Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
June 14, 2024 ·  16 min read

59 Old school parenting photos that wouldn’t fly today

Anyone who was born before the 21st century knows that parenting was just different back then. For better or worse, kids were allowed to do things back in the day that today’s parents wouldn’t dream of allowing. While most of these activities are better left in the past, it is fun to look back on them and laugh.

59 Old school Parenting Photos That Would Not Fly Today

Back then, parenting was just different. Regulations and laws were different and “helicopter parenting” was much less prominent. Kids went outside and played with their friends unsupervised. There was seemingly less pressure on making sure you fed your child the “perfect” diet and rather just made sure that they always had food in their stomach. Certainly, back in the day, things were a little bit more lenient. Whether or not that was a good thing – we’ll let you decide!

1. Beer Baby

Image Credit: Reddit

This is what we call Australia in the 1990s in a photo. In his caption, the Reddit user says this is a baby photo of him in Australia in 1991. He is drinking from a can of XXXXlight beer (“I wasn’t allowed heavies back then”) and holding a baby crocodile in the other hand. We’re not sure if all Aussie parents were this relaxed back then or just this kids. Either way, that’s some serious hands-off parenting!

2. Not Your Average House Cat

Image Credit: Reddit

This photo is titled “My dad and his pet lion, 1970”. Though having wild animals as pets is illegal in most of the world now, back in the 70s it wasn’t. In the comment section, he explained that his grandfather acquired the young lion after a zoo company went out of business. His grandad offered to give the lion a safe home.

3. As Long As The Kids Don’t Interrupt The Game

Image Credit: Reddit

Taken in Upstate New York in 1954, apparently, the adults didn’t mind that the kids were drinking, as long as they didn’t interrupt the game. The Reddit user says that this is an image of his father at 13 years old drinking whiskey straight from the bottle.

4. Post-Bathtime Relaxation

Image Credit: Reddit

The Reddit user who posted this photo explained this was a photo of him in 1958. He was casually lounging and smoking a cigar after taking a bath. He didn’t specify if he was actually smoking the cigar or if he was just playing around. Either way, those are some seriously relaxed parents!

5. Feathered Bangs and Budweiser

Image Credit: Reddit

In summer 1978, not only does this mom have that 70s feathered-bangs hairstyle nailed down, but she’s also clearly taken her own approach to parenting. I guess she doesn’t mind if her kid has a little baby bud moment.

6. A Little Extra Spark

Image Credit: Reddit

We’re not sure which part of this photo is best. The mullet? Dad’s outfit? Or maybe it’s the fact that he appears to be handing his baby girl a sparkler with one hand all while he’s got a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. That was the 80s for you, I guess.

7. Like Parent, Like Child

Image Credit: Sherably

They do say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Clearly, this kid has got a hunch to be just like their dad, and the dad doesn’t mind at all. All the way down to the smallest details, including the cigarette. The Reddit user says that this photo was taken in 1982. Ahhh, what different times those were.

8. Not Your Average Bar Mitzvah

Image Credit: Reddit

The Reddit user says that this is a photo of his father at his Bar Mitzvah in 1972. Also pictured is his dad’s older brother, father, and mother. While all the faces made in this photo are quite laughable, the one most interesting is the mother’s face. In a way, she almost seems… proud? You tell us.

9. The Not-So-Secure Safety Seat

Image Credit: Reddit

Today’s car seats for babies and children are quite advanced in order to protect our children in case of a crash. Back in 1958, however, they took a different approach. This seat is breaking several of today’s car seat rules:

  • It is facing forward
  • It’s in the front seat rather than the back
  • The seat relies on the mother to put her arm out to stop the baby from falling forward

    This certainly wouldn’t fly today, that you can be sure of.

10. Swimming Lessons of the Past

Image Credit: Reddit

We suppose in the 1930s, people didn’t feel it was necessary to actually get in the water and teach a child to swim. When it comes to hands-off parenting, it doesn’t get much more hands-off (literally) than this.

11. Bar Baby

Image Credit: Reddit

Because why should having a baby stop you from having a little fun? This photo is of the Reddit user and his parents at a bar in the early 1980s. Clearly, his parents were determined to not allow having a child to miss out on some of the things they still enjoyed in life, like hanging out at a bar with their friends.

12. The Royal Way

Image Credit: PiqueShow

This photo is of Princess Yvonne and Prince Alexander in Germany in 1955. Are these actually children or are they just tiny adults? From this image, it is truly hard to tell.

13. More Exotic Pets

Image Credit: Reddit

Our user above wasn’t the only one to have a lion as a pet. This photo is of the user’s father and grandmother. The grandmother was a veterinarian. Apparently, in 1959, they raised a lion cub while its real owner was away. The owner allegedly had a nature reserve, which is where they sent the lion when he later returned.

14. “Chill” Parenting

Image Credit: Reddit

This is a picture of a Reddit user and their parents at a California Marijuana Initiative Rally in 1972. While these parents were certainly more chilled-out than others (and we think perhaps we know why), they still thought of the well-being of their child. They have the baby-loving wrapped in blankets with a cardboard box to protect them from the sun. That, and they were out fighting for that child’s future right to legal and safe marijuana use.

15. Supporting Their Child’s Dreams

Image Credit: Instagram

There are supportive parents, and then there are moms like this. Taken in the 1980s, this photo features a mom who turned herself into an actual ramp for her son. Like the caption said if your mom doesn’t turn herself into a human ramp to support your BMX dreams, does she really love you?

16. A Different Saftey Level Standard

Image Credit: Reddit

Still, today chair lifts at ski resorts aren’t exactly what I would call the most advanced safety equipment. Still, at least there’s a bar there to block you from completely sliding off. This photo is of the Reddit user’s mother and grandmother demonstrating chair lift safety in the 1960s.

17. Babies On Ice

Image Credit: Reddit

When I was a child in the 90s, we have a photo of my mom pushing me, my sister, and my brother around the skating rink in a giant baby carriage. This couple in 1937 had a different approach. I guess they decided that if one family member was going to go down, they all were.

18. Bear Safety

Image Credit: Reddit

Nowadays they teach kids at school and at camp to give wild animals like bears plenty of space. Apparently back when this photo was taken, they had a different approach. The picture is of the Reddit user’s mother-in-law riding a bear when she was just two years old.

19. Biker Baby

Image Credit: Shorpy

Did you know that Harleys used to come with baby seats? Neither did we! This photo is from 1962. This Harley Davidson family obviously wanted to make sure their child got an early start with the family’s favorite hobby.

20. Post-Labor Stress Relief

Image Credit: Reddit

This picture is of a mom in Canada in 1978 after just having given birth. She’s chilling out having a roast chicken and smoking a cigarette. I guess that’s one way to chill out after going through the labor and delivery process.

21. Car Seat Safet 2.0

Image Credit: Redhead Ranting

The 1960s had a different standard for child seat safety. Again, this baby is strapped into the front seat and is facing forward. Finally, we are not too sure how well a few metal bars and a cushion will help protect a baby in a crash.

22. Zoo Safety

Image Credit: Reddit

Apparently in China in the 1970s, they didn’t feel the need to put up too much protection between visitors and the zoo animals. This was also before the days of putting signs everywhere instructing people to please not stand on the fence. The Reddit user says this photo is of her mother at four years old at the zoo in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

23. Pet Tiger

Image Credit: Reddit

The practice of having wild animals like tigers available for petting at zoos and animal reserves is highly frowned upon today. Though it still does happen now, it was much more commonplace back in the day. This little boy is pictured here at 11 years old petting a full-grown tiger. He says his mom has forever called this her “bad parenting moment”.

24. Many More Liberties

Image Credit: Shareably

In this century, construction sites are high-security, off-limits areas. Back in the year when the Statue of Liberty was built, however? Less-so. This photo shows a mother and her child posing beside the face of Lady Liberty before she was lifted high up into the sky.

25. Stand Up

Image Credit: Shareably

Baby buggies are meant for babies to be seated or lying down. Nowadays, they include various straps and buckles to keep them safely secured. This old-school pram has none of that and this baby has decided to take full advantage.

26. No Left-Hands Allowed

Image Credit: Shareably

It was once believed that having a left hand was some sort of bad omen or even potentially evil. Parents and doctors “corrected” left-handed children by putting a special cast on that hand so that the child could not use it. This was often a somewhat painful process. Without the use of their left hand, they were then forced to switch and do everything with their right.

27. No Cuddles Allowed

Image Credit: Fatherly

Today we know the extreme importance of showing physical affection to your children. At one point in history, they actually thought the opposite. They thought that showing your child too much affection would hinder their development into a strong adult. Thank goodness we figured that one out.

28. What’s In A Name?

Image Credit: Shareably

Parents today put a lot of thought into their children’s names. Today, most parents are looking for something unique or that represents a specific quality they wish for their child to have. Back in the day, however, they simply wanted something that didn’t sound too “soft“. This was especially true for boys.

29. Bike Safety

Image Credit: Pinterest

Plenty of parents strap their children onto their bikes and go for a ride. Today, however, the seats are specially designed for safety. The child is also always wearing a helmet. On top of that, you’d never see a baby riding the back of a motorbike. Naturally, this was a very different time.

30. More Interesting Car Seats

Image Credit: Pinterest

This is yet another rendition of crazy child car seats of the past. This one we are not too sure why being strapped in higher up makes it safer? Whatever the reason, the baby seems to be enjoying the view.

31. And Another One

Image Credit: Pinterest

Similar to the last one, this baby is strapped in mid-way up the backrest of the seat. What we can’t figure out is the fake steering wheel in front of them. Is it supposed to be for entertainment of some kind? It seems as though, in a crash situation, it would do more harm than anything else.

31. The Recliner

Image Credit: Pinterest

This photo is a 1962 ad for Rambler. This is a new take on the previous child safety seats we’ve seen so far. Still, we’re not sure how well that baby would fare in a car accident. At least we know eventually we switched to something that is actually effective.

32. Advertising You Wouldn’t See Today

Image Credit: Pinterest

Ads back in the day were definitely often a bit… off-color, to be certain. This one is a great example of that. Parents today would not be down to see images of babies wrapped in cellophane. They would likely also be worried that children or others may attempt to imitate the ad, with disastrous results.

33. Pipe Baby

Photo Credit: smosh.com

Smoking a pipe is often thought of as something quite old-school. Usually, we associate with older men. Babies, however? Well, let’s just say that this is certainly not a photo that you would see taken nowadays.

34. Who’s Walking Who?

Image Credit: Pinterest

There have been and still are many debates on whether or not it is okay for parents to use child leashes. There are solid arguments on both sides and, really, it comes down to the child and the best thing you can do to keep them safe. This, however, seems like this lady has got the idea a little bit backward.

35. Trash Games

Image Credit: Pinterest

In this picture, you can see children playing in literal piles of trash in New York City. Back in these days, children were often left to just entertain themselves without supervision. Of course today you won’t likely see activity like this.

36. Bike Baby Carriage of the Past

Image Credit: Pinterest

Just yet another addition to the lineup of terrible “safety” devices for kids. At least this one has some sun protection involved. Clearly, this was long before the days where helmets were considered important.

37. The Skycot

Image Credit: Pinterest

Imagine putting your infant in a cot attached to the overhead luggage compartments of a plane, with only a net to protect him from bad turbulence. Well, this was apparently at one point considered quite innovative. A sort of “out of sight, out of mind” more peaceful trip for the adults perhaps? That may be so, but it certainly isn’t very safe. We don’t know many parents that would even consider this today.

38. Baby Bag

Image Credit: Pinterest

Sort of like how now you’ll see little dogs in women’s purses, perhaps? It used to be that children were also transported this way. Did you know that kids used to be even mailed from one relative to another? You just gave them to the mailman with special “postage” and hoped they showed up where they were supposed to go.

39. If You Can Dodge Traffic…

Image Credit: Pinterest

From the looks of this photo, this woman is sprinting across a busy, multiple-lane roadway pushing her child in front of her. Most roads nowadays have better cross-walk options. This certainly looks quite risky!

40. Little Gun Slinger

Image Credit: Pinterest

You will still likely see pictures of children with guns in some parts of the world today. You may even see some from right here in North America. Most parents, however, tend to keep their children far away from firearms.

41. Flying Baby

Image Credit: Pinterest

Okay, so there are still plenty of people who play with babies this way. That being said, there are still plenty of parents who would have an absolute heart attack to see their baby tossed in the air like that.

42. More Sketchy Baby Seats

Image Credit: Pinterest

Plenty of people still bike with their kids. In baby seats like this though? I’m sure most modern-day cyclists would prefer to leave their baby at home.

43. Gun Crib

Image Credit: Pinterest

Most parents will leave some soft toys in their child’s crib so that they can snuggle them while they sleep. Multiple guns, however? We’re not sure what they think might happen to their child at night but we are certain that this is entirely unnecessary.

44. Not The Best Car Seat

Image Credit: Pinterest

Again, car seats have come a long way. So have child car safety standards. Pictures certainly make the parents of today gasp in horror at the thought of putting their child in something like this.

45. Finally Helmets

Image Credit: Pinterest

Though a wicker basket doesn’t exactly scream “protected”, at the very least both mother and child have helmets on. That’s a step in the right direction, correct?

46. Happy Co-Pilot

Image Credit: Pinterest

We’re starting to wonder if maybe the idea behind this style of car seat was so the child could see out the front and enjoy the view? It definitely looks like this little one is having a lovely time riding next to her mother. Still, the safety is highly questionable.

47. Easy Storage

Image Credit: Pinterest

Not only did these seats cost less than a dollar, but they also fold for easy storage. While the price-point is certainly enviable, marketing it as “safe” is a bit of a stretch. We’re not too sure on the comfort level, either.

48. Hangin’ Outside

Image Credit: Pinterest

Okay, so we are certain that at no point in history has anyone actually driven a car with their child hanging out of the window like this. You can tell from the little girl to the left of the frame that this car was most definitely not in motion. Still, it’s a funny (or terrifying) thing to think about.

50. Fresh Air

Image Credit: Pinteres

This is certainly one way to ensure your child gets fresh air without having to go anywhere. We’ve seen things like this for cats and maybe small dogs, but human children? Also, we question how sturdy this little cage-like contraption actually is.

51. Babies Need Soda

Image Credit: Pinterest

Imagine what would happen today if a soda company tried to market its product for babies? An absolute uproar, that’s what. Back in the day, however? It was considered so pure, so wholesome!

52. A Comfy Ride

Image Credits: Pinterest

Let’s look at one of the positives about this ad. At least the seat is in the back of the car! Still, it does not look safe at all. Not to mention the rather small child who is still seated in the passenger seat. So many big “no’s” from parents today.

53. The Original Baby Bottle Pop

7up ad suggesting it could be given to infants
Image Credit: Pinterest

Yet another soda pop company marketing their product as one for infants. In fact, they are boasting about the young age of their “customers”. They say it’s because all of their ingredients are listed and parents can feel confident about what they are feeding their child. We say that no parent today would be caught feeding their child a drink like that!

54. From Bad To Worse

Image Credit: Pinterest

As if the last ad could get worse, this one made it even worse. They even go as far as to tell parents to start their child on a strict regimen of sodas and sugary beverages now for a lifetime of guaranteed happiness. That, and probably diabetes, too.

55. A Very Bad Reason to Smoke

Image Credit: Pinterest

This cigarette company ran this ad specifically targeting pregnant women. The ad explains to women that if they smoke while pregnant their baby will be born slimmer. Of course, know we know how badly smoking cigarettes can affect a growing baby’s health. It’s no surprise that if you’re “smoking for two” your baby will be born smaller – and with more likely health problems.

56. Babies Should Be Seen And Not Heard

Image Credit: Pinterest

Laudanum was a solution of opium powder and alcohol. Essentially, this ad is telling parents to drug their babies so they’ll stay quiet. Of course, we didn’t necessarily know the adverse effects of these things back then. With today’s knowledge, however, ads like this seem absolutely ludicrous.

57. Potty Pot

Image Credit: TwentyTwoWords

This family certainly had a unique way of potty training their child. We hope that they didn’t use those cooking pots for anything else afterward, that’s for sure.

58. Building Independence?

Image Credit: Twenty

More not-so-great parenting tips from the “good old days“! They used to recommend that you leave your baby completely alone for as long as you want with no time limit. Imagine having a baby but never spending any time with it. We know now how important social interaction and parental presence are for child development. Those poor, lonely babies of the past!

59. Beer For Breast Milk

Image Credit: Drinking Made Easy

Okay, so we know this is the exact same ad as the cola one from above, therefore maybe it is photoshopped. That being said, it is still pretty wild to think of some of the health recommendations that used to be floating around marketing offices back in the day. We have a hard time believing that anyone ever recommended beer for babies but hey – you never know!