What were the VERY best things about being a child 50 or so years ago?

I’ve been sent over the details of a survey that’s been completed asking people what were the very best things about being a child 50 or so years ago, and it’s been really interesting reading the results and then reflecting upon my childhood and the differences that I can already see in my children’s.

Back view of grandfather and grandchild walking in a nature path

The survey was carried out on behalf of McCarthy and Stone and asked 2000 people over the age of 65 fifteen questions about their childhood. Topping the survey was ‘Playing Outside Until It Got Dark’, followed by ‘Having Respect For Your Elders’ which I suspect is more a commentary from an older generation on their views of today’s youth, then ‘Knowing All Your Neighbours’ and ‘Sweets Costing a Penny’. That last one made me smile as we could still but penny sweets in the eighties, so when did they get so expensive?! Along with these overriding views, were a few favourite activities, such as making dens, climbing trees, playing hide and seek, playing conkers and playing hopscotch. Just over 40% of people mentioned reading Enid Blyton books and owning toys and playing them for hours, all nostalgic happy glances back on childhood.

This would be a reflection on my parents’ childhood, so I ran it by my mum and she was nodding along to so much of it. It took her right back! We then chatted about my childhood and it was funny that so many of the answers did overlap. Oh yes, I still have my St Clare’s books to this day (ready and waiting for my daughter to read them) and we played all of those things when we were little. Though I’m sure we had a fair few toys, looking back it’s a handful that stand out to me, such as Lego, Sindy, Star Wars and My Little Pony. Where I noticed the differences were in the fact that I felt we had less freedom to get out and play than the generation before us, as I remember more time being spent with family when out or being in the home. My mum spoke of the front door being permanently unlocked and the kids all spending their days out the front playing when she was a girl, which I think had shifted by the time I was that age.

Moving to look at the list from my kids’ point of view and things do look different. No more penny sweets for them! I think we lead more private lives these days, yet probably connect more online, which is a paradox and likely inconceivable fifty years ago. My kids don’t play out until dark and don’t know many of our neighbours, but then we live on a busy road in a time where practically everyone owns a car, unlike fifty years ago. As to the activities, I’m pleased to say that my children have enjoyed all of those, despite the health and safety fears over playing conkers! Whether they’ll look back in fifty years and pick those activities out as their favourites remains to be seen, but I suspect that screens will feature more in this generation’s memories, from movie nights to favourite TV shows to games consoles. As my kids get older, I think social media and the internet will sneak in, too, but I would like to think that things like reading, having outdoor adventures and playing with toys all stay firmly on children’s agendas. Time will tell, I suppose…

What were the very best things about your childhood?

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post 

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10 thoughts on “What were the VERY best things about being a child 50 or so years ago?”

  1. Gosh haven’t things changed over a short time! I wonder what changes our own children will see by the time they have children of their own!

  2. Very interesting for me as I was a child 50 years ago! My memories are of playing out until dark, going to the bluebell woods, making dens in trees and swings from trees. spending many hours in the garden making mud pies and playing with bugs. Helping my Dad in his allotment. Making go carts with my cousins. Going swimming with my friends (you didn’t need parents and my mum never swam) watching Dr Who with my Dad. Playing tracking with friends around the streets. I could go on, but it does feel like it was very different back then. When my older kids where younger they used to spend a lot of time outdoors too, but only where I could see them or their friends could see them, already safety was a bigger issue. My younger kids don’t go out into the street although we live in a quiet grove, there are still cars and some of the bigger kids who hang around already cause trouble. Things have changed a lot!

  3. Hi Jocelyn, I do feel a little sad that my children’s childhood has been a little different than mine, even though computers and social media weren’t a thing when they were younger. I remember disappearing for hours with my friends on our bikes or we’d be out having an adventure up the fields of down the panny ( a stream near where we lived). We even buried a small tin of emergency supplies in a field (I wonder if it was ever found?).

    My two grew up having adventures in sand dunes and believing Peter Pan really lived on Cameo island, but it wasn’t how I remember it being when I was growing up. Rose tinted glasses maybe?


  4. I found it really interesting that you had less time outside in the 80s. I’m a little bit older and would describe myself as a child of the 70s. We were out all the time. Down the woods making dens and climbing trees. Riding bikes. By 10, we regularly went to the outdoor swimming pool without any adults. Always we had to go as a group and let someone know where we were heading. I guess it depends on the surrounding area. I remember our library banning Enid Blyton and then being pleased when the ban eventually lifted. As for sweets, we used to be able to buy them for 1/2p. Counting out all our 1/2p to get as many as possibe in a paper bag. I’m feeling old now………

    1. Ha ha, sorry, didn’t mean to make you feel old! Oh, I loved going to our local shop and choosing the sweets, clutching my 20p!

  5. I’m in my late forties. I remember going with a gang of friends to the swimming pool at the local caravan site. We used to take a flask and some sandwiches out with us in the morning and just go off somewhere, can’t really remember where. We used to have the local grocer come around on a Saturday morning with his van, early version of delivered shopping, and he had a big drawer underneath everything else with all the sweets in and we used to choose our spends. When we lived across from a field growing straw we used to build baracades with the bales and then pull up what we called ammunition, which were clumps of soil attached to the cut straw, and lob them over the bales at each other.

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