It's six a.m. on a Saturday. The parental unit is sleeping late and you're left to forage on your own, the soft sounds of your footie pajamas taking you straight toward the cereal cabinet for greatness in a box, the all-sugar-little-added-value, strangely colored food group known as breakfast food. Oh, joy!
Heck, you worked hard for that cereal. From endless negotiations and haggling with Mom (or Dad) in the grocery aisle, looking to see what toys came with which brightly colored package on the bottom shelf, while the 'rent is busy choosing between oatmeal and Cream of Wheat on the upper shelves. Accomplices always help, and having a sibling create a distraction comes in handy when you're hiding a forbidden cereal box under that loaf of bread while grown-ups aren't looking.
Eating cereal out of a box or with candy-colored milk is a favorite childhood memory, made even more so by pairing the crunchy bits with Saturday morning cartoons. As for which cartoons – that's generational – ranging from the sparse options of the '60s (rabbit-ear channels 2, 8, 11, 13, 26 and 39) to Springsteen's "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)" in the '90s to the cornucopia of cable and streaming options available today. Be it Jetsons, Scooby-Doo or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it's all good, and it all goes with cereal.
Which cereal was your favorite? It's a divisive issue, with strong opinions all around, but we're putting it out there: the ten best childhood cereals, counting down to the top spot, complete with cheesy commercials.
Hey, Mikey, we like Life cereal, but this one ranks No. 10 because of its confusing copy-writing. We never understood why the brothers would test-drive the cereal with the little guy, when they've just stated that he'll "eat anything." Fun fact: All three child actors were brothers, and John Gilchrist (who played Mikey) was once the victim of a very untrue urban legend that claimed his stomach blew up after he ate Pop Rocks and soda.
9. Quisp and Quake
Released at the same time, these twin-formula cereals were designed to compete with each other, with Quisp coming from outer space and Quake being the power cereal from inner space. In the end, Quisp triumphed and Quake went away, only to be resurrected (briefly) as Quangaroos, which also was bested by Quisp.
8. Monster Cereals
General Mills hit it out of the park with its monster-themed breakfast cereals, beginning with Count Chocula and Franken Berry in 1971, though the latter reportedly had an indigestible pigment that had undesirable results. The monster factory kept on keeping on, with Boo-Berry in 1973, followed by the short-lived Fruit Brute in 1974 and Fruity Yummy Mummy in 1987. In recent years, we've seen a seasonal resurrection of all five Monster Cereals, turning teeth and milk a lovely shade of blue.
While this one has the least amount of sugar in the bunch, Cheerios have long been a favorite. They're wholesome "o"-shaped circles of goodness, and even Bullwinkle was brought in to help hawk them in the early '60s. But this commercial featuring an interracial family generated such a strong racist backlash on YouTube that the comments section had to be closed. On the plus side, and proving that the world isn't all bad, when the same family appeared in a new ad during Super Bowl XLVIII, it resulted in millions of views on YouTube and accolades for its diversity.
6. Rice Krispies
Snap, crackle and pop. It's not just the sound your cereal makes when you add milk; it's also a trio of cartoon elves! This crisped rice cereal has spawned a few iterations, including Cocoa Krispies, Frosted Rice Krispies and Strawberry Pops, plus chocolate and vanilla flavors. But our favorite memory here is of the miracle that occurs by blending melted marshmallows and butter with the cereal to form a hardened, sugary treat that's fun to make and eat.
5. Trix Cereal
Yeah, we know they're for kids. and it seems as if we've spent decades trying to "trick the silly rabbit." We've watched Trix change from spheres to fruit shapes and back to spheres again, but the saddest part was when the fruit bits were downgraded from six colors to just four. Apparently, when General Mills vowed to stop using artificial colors, it had to nix the blue and green in Trix.
4. Frosted Flakes
Hey, Tony! We all know Frosted Flakes are grrrrrreat, 'cuz Tony the Tiger tells us so, but check out this blast from the past with a circa 1987 Jerry O'Connell, who came into the spotlight after appearing in the Rob Reiner-directed film Stand by Me, based on the Stephen King novel.
3. Froot Loops
It's a pretty safe bet that the ingredients don't actually contain fruit if they're spelling it "froot," but what's not to love about the colorful, treasure-hunting Toucan Sam? The commercial does boast natural orange, lemon and cherry flavors, putting this one in the No. 3 spot.
2. Cocoa Puffs
We're cuckoo for this chocolate-flavored puffed grain breakfast cereal, similar to Kix. With its spokesbird Sonny the Cuckoo Bird, this cereal has stood the test of time, and is currently being reformulated by General Mills to reduce the number of grams of sugar per serving.
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1. Cap'n Crunch (original)
We're purists, sticking to the original Cap'n Crunch for the No. 1 spot, and it tastes just fine right out of the box, thank you very much. If you needed any further proof that it's the all-time best cereal for children (or adults), then check out this long list of sequels that capitalized on its fame: Crunch Berries, Oops! All Berries, Peanut Butter, Cinnamon Crunch, Vanilly Crunch, Punch Crunch, Choco Crunch, Deep-Sea Crunch, Home Run Crunch, CoZmic Crunch, Volcano Crunch, Air Heads Berries, Choco Donuts, Polar Crunch, Chocolatey Crunch, Cinnamon Roll Crunch, Superman Crunch, Triple Crunch, and the list goes on and on and on.
Which were your favorites? Should we have included Apple Jacks, Sugar Pops, Frosted Flakes, Raisin Bran, Wheaties, Alpha Bits or Lucky Charms? Numbers one through nine are negotiable, but the Cap'n is king.