9 Reckless Things We Used to Do as Kids in the Summer

Kids doing risky things
Mediafeed / MelkiNimages/Jeremy Poland/istockphoto

Summertime Fun

Back in the day, summer meant endless adventures and a sense of freedom that kids today might find hard to imagine. Without the constant tether of smartphones, video games, and parental supervision, children would spend their days outdoors exploring, socializing, and partaking in spontaneous outings that would perhaps raise eyebrows now. While many of these activities are now considered far too dangerous or foolish, they were a quintessential part of growing up and making the best memories.

From swimming unsupervised to riding on skateboards and bikes without helmets or knee pads, here are 9 activities that we used to love doing in the summer as kids.

Vintage photo featuring a mother and her children at the Acapulco beach.

1. Using Baby Oil for Sun Tans

While working on the perfect tan, kids (and adults) would often slather on baby oil and lie out in the sun for hours. This practice, while effective at speeding up the tanning process, would leave skin dangerously unprotected from harmful UV rays. Without modern sunscreen and a better understanding of skin cancer risks, sunburns were common. But hey, the lobster sunburnt look was also part of the summer experience.

Group of children enjoys summer vacation and having fun jumping from a pier’s fence on the beach

2. Jumping Off Beach Bridges

Another adrenaline-pumping activity that was a favorite of many was leaping off bridges (or piers, docks, etc.) into the water below. While this provided an exhilarating rush, it was also fraught with dangers like shallow water, hidden debris, and strong currents. Without lifeguards or safety checks, kids would often underestimate the risks. What seemed like harmless fun could easily lead to serious injuries, drowning, or worse.

Waist up shot of kid showing happiness while playing. Boy's summer time enjoyment at the beach during the sunset.

3. Swimming in Lakes or Oceans Unsupervised

During the summer months, many kids would head to the nearest lake or beach for a swim, often without any adults around. The lack of supervision meant that they were entirely on their own if anything went wrong. Drowning, getting caught in rip currents, or encountering hazardous marine life were real risks. Yet, the sense of independence and adventure far outweighed the dangers in our young minds.

Three Hispanic American children, each with different expressions, hanging out in the back of a pick up truck. Siblings.

4. Driving in Truck Beds Without Seat Belts

Piling into the back of a pickup truck with our friends was another common way to have fun and get around during the summer. The thrill of feeling the wind in our hair as we zoomed down open roads was unmatched. But in hindsight, the practice was incredibly unsafe, as oftentimes there were no seat belts or protective measures in place. Sudden stops or accidents could easily throw passengers from the vehicle.

Child holding sparkler at home at New Years Eve, enjoying happy evening with family

5. Playing with Fireworks

Despite being illegal in many states, kids would often handle fireworks all by themselves as they watched the nsky light up with all kinds of dazzling colors and shapes. But the lack of proper safety measures and adult supervision made this a hazardous activity. Burns, injuries from explosions, and even fires were not uncommon. Today, fireworks are heavily regulated and usually left to professionals.

Kids enjoying Spring. They are riding through a field of dandelions.Nikon D850

6. Biking Without Helmets

Back in the day, biking around town or through rugged trails without a helmet was the norm. Protective gear like helmets and knee pads were seen as unnecessary, or even uncool. But this lack of protection would often result in preventable head injuries. Now, helmet use is widely encouraged and is often required by law. "This was normal," writes one Redditor who grew up in the '70s. "Mode of transportation was a bike — no cell phones, no computers. Honestly, the '70s were a great time to be a kid."

Ranch Life still exists! Hard-Working, Strong American People Living and Working “All-Hands-on-Deck” on a Multi-Generational, Family-Owned Ranch in Small Town America in Telluride, near Montrose in the Western Slope of Colorado.
Jeremy Poland/istockphoto

7. Exploring Abandoned Buildings

Is it just me, or were we all a LOT more daring and fearless as kids? Perhaps that's why the allure of old, abandoned buildings was so captivating. I remember routinely sneaking into dilapidated old buildings while being completely unaware of the structural dangers, potential for collapse, or hazardous materials like asbestos. But what felt like a daring adventure could have serious health and safety consequences.

Wide shot of three playful carefree kids, two girls and boy, climbing tree and sitting on branch in green park on summer day
Comeback Images/istockphoto

8. Climbing Trees and Structures

Climbing to great heights in trees or playgrounds without adult supervision was another popular pastime. Not only was it fun, it also offered a feeling of triumph and a bird’s-eye view of the world. Though falls were just as common, scraped knees and bruised elbows were just part of the summertime fun. While tree-climbing hasn't disappeared, it's often more regulated or discouraged in public spaces today.

Lost child holding an old lamp in an apocalyptic environment

9. Staying Out Past Curfew

While the general rule was to “come back when the streetlights turn on," as one Redditor points out, sometimes we'd stay out long after dark or until we'd hear our parents ushering us home. "I wouldn't come home until nearly dark when I heard my dad's whistle. So nostalgic," writes one user, while another adds, "[The whistle] that meant cut all convo, get on your bike, and pedal home." Ah, good times.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

Heinrich Klaffs / Wikimedia Commons
Heinrich Klaffs / Wikimedia Commons

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