Dangerous Kids Activities in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s That We Could Never Get Away With Today

Old timey kid activities

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Old timey kid activities
Cheapism / DALL-E 3

Good Ol' Days

In previous generations, childhood cultivated a spirit of wild, unfettered freedom that is a lot less common today. "Just be home by dinner," our parents would say before we'd run off in search of the most epic adventures with our friends. Whether it was climbing trees, swimming in lakes, or sneaking onto rooftops to see the city skyline, the only limits we had were those set by waning daylight and our own imaginations. 

Before the dawn of social media and VR headsets, children were allowed to venture outside unsupervised — without the tether of cell phones — and parents were generally OK with it. 

Here are nine kids activities from the '70s, '80s, and '90s that would never work today due to concerns over safety and the implications of technology. 

Young Boy Sledging Down Hill With Family Watching

1. Road Sledding

Back in the day, it wasn't uncommon for children to use sleds or makeshift cardboard seats to slide down neighborhood streets. And the activity wasn't confined to just snowy conditions; some would even sled on grass or bare asphalt. Though the thrill was undeniable, the risks were, too — like the potential for traffic accidents — which would make such activities unthinkable in most large cities today. 

Shot of an adorable little girl playing outside

2. Rolling Down Hills in Tires

If you've seen any old timey movie ever, you know an old tire provided endless entertainment for kids as they climbed inside and rolled down hills. The thrilling activity was a test of courage and balance, but it also posed risks such as collisions with obstacles, unexpected traffic, or severe dizziness that could lead to injuries.

Happy childhood

3. Riding in the Bed of a Truck

In the '80s and '90s, it wasn't unusual to see children riding in the open beds of pickup trucks, feeling the wind in their hair as they zoomed down roads. Now the practice is largely prohibited due to the risk of injury from accidents or sudden stops. "My dad's truck didn't even have seat belts," writes one Redditor. "It was so great when he was coming home from work because he'd let all the kids on our street ride in the bed."

The user then describes how their dad would play "roller coaster" with them by "speeding up and stopping abruptly so we'd fly all over the place." Talk about a safety hazard, but we bet it was wicked fun. 

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Happy family relaxing in the park
Valerii Apetroaiei/istockphoto

4. Playing Outside After Dark

Though the general rule was to “come back when the streetlights turn on," as one Redditor points out, sometimes kids were allowed to stay out after the sun went down or when they heard their parents ushering them home. "I wouldn't come home until nearly dark when I heard my dad's whistle. So nostalgic," writes one Redditor, while another adds, "[The whistle] that meant cut all convo, get on your bike, and pedal home." Ah, good times indeed. 

Related: Nostalgia on a Plate: Old-Fashioned Cakes Our Grandparents Used to Make

Happy little boy climbing a tree

5. Climbing Trees

Is it just me, or were we all super agile (and fearless) as kids? Back in the day, scaling tall trees in parks was a common pastime. Not only was it fun, it also offered a feeling of triumph and a bird’s-eye view of the world. Though falls were just as common, scraped knees and bruised elbows were just part of the deal. While tree-climbing hasn't disappeared, it's often more regulated or discouraged in public spaces today. 

Related: 10 Things Gen Z Will Sadly Never Get To Experience

Happy children enjoying summer holidays at a lake

6. Unsupervised Lake or River Swimming

Unsupervised lake or river swimming was another summer staple for many children. Groups of kids would often bike to the nearest water spot, armed with nothing but their swimwear and maybe an inflatable tube or rope to tie onto a nearby tree. While these outings offered a taste of adventure, independence, and a welcome break from the summer heat, they'd be considered far too dangerous today. 

one each on target

7. Playing with Lawn Darts

Playing with lawn darts, or Jarts, was a common backyard activity that combined outdoor games with an element of skill and danger. Jarts was played by throwing large, metal-tipped darts through the air to land inside a target circle or ring. Often a fixture at family gatherings, picnics, and summer barbecues, the game provided entertainment for both children and adults alike. 

After numerous injuries were reported, the game was banned in the U.S. in the late 1980s. 

Children riding bicycles in dandelion field

8. Biking Without Helmets

If it seems like kids in the '70s and '80s were always biking around town without any protective gear, it's because they were. These bike rides, whether for fun or as a means of transportation to a friend's house, were an everyday part of childhood. The lack of helmets and knee pads was not seen as an oversight, but rather the norm. "[Back then,] the mode of transportation was a bike — no cell phones, no computers," writes one Redditor. "Honestly, the '70s were a great time to be a kid." 

Another writes, "In the summer, we rode our bikes for miles with no helmet and no shoes in a bathing suit. I still remember how those pointy pedals felt on my feet!!"

Play and slides
Lemon Pie/istockphoto

9. Playing on Hot Metal Slides

Playing on hot metal slides was another common (and, perhaps, daunting) experience for children — particularly during the sweltering summer months. These slides, which were typically found in community playgrounds or schoolyards, were made of metal that absorbed sunlight and became extremely hot to the touch. Kids would often dare each other to slide down them despite the heat. 

Today, playground equipment like monkey bars and slides have largely been replaced by safer, heat-resistant materials.