in the 1970's weren't told to wear seat belts, let alone have their own
special car seats. Quite a few seventies vehicles did come with seat
belts fitted, but state laws didn't require you to use them until the
1980's or even the 90's.
2. Toy safety standards were a bit lacking.
classic 1970's toy, "Creepy Crawlers," allowed kids to mold their own
spiders and bugs out of plastic while inhaling potentially deadly toxic
fumes and burning themselves on an electric-powered hot-plate that
reached 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The Easybake Oven has come in for a lot
of criticism lately, but it's totally safe in comparison. Creepy
Crawlers were banned in the late 70's.
3. Secondhand smoke was everywhere.
From airplanes to the
family car, the world of the 70's was a haze of cigarette smoke. It
wasn’t just the fact that many more people smoked, it was the way
smoking was 100% fine in any enclosed space, no matter who else was
4. Kids were targeted by cigarette firms.
The kid's expression in this 1970 ad says it all. "Dad looks so cool with his giant cigar!"
5. Sunblock was a rarity.
in the 70's, peeling skin was a totally normal accompaniment to arriving
back at school after the summer vacation. The idea of using sun
protection--even for tiny kids or a long day on the beach--was a total
novelty, and sun creams marketed for kids were usually around the SPF 4
6. Parents did NOT watch their kids all the time.
kids could play out of sight for hours, and parents often delegated the
task of watching toddlers to not-much-older siblings.
7. Kids rode in the flatbeds of pickups.
No seatbelts or seats, obv. Or windows, or roof. Sitting up on the tailgate of a moving pickup was just for older kids, though.
8. Lawn darts were a popular toy.
Possibly the most famous
dangerous kid's toys ever, lawn darts caused over 6,000 emergency
hospital visits and three children's deaths before they were banned in
9. Helmets were for losers.
protection just wasn't a thing, whether you were riding a bike, roller
skating, or skateboarding. If you'd worn a helmet while out riding your
bike (unsupervised, naturally), everyone would have simply thought there
was something wrong with you.
10. Playgrounds were more "adventurous."
Exposed nails and splinters
were the norm in many local playgrounds, and metal climbing frames
encouraged kids to climb 20 feet into the air above gravel or asphalt.
(There was none of the soft rubber or wood chips that breaks the falls
of today's kids.)
11. Kids got to do themselves serious damage.
in the day it was normal to have at least one friend in a plaster cast
at all times. This was considered a fun opportunity to cover the cast
with graffiti, rather than a sign of negligent parenting. Concussions
and stitches were also a regular part of every childhood. Fun times!
12. The cargo areas of station wagons were treated as free form play areas.
not only were kids driven around without seat belts or car seats, they
were also plopped into the back of station wagons with no seats to speak
of at all, and left to run free in the wide open spaces--or to get
slung from side to side of the car, depending on how fast Dad took the
bends in the road.
13. Ideas about healthy foods for kids were totally misguided.
were fed ice cream on the regular as a healthy source of calcium, and
all elementary-age schoolkids drank soda like it was water. Admittedly
kids today *still* get fed soda and ice cream, but nowadays most parents
have an inkling that it's not the greatest idea.
14. Lead paint was still used on toys.
paint was only banned for toys in 1977, which is fine because kids
NEVER put toys into their mouths and chew on them, right? Right?? Lead
paint also tastes sweet which meant that kids couldn't get enough of the
stuff. It was eventually banned because can cause stunted growth,
kidney damage, and delayed development, not to mention death.
15. Kids had more opportunity to do illicit things...
...like smoking cigarettes, considered the pinnacle of cool adults activities by 1970s tweens.
16. Kids ran wild!
climbing trees, scaling fences, exploring the woods, and jumping
streams were typical childhood activities, all without a parent in
sight. The adults would have no idea if you'd fallen and broken your
neck, or given yourself tetanus on a rusty nail.
17. Older kids were child minders for younger kids.
led to kids in scenarios like the above photo, in which a 5-year-old
takes his one-year-old kid brother for a helmet-less, seatless bike ride
around the neighborhood.
18. Kids were encouraged to hitchhike.
remember this privilege was usually reserved for older kids - say, 9
years old and up. If you were really lucky you'd get to ride in the
flatbed of a pickup ;)
19. "Stranger Danger" hadn't been invented.
Mom would look on and smile as you accepted unwrapped candy from a stranger at the store.
20. Choking hazards filled your toy box.
the 1970's you could buy this Battlestar Galactica toy, which was the
reason for mandating the choking warning you now see on kids' toys with a
piece smaller than a beach ball. The Battlestar Galactica Viper had a
firing missile, which a 4-year-old tragically shot in his mouth and
choked to death in 1978. Mattel (the makers) were sued and the choking
hazard warning came to pass.
21. The middle seat in front seemed a safe place for kids to ride.
a 70's kid, the middle seat in the front was OBVIOUSLY the best seat
because then you could control the five available radio stations,
completely unrestrained except for mom's arm which would automatically
swing out whenever she had to stop suddenly.
22. Pregnant moms smoked and drank.
It still happens now,
everyone will judge you to be crazy and irresponsible. But back in the
1970's it was totally normal and accepted to smoke and drink alcohol
throughout one's pregnancy.
23. "Latchkey kids" were everywhere.
the rise of divorce and single-parent families, kids as young as 7 were
given their own house keys and told to let themselves into the house
after school or stay home alone during vacations while their parents
worked. This would often entail preparing food and trying not to fight
with your siblings or set the house on fire.
24. Playdates were usually adult-free too.
So you could break a leg at your BFF's house without his mom and dad noticing either.
25. 1970's kids got to play with fireworks.
Explosions. What could go wrong? Some of the more popular fireworks
with 1970's kids were firecrackers, bottle rockets, smoke bombs, ground
flowers, and roman candles. These types of fireworks mostly exploded
close to the ground produced but they were still capable of doing some
26. Cooking unsupervised was a normal part of being a kid.
you were old enough to be a latchkey kid, you were probably old enough
to heat up food on the stove before mom or dad got home.
27. Kids had their own secret spaces where they'd vanish for hours.
As a kid in the '70's and
'80's, it was a special kind of fun to find or build your own secret
hideout. It might be an abandoned building, or a dubiously-constructed
treehouse built in the nearby woods. Either way, it was somewhere you'd
hang out for hours without any parents having the faintest clue where
These items listed above could also apply to children of the forties, fifties and sixties.