What Kids Used to Do for Fun in the 1950s

Simple games could entertain children for hours in the 1950s.
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For contemporary children, it may be difficult to imagine kids having fun in the 1950s. Not only were there were no video games, even children's television programming operated at a bare minimum, with the medium still in its infancy at that time. Yet such limitations frequently forced them to spend more time outdoors or to play creatively -- activities many child development experts today say lead to more satisfying experiences for children overall.

1 Indoor Activities

During the 1950s, games, including checkers, marbles and chess as well as card games, such as go fish or old maid, kept children amused during long rainy days. In addition, hot new games such as Scrabble had just been introduced in the late 1940s, and by 1952, its makers were selling 400 sets a day. Although today, graphic novels are a standard feature in language arts classes, comic books were viewed with suspicion in the 1950s. Some critics boldly claimed they led to "juvenile delinquency," but these criticisms may have fueled kids' enthusiasm as an estimated 90 percent of children read comic books during this period.

2 Outdoor Adventures

Although parental discipline tended to be more authoritarian, in the 1950s, children generally enjoyed a greater amount of personal freedom during leisure time than they do today. There were fewer cars on the road, so many children roamed freely on foot. They rode bicycles to the corner store, got muddy exploring neighborhood gullies and played street hockey. Dr. Peter Gray of Boston College notes that "trustful parents," or, "those who trust their children to play and explore on their own, to make their own decisions, and to make and learn from their own mistakes," are not as common today as they were in the 1950s.

3 "It's Howdy Doody Time"

Although television was in its very early stages, some children's programming did exist, and among the most popular shows was "Howdy Doody." "Howdy Doody" was the brainchild of radio announcer Bob Smith, a.k.a. Buffalo Bob, who hosted the show on NBC from 1947 to 1960. The freckled Howdy Doody marionette was beloved by children in the 1950s and soon became the inspiration for best-selling toys as well as future puppet-based children's shows.

4 The Family Road Trip

In the 1950s, Americans were in love with their cars. By the end of the 1940s, paid vacation provisions in labor agreements made it possible for more families to go rogue. Families viewed vacations in a car as a unique opportunity and not a burden. Life seemed to move slowly, and traveling by car meant having the chance to sing songs together, play a game of I Spy and watch mountains morph into valleys.

Stacy Smith is a writer based in Austin, Texas. She hold a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in theater. She has post-graduate training in curriculum and instruction.