13 Things Parents Did in the '90s That We'd Never Do Today
As every millennial can attest, parents in the '90s were built differently. The way they operated on a day-to-day basis was totally different from how the average parent in the 2020s functions. Gentle parenting, who? Never heard of him.
That said, we all survived, and '90s parents weren't wrong about everything. Most of these 13 parenting practices from the '90s are pretty dated, but there are a few we'd like to bring back.
13. Let Kids Play on Rusty Playground Equipment
Rusty swing set that's broken on one side? Big deal. Improvise. Metal slide that gets hot enough to fry an egg on? Slide down on parchment paper. Problem solved. Playgrounds in the '90s weren't as safety-centered. There were no springy, rubberized surfaces there to break your fall. At best, you got wood chips. The bigger difference is in how cautious parents were.
They assumed that getting hurt was par for the course and let kids test their limits. If they broke their arm, they found the limit. NBD. We're glad playgrounds are less likely to result in splinters and second-degree burns now, but there's something to like about the '90s laissez-faire attitude toward play. We had bruises, but we also had grit.
12. Let Kids Roam the Neighborhood Unsupervised
While parents in the '90s were more cautious about letting kids run around unsupervised, if you lived on a cul-de-sac or knew all the neighbors, it was still acceptable for kids to wander from yard to yard without an adult in tow. Today, seeing a group of 8-year-olds walking around alone would certainly raise eyebrows.
We know too much about what could happen to take the risk. That said, playing outside unsupervised helped us build common sense. We got ourselves into minor trouble from time to time, and we usually got out of it on our own.
11. Let Kids Run Around Barefoot
As you've probably gathered already, parents in the '90s didn't worry nearly as much about safety. They didn't know about how bad it is to microwave plastic, but they also weren't as worried about germs and minor injuries.
They wouldn't send us out to play shoeless in an industrial park, but climbing trees in the backyard was totally fair game.
10. Took Kids to the Library to Help Them With Homework
We have to hand it to '90s parents on this one: We'd have a breakdown if we had to do this. Before there was such an abundance of information on the internet, every assignment required a trip to the library.
Even worse, we totally waited to ask them until the night before a project was due, and they usually took us anyway.
9. Went on Road Trips With No Tablets
Respect. In the 1990s, road trips did not come with tablets. There were no smartphones or iPads to give parents a break from the sibling fight happening in the backseat or the constant stream of, "Are we theeere yeeeet?"
By the 2000s, the luckiest kids got to ride in a minivan with a DVD player in it. Still, we were mostly stuck entertaining ourselves. Looking out the window, playing Go Fish, drawing, putting the word "butt" in every MadLib. If you didn't make up a secret language at least once, what were you even doing? Screen-free road trips definitely helped us exercise our imaginations. If you can keep the screens off for an entire cross-country trip today, you win the willpower award of the year.
8. Convinced Kids Swimming Right After Lunch Could Hurt Them
Why did they tell us this? Why? Our parents seemed to be convinced that jumping in the water less than 30 minutes after eating was seriously dangerous. It wasn't. Their misguided belief was that when you ate, more blood was diverted to your digestive system instead of your limbs. Therefore, you'd fatigue faster and might be more likely to drown — except that's complete nonsense.
It might not be comfortable to swim on a full stomach, but the worst that'll happen is getting some unpleasant stomach cramping. That's it. Relax. You didn't have to make us all think we were going to die if we didn't wait long enough. Sitting too close to the TV didn't make us go blind, either.
7. Considered Ice Pops as a Healthy Snack
In 1999, if your mom made popsicles with real fruit, they were considered health nut hippies. Eating frozen high fructose corn syrup with red or blue dye out of a plastic tube that would slice the corners of your mouth if you weren't careful? That was totally normal.
Gushers, Lunchables and Capri Suns were considered to be a balanced meal.
6. Let Kids Loose on the Internet
Parents in the 1990s fell into one of two categories: those who thought the internet was a deathtrap and those who thought it was no big deal. Most of us ended up chatting with strangers in chatrooms without them knowing.
We definitely encountered things we shouldn't have, but it wasn't nearly as risky back then as it is now. Let your kid loose on the internet today, and you might end up with a pile of unexpected Amazon packages, a kid who knows what "three girls one cup" is and strangers who know your home address.
5. Let Kids Play With Toy Guns
Some '90s parents had mixed feelings about this one, but plenty of them were still cool with kids pretending to be cops and robbers, complete with toy guns. To be fair, gun violence in schools was still uncommon at the time. Now, it hits way too close to home.
Parents today are usually OK with Nerf guns and water guns, but most of us are not OK with games that involve pretending to kill each other. To older generations, that might seem overly sensitive, but older generations also didn't have to worry about their kids coming home safely from kindergarten.
4. Let Kids Ride in the Front Seat
Back in the '90s, parents were starting to be more attentive to safety regulations, but there was no "rear-facing car seats until age 2" guideline. There was no hard and fast rule for riding shotgun either.
If the backseat was full, most parents would let you hop up front. Sitting in the bed of a pickup truck from time to time wasn't out of the question, either.
3. Left Kids in the Car
Parents in the '90s wouldn't bat an eye at seeing a kid waiting in the car in front of the grocery store. What's the big deal? The doors are locked, right? Today, that could easily earn you a visit from Child Protective Services or, worse, a child endangerment charge.
Every state has different laws, but most of them have an age requirement and a time limit for kids to wait in the car. Considering it doesn't take very long for a kid to develop heatstroke in a hot car, plus the uptick in human trafficking cases, we're glad people are more cautious now.
2. Hired 12-Year-Olds as Babysitters
Have you ever met a 12-year-old? Just in case you haven't, you can probably spot one in the wild, recklessly racing through an intersection on an e-bike with no helmet. That's what plenty of unsupervised 12-year-olds are up to today. They didn't have much better judgment in 1995, but parents had no problem entrusting preteens with younger children.
Older siblings often started watching toddlers before they turned 13, and if there were younger kids in your neighborhood, babysitting was the ideal first job. In hindsight, we were barely mature enough to supervise ourselves.
1. Went Out Without Cellphones
The 13-year-old neighbor kid from down the road just showed up to watch your preschoolers for the night. You grab your purse and head out for date night. The catcher? Your underaged sitter has no way of contacting you if something goes wrong. The house could burn down, and you wouldn't have a clue because you didn't have a cellphone.
Parents in the '90s went out all the time without phones. They'd leave the kids at Grandma's for a long weekend away, and their only point of contact was the hotel they were staying at. If they were anywhere other than home or work, they were unreachable. Now, not being able to check on your kids or give the sitter an update on your ETA would be unsettling to some, but there's also something refreshing about that sense of freedom.