Proof That Parenting Was WAY Different Back In The Day

By Psquared - April 22, 2019

Being a parent is stressful. Besides having to spend all the time teaching and raising your children to ensure they grow up to be upstanding and wholesome individuals, you also have to ensure that they survive. It seems like common sense, but there are all sorts of rules you have to follow. Infants have to sleep a very certain way, they need to get their shots in a timely order (despite what anti-vaxxers might have you believe) and you need to baby proof your entire home.

As their parent, you’re incredibly concerned with their safety and won’t let them do anything that could possibly harm them… at least, these days. It seems like back in the day, parents were way more chill about the safety of their children. They obviously still cared for them, but they seemed to be less concerned about things that could harm them. If you don’t believe us, we’ve collected lots of photo evidence to prove that previous generations parented way different than they do today.

Tire Racing


When you let your kids go outside to play, you assume they’re going to play sports or ride a bike.

Back in the day, one popular activity was tire racing. Please refer to the picture to see what that consisted of.

Parents were cool with this. They were like, “Oh, you want to be inside a tub of rubber and spun at high speeds down a hill and the best case scenario is you vomit everywhere? Sure. Just be home in time for supper.”

Gym Class


Some folks criticize kids these days as being too soft as a result of being needlessly coddled.

Yes, gym classes maybe shouldn’t eliminate sports for fear of hurting feelings and maybe everyone shouldn’t automatically get a participation trophy or ribbon.

But having kids climb 20 plus feet in the air may be an old tradition that we can all agree is good that doesn’t go on anymore. You may think it’s okay because they have spotters, but do you trust them to catch a football, much less a classmate?



Spoiler alert: You can tell how different parenting was done back in the day by pictures of the playgrounds.

Have you been to a playground recently? The floors are made of a soft, spongey, rubbery material that is safe to fall on.

And all the equipment is not-too-tall interlocking plastic that seems like giant LEGO pieces with no rough edges. Look at this photo of an older playground. This looks more like a boot camp basic training exercise than fun at recess.

The Swinging Maypole


Here’s an old staple of playgrounds you (thankfully) don’t ever really see anymore these days.

It’s called the swinging maypole. Essentially, it’s a bunch of chains connected to a pole that kids would run and swing around on.

And as you can see, kids could get some height. Why did they get rid of these? What could go wrong with children flying wildly above the ground loosely gripping onto a chain while slamming into each other? Sounds like harmless fun!

Swing Jumping


Here’s an activity you probably remember from your youth. It was essentially a way to make swings more extreme.

You swung as high as you possibly could and then propelled yourself, trying to fly in an arc to gain as much distance as possible.

It’s hard to imagine any parents would be cool with their offspring doing that these days, much less at any point in history. Worse yet, the swing chains back then were always rusty and pinched your fingers.

The Teeter Totter


As we look at all these pictures of old playgrounds and games, take a mental note of how many involve kids being suspended high in the air.

It’s like playground designers in the past thought kids loved being raised as babies, so they should keep that tradition and let them do it themselves.

And since kids don’t realize they’re not indestructible, they would have fun jumping off of these and learning the hard way how physics work (and hurt).

This Thing


We don’t know when this photo was taken, but we have to assume it was during the time of Roman Gladiators.

Honestly, it had to have been during an era where human life wasn’t as highly valued and this was seen as acceptable for children.

Look how tall and uneven this piece of play equipment is. Look how shaky it seems even in a still image. And all those kids are using it at once? Yeah, there’s probably a reason we don’t see this anymore.

Iron Monkey Poles


We all remember the monkey bars as kids. They were too high and made of metal, so when it rained you slipped and fell on sharp wood chips.

We thought that was ridiculous, but it turns out we may have had it incredibly easy compared to those who came before us.

These things are called monkey poles. They encouraged kids to climb up and hang off of them. Is there a crash pad underneath? Nope! They thought falls from 15 feet strengthened your bones more than milk.



Oh no! The robots have begun their rebellion and are starting to take over the world!

Actually, this was a shockingly popular playground fixture in the ’70s. It was called “Giganta” and marketed as a robot that produced fun.

These days, robots that promise fun for users have a way different look and meaning. But this creepy monstrosity was loved by children. Maybe we are making kids too soft. We’re all afraid of clowns, while kids back then saw this and thought, “Yay!”

The Toys


It wasn’t just the playgrounds that were crazy dangerous. The toys parents let their kids play with were also absurd.

When you think of what a child might want on their birthday, you think of a ball or a doll, right?

Well, before there were video games, apparently a glass blowing kit was a popular present. Sure, why not? Letting children handle super heated glass. That sounds like an excellent idea. How did that ever go out of fashion?

Power Tools


If your dad is obsessed with power tools and loves getting them as a gift on Father’s Day, that might be because he’s used to getting these as presents.

Apparently, you could get mini power tools for kids. And while you can purchase soft plastic play tools for children today, back then these were metal and they worked.

Just look at this. Who in their right mind would get a child a working circular saw? Consider yourself lucky if your dad still has all his fingers.

Rubber Band Guns


Remember in A Christmas Story how the protagonist kept getting warned that a Red Rider BB Gun would shoot his eye out?

He thought that was a silly warning since he wasn’t going to be shooting at himself or other people.

But these rubber band shooters? They’re specifically designed to fire rubber bands at your friends. Yes, let’s please encourage kids to shoot projectiles in the faces of the people they call friends. Thank goodness for the internet, which is way less sketchy somehow than this.

Atomic Energy Lab


Hm… a toy set that contains real samples of radioactive materials such as autunite, torbernite, uraninite and carnotite.

The Atomic Energy Lab sold for about $50, which today would be approx $500. That’s pretty expensive, and they only sold about 2,000 over all.

Were they pulled from the shelves due to lack of sales? Nope! Shockingly, selling actual radioactive material to children eventually raised safety concerns. Even the craziest of parents agreed that there are certain limits to being crazy.



You’d never see a beer commercial on a screen or in print that would appeal to children.

There are strict laws to make sure that kids aren’t being marketed to when it comes to alcohol. That hasn’t always been the case.

Take a look at this Heineken ad that actually brags about how young their clients are. That’s… not something you should be boasting about, booze bros. Granted, this would get your kid to sleep faster… nah, still a terrible idea.



And you thought seeing a kid in a beer ad was bad. At least you could assume they weren’t really drinking.

But back in the day, kids were allowed to smoke. It was frowned upon, but the laws were very lax.

It wasn’t uncommon to see young children holding a cigarette in their hands, expertly smoking as if they had been doing it for years. Luckily, laws these days are much more strict, and smoking overall is on the decline.

Cocaine Toothdrops


Toothaches can be intense, but what’s even more intense is how parents used to treat them in their kids.

You aren’t misreading that, and it is exactly what it seems to be. This ad from 1886 was seen all over New York.

It boasted that if you needed to numb a tooth and remove it, all you had to do was dip a cotton ball in this cocaine solution and rub it on your child’s gums. It worked…

Vintage Child Safety


Owning a car isn’t uncommon these days, but many years ago, not everyone could so easily afford such a luxury.

Sometimes all you had was a motorbike that seats two at most, but what if you had more than one kid?

Simple really: you just put the two of them in a satchel and place that satchel on the back of the bike. Problem solved. And don’t worry about helmets. If you fall, your face can just absorb the impact.

Sending Babies Through The Mail


If you thought Amazon was ridiculous with the things they’d send through the mail, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Until 1915, parents could legally send their children through the U.S. Postal Service. Same day delivery wasn’t an option yet, though.

So, if you wanted to travel but didn’t feel comfortable placing them in a satchel on the back of your motorbike, you could be responsible… and mail them instead. Yes, this is wrong… but it is temptingly convenient.

Rat Catching


You know how a lot of kids get their first paying jobs from their parents by doing chores around the house?

Young children a few centuries ago were able to make money by going out and collecting rats.

The streets were swarmed with them, so kids would earn some cash by chasing these varmints down. By the way, at this point they knew rats carried disease. But hey, they were an inconvenience and someone had to catch them, so why not innocent kids?

Baby Cages


Kids these days are always indoors playing video games and surfing the web. You can’t get them outside.

Years ago (same as today) doctors recommended fresh air and sunshine was good for children. And parents wanted them to get as possible.

That’s why Baby cages became popular in the U.K. back in the 1930s. They were cages suspended outside of windows (sometimes several stories up) you could leave your child in to get fresh air and sunshine. As much as kids are cooped up inside these days, being cooped up outside seems so much worse.