Need a Pick-Me-Up? Here Are 5 Childhood Favorites I Turn To for a Nostalgic Boost

nostalgic childhood media like Zach and Cody, the Incredibles, The Giving Tree, Matilda, and Club Penguin

Whenever I’m going through a rough patch and in need of a pick-me-up, my preferred treat of choice comes in the form of nostalgic media consumption. The next time you turn to your TV or laptop to feel better after a difficult conversation or tough day at work, I encourage you to check out one of your old childhood favorites. 

There’s something so uncomplicated and joyful about children’s and YA books, TV shows, and movies. They almost always get tied up with a bow at the end, which makes for a gratifying viewing experience — especially when my own life can feel messy and unresolved. Plus, sometimes a trip down memory lane can be exactly what I need to raise my spirits! See below for my go-to’s. 

“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein

Starting off strong with a tearjerker about a tree that sacrifices everything it has to make a little boy happy. I loved this book as a child, and it takes on an even deeper meaning as an adult. Shel Silverstein is an author I go back to whenever I’m in my feels and need to sit with my emotions for a bit. 

You can interpret this book in so many ways — as representing parent/child relationships, friendship, the environment… the list goes on. The simple black and white illustrations allow your imagination to run wild and apply whatever meaning and mental images best suit your experience at the time you’re reading it. For me, I always tend to read it through the lens of gratitude for my relationship with my parents, bringing on the waterworks by the time I get to the last page. 

“The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”

My roommates and I started re-watching “Suite Life” in the thick of quarantine, and we were shocked at how often we laughed out loud. The show, which follows two polar-opposite, mischievous twin boys living in a swanky Boston hotel with their single mom, was funny when we were kids, but certain characters and jokes struck us differently as adults. 

Not to mention, some of the storylines are pretty sophisticated, even for a Disney show. I was surprised at how often I would relate to a Maddie or London storyline, even as a 25-year-old. Their friendship struggles and dating mishaps are relatable no matter what age you are. Some nights, we’d be so absorbed in the show that we’d watch four or five episodes in a row without even realizing it. 10/10 recommend for some lighthearted, feel-good laughs and easy watching. 

PS, the Halloween episode is actually pretty spooky, even as an adult. 

Anything written by Roald Dahl

The Roald Dahl universe is fantastic to revisit because it’s so expansive. “Matilda,” “The BFG,” “The Witches,” “The Twits,” “James and the Giant Peach” … the list goes on! They are all such clever stories with amazing life lessons and quotes that apply whether you’re a young preteen or well into adulthood. I actually have a magnet on my fridge with this quote from “The Twits”: “If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” If I’m ever in a reading slump, I know picking up a Road Dahl title will give me a boost and help me remember why I love reading so much. 

Early 2000s Pixar movies

Similar to “Suite Life,” Pixar has sophisticated storylines and character development for kids’ movies, and they’re overall great films, regardless of your age. For example, “Tangled,” Pixar’s modern take on Rapunzel, is my comfort movie. Whenever I’m in a drab mood, I know watching the palace horse, Maximus, will give me an instant serotonin boost. The music, bright colors, and captivating storyline help me forget whatever’s getting me down at the moment. 

I’ve watched classic Pixar movies so many times as a kid, so it’s also comforting to rewatch them while I’m doing other things. I know I’ve had “The Incredibles” on during many a weekend cleaning sesh, just for some background noise.  

Gaming sites like Webkinz, Neopets, Club Penguin

I was a total Internet Kid growing up and used to love finding new websites to waste time on. Though my online gaming days have since ended, it’s still fun to take a trip down memory lane and re-acquaint myself with websites I loved as a kid, like Club Penguin or Neopets. Even clicking around on Google Images or YouTube brings back a flood of memories like the Pizzatron 3000 game on Club Penguin or the full Neopets roster. 

A favorite rainy day activity of mine is to call up my childhood best friend and reminisce about our middle school days when we’d call each other up after finishing our homework to play games on Webkinz together.

I’ve grown to appreciate these books, shows/movies, and games in a different way as an adult. What used to just be a means of passing the time has become a way to reconnect with my younger self and find joy in uncertain moments. 

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