Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
May 20, 2024 ·  5 min read

13 Things Parents Did in the 50s & 60s That They Could Never Do Today

Parents do everything they can to protect their children. However, we’ve learned more in recent years about health and safety. As such, many things have changed over the years when it comes to parenting. Here is a list of 13 things that parents did in the 1950s and 1960s that today, many would consider problematic.

1. Sleeping Habits

THE CZECHOSLOVAK SOCIALIST REPUBLIC - CIRCA 1970s: Retro photo shows cute baby who lies in a bed. Cute baby lies in the crib. Adorable toddler in his cot. Black and white vintage
Credit: Shutterstock

Most cribs from that time period resemble death traps. They were often made with metal bars and then covered in lead-based paints. Furthermore, there were plenty of spaces between corners where fingers and even heads could get pinched or stuck. Some had small parts that became choking hazards. The list goes on. Luckily, today there are safety regulations that must be adhered to to ensure the safety of infants and toddlers. Mothers were also encouraged to place their babies on their tummies to sleep. However, in recent years medical experts have warned that it could increase the risk of SIDS. An unexplained death occurs in infants less than a year old. As explained, experts believe stomach sleeping could impact the “portion of an infant’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep.

Read More: Parents Are Posting Their Most Epic Fails, And It’s Hilarious

2. Vehicle Safety Requirements

Major Deegan expressway seven miles outside New York City has six lanes to accommodate increasing suburban commuter traffic in 1957.
Credit: Shutterstock

Although seat belts were first invented in the late 1800s they didn’t become a legal requirement until the late 1960s. Therefore, in the ’50s and early ’60s, children rode in the front seat, in the beds of trucks, and without seat belts. They were free to roam the cabin, which ultimately led children of that time to face numerous, sometimes fatal, injuries. Additionally, helmets were available and often used in some sporting events. However, well after the 1950s and 60s, they became mandatory for safety while riding bikes and motorcycles.

3. Toys

old toy box of tin toys
Credit: Shutterstock

Similar to cribs, there were fewer safety regulations regarding toys. Meanwhile, many had small parts that posed choking or other safety hazards.

4. Disciplinary Measurements

THE CZECHOSLOVAK SOCIALIST REPUBLIC - CIRCA 1950s: Retro photo shows pupils sit at the wooden school desks in the classroom. Vintage photo of group of schoolmates in their classroom.
Credit: Shutterstock

Mental health in our country is a real problem for many reasons, but one of those is how many people were raised on tough love. Teachers in some schools were allowed to use corporal punishment to discipline or humiliate their students. Meanwhile, at home, children were spanked or backhanded and even ended up with bruises. It was often said that harsh punishment was good for character development. However, we now know that a balance between honest guidance and loving support will make all the difference in shaping happy, healthy, and kind people.

5. Disciplined Each Other’s Kids

Angry sexy retro woman shaking her finger
Credit: Shutterstock

Another difference between parents then and now is the “it takes a village” mentality. Most people nowadays don’t want anyone else to influence their children. However, it was fairly common for one friend’s parent to discipline a whole group of friends when they got in trouble together.

Read: Grandparents May Be Causing Kids Harm With Their Outdated Parenting Beliefs

6. Leaving Children Unattended

THE CZECHOSLOVAK SOCIALIST REPUBLIC - CIRCA 1970s: Vintage photo shows two small boys play in the backyard. Retro black white photography.
Credit: Shutterstock

Children of the 1950s and 60s had significantly more freedom than children now. Most of our parents or grandparents have told us stories of the joys or horrors of walking to and from school with their friends. Not only were children allowed to roam freely. They were also allowed to play outside until dark and walk to their friends’ houses unattended. However, children are rarely left unattended now because of factors like the abundance of cars on the road or even sexual predators and human traffickers.

7. Smoking

Embarrassed trio of women smoking cigarrettes and talking
Credit: Shutterstock

While we now know the endless list of health risks associated with smoking, in the 50s and 60s, people could smoke anywhere. Teachers smoked in classrooms. Passengers smoked on airplanes. Smoking was even allowed in elevators. There were no precautions taken by women who were pregnant, and most parents smoked either cigarettes or tobacco pipes in their homes. Often in the same room as their children. Interestingly, it wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s that smoking indoors in public became prohibited.

8. Dietary Habits

Vintage loving couple at home, she is wearing an apron and cooking
Credit: Shutterstock

Gelatinous casseroles, access to ample amounts of sugars, and all the artificial colors and flavors. We’ve since learned a lot about how our bodies are impacted by our foods and how natural clean ingredients are better for our overall health. In fact, many of the same products are still available but are made with higher-quality ingredients and are, in some way, more nutrient-dense.

Read More: 25 of the Funniest Kid’s Drawings Gone Horribly Wrong

9. Treatment Options

Rome, Italy – March 6, 2022: Vintage old Medicines display between 1940 and 1960s
Credit: Shutterstock

Presidents Truman and Eisenhower were both outspoken about their support of medical research. During their presidencies, more than $100 million was spent on research, healthcare acts, and other medical expenditures. Although we’ve gone in a different direction regarding socialized healthcare, some things that remain the same today or are even more carefully monitored are certain over-the-counter medications—before the late 60s, many had opioids and other damaging sedatives in their ingredient lists.

10. Skincare

LODZ, POLAND, CIRCA 1960's: Vintage portrait of woman
Credit: Shutterstock

In the 1950s and 60s, products like sunscreen were rarely used. In contrast, women used oils, creams, and mirrors to help their skin get more sun.

11. Playing Games

USSR - 1960s: An antique photo shows young children playing in the yard
Credit: Shutterstock

Particularly in cities or large towns, it’s rare to find children playing outside anymore. In contrast, children lined the streets with their friends to play various imaginative games. Games like kick the can, potato sack races, and marbles, were among some of the most popular.

12. Overindulgence

THE CZECHOSLOVAK SOCIALIST REPUBLIC - CIRCA 1960s: Vintage photo shows boy plays with toy car outdoors. A little boy outside plays with a toy automobile. Antique black and white photography. The 60s.
Credit: Shutterstock

In keeping up with raising kids on tough love, many parents restrained from spoiling their children. Another reason for this may have been that they grew up in the depression and wanted their children to understand that some resources aren’t infinite. Children learned to have gratitude for what they had. They learned not to be wasteful. Additionally, they learned to be resourceful to fix their broken toy when they couldn’t get a new one.

13. Lacked Respect

woman in eyeglasses holding cup of coffee and reading newspaper while little son sitting on rocking horse behind, 50s style family
Credit: Shutterstock

Although parents insisted their children be respectful to the adults around them, parents seldom treated their children with that same respect. “Children should be seen, not heard” was the mentality of many families in the 1950s and 60s.

Keep Reading: Mom’s ‘nagging’ text about baby’s car seat saved his life in car wreck


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  6. 12 Things Parents Did In The ’50s That Millennial Parents Should Bring Back.Romper. Kimmie Fink. November 6, 2017.
  7. The great Jell-O renaissance: An old food makes new waves.Today. Heather Martin. March 18, 2022.