. The show has featured most of the same puppet characters who make it their mission to teach young viewers about letters, numbers, and everything in between. And in more recent years, the show has featured skits meant to entice parents, like that time characters from Game of Thrones showed up in costume.
4. The Magic School Bus
The original Magic School Bus was a highlight of the school day for a lot of kids back in the day. If you saw that your substitute teacher was going to rely on Ms. Frizzle to teach you about germs and how they work inside your body, you knew it was going to be a good time.
3. Boy Meets World
Most fans literally grew up watching Boy Meets World right alongside Cory Matthews. So by the time he went off to college, the most devoted viewers were old enough to understand why he and Topanga got married so young. Kind of.
2. Bill Nye The Science Guy
Whenever I walked into science class in middle school and saw that the lights were off and the TV cart was wheeled to the front center of the room, I prayed that it meant Bill Nye the Science Guy would be our teacher for the day.
1. All That
Ranking All That as the number one kids show was easy for me because of all that it offered both kids and the entertainment industry itself. It was Saturday Night Live for kids and helped launch the careers of stars like Kenan Thompson, Amanda Bynes, and Nick Cannon.
Of course, everyone's childhood is different, and it's not like I am the last word in quality children's programming. But I stand by my list. Some of my picks are timeless, like Sesame Street or Arthur, while others, like Small Wonder, might be dating me a bit. But overall, these are easily some of the best kids TV shows that were ever created.