The Nickelodeon UK television channel was launched on 1st September 1993. Today Nickelodeon, Nicktoons and Nick Jr. show a mixture of cartoons and live action series featuring some of the nation's best-loved children's characters including Bob the Builder, SpongeBob SquarePants, the Backyardigans, and Dora the Explorer and its popular spin-off series Go, Diego, Go!

Read on to find out more about these favourite friends . . .

SpongeBob SquarePants

Deep down in the Pacific Ocean in the city of Bikini Bottom lives a square yellow sea sponge named SpongeBob SquarePants. He lives in a pineapple with his pet snail, Gary, loves his job as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab, and has a knack for getting into trouble without really trying. When he's not getting on his cranky neighbour Squidward's nerves, he's usually smack in the middle of a comic situation with his starfish buddy, Patrick, or his thrill-seeking squirrel pal, Sandy Cheeks.

SpongeBob SquarePants was designed by marine biologist and animator Stephen Hillenburg, and airs on Nickelodeon. SpongeBob is as optimistic and earnest as a sea-dwelling sponge gets, but he can't seem to avoid getting himself - and usually everyone around him - into trouble. His sometimes nerdy but always comic antics give him wide-ranging appeal.

The Backyardigans

The Backyardigans is a 3D CGI-animated series jointly produced by the Canadian animation studio Nelvana and Nick Jr. Janice Burgess created it, with music by Evan Lurie of The Lounge Lizards and Douglas Wieselman, and the characters were designed by illustrator Dan Yaccarino. It debuted on CBS in 2004 and the third season was released in March 2008. It can be seen in the UK on Nick Jr., Nick Jr. 2 and Nick Jr. on TMF.

In every story, the Backyardigans use their imaginations to transform their backyard so they can have fun and musical adventures in places as diverse as snowy mountains, jungles, pirate ships and medieval castles! Along the way there are songs and dancing to a wide range of music genres including reggae, Motown and disco. The adventures always end just in time for one of the friends to invite the others to their house for a snack.

Janice Burgess explains that the idea for The Backyardigans came from her own experiences: 'When I was a kid I spent a lot of time playing in my backyard. It seemed like a world in itself where my friends and I could have really big adventures. When I started thinking about creating a show, I think I naturally returned to the place that held some of my happiest childhood memories as a setting for the series.'

Dora the Explorer

Dora the Explorer was created by Chris Gifford, Valerie Walsh and Eric Weiner and first aired on Nickelodeon in 1999. Dora is a bilingual heroine who lives in a computer and loves exploring with Backpack, Map and her best friend, Boots. She engages pre-schoolers in a play-along adventure, with the children solving problems to help her complete her quests.

Dora teaches children basic Spanish words and phrases, simple maths and music as well as the importance of observation and problem solving. She uses words or phrases in conversational Spanish, which children pick up as they go through the adventures with her. She's often heard saying '¡Vamonos!' meaning, 'Let's go!' and '¡Lo hicimos!' meaning, 'We did it!'

Go, Diego, Go!

Go, Diego, Go! is a spin-off series from Dora the Explorer. It premiered in September 2005 on Nickelodeon and also airs on Nick Jr. Diego is the cousin of Dora the Explorer and, like her, he goes on adventure missions, but his always involve rescuing animals in danger. He usually hears an animal's cry for help and with help from his friends, gadgets and child readers/viewers, he sets out to rescue them.

Diego teaches pre-schoolers to use observation skills and introduces them to both high-tech and low-tech tools like magnifying glasses, binoculars, cameras and computers, which he uses both to help animals and to record information about them. Diego also uses simple Spanish words and phrases, which children pick up as he goes through his missions.

Creators Chris Gifford and Valerie Walsh ensure the storylines introduce children to all aspects of an animal's appearance, nature and habitat. They say: 'I think kids are intrigued about what they have in common with animals as well as ways in which they are different. Also, kids like to learn unusual facts and love knowing things that their parents or friends don't know!'