A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

25 Things We All Looked Forward to Doing When We Were Kids

Updated: Jan. 12, 2024

Putting on a swimsuit, going to the grocery store, and emptying your piggy bank all had way different meanings when you were in your single-digits!

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Roll of Raffle Tickets
Michael G. Mill/Shutterstock

Entering a contest (and believing you would definitely win)

How many people did you know? And how many of them put their name in the drawing at the grocery store? See—your chances of winning were like one in five! Right? And then you grew up, learned statistics and probability, and stopped waiting for the Publisher’s Clearing House van to show up in your driveway. Still though… it can’t hurt to enter, right? Especially if you try one of these 13 proven ways to change your luck.

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Child shows tooth. Close up studio shot.
Deyan Georgiev/Shutterstock

Losing your first tooth

Today, having a wiggly tooth would be cause for panic but remember the joy of losing your first tooth? It was a right of passage! And every tooth thereafter still felt like an accomplishment. The trick was how to get them from that weird hanging-on-by-a-thread stage to ready for the Tooth Fairy. Did you try tying a string from a doorknob to your tooth? Beg your parents to pull it? Just wait patiently for it to come loose on its own? Now check out 28 of the cutest mistakes kids have made.

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A small girl with grandmother cooking at home.

Going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house

To kids, grandparents are magic! Unlike your parents, they usually had treats hidden somewhere on their person, loved listening to all your stories, were always up for a slow walk to pick up bugs, let you eat dessert first and stay up too late—not to mention all the hilarious stories and pictures they had of your mom or dad.

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tootsie pops

Seeing how many licks it took to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop

Do you want candy or chocolate? With a Tootsie Pop you got to have both! Plus a fun game of counting how many licks it took you to get to the chocolatey center. And if you lost count? Well, you had to get another one to try again, of course! Add this to the list of 20 things you’re never too old for!

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Christmas background with decorations and gift boxes on wooden board good photo

Choosing which present to open first on your birthday

The anticipation of getting a present was almost better than opening your gifts. What secret would the giant box hold? Was the squishy one a new toy or just another package of socks? As long as it wasn’t underwear, it was all good.

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background of jelly beans with different colors and flavors

Buying candy from the bulk section

Any candy is a kid favorite but a wall of candy sorted into brightly colored bins with little scoops was the ultimate in sugar rushes. There were your old favorites—jellybeans, Bottle Caps, lemon drops, rock candy—and then there were the ones you’d never seen before. What is “Sour ‘Sghetti” even? And how much could you buy with a dollar?

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Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

Watching Saturday morning cartoons

Sneaking into the living room, turning the TV on as quiet as it would go, with the hopes your parents wouldn’t wake up for at least two hours. If you were good you’d get Rugrats and Animaniacs. If you were really smooth you could smuggle in a bowl of cereal too. Heck, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a good Saturday morning cartoon! Add it to the list of 50 simple pleasures you can enjoy right now.

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child eating cereal
LightField Studios/shutterstock

Finding a prize in the cereal box

Who cared what the cereal actually tasted like as long as it came with a cool toy hidden away inside the puffs? These days, kids are stuck with lame “prizes” like a sticker or the maze on the back of the box. You had the real deal: race cars, miniature ponies, rubber stamps, balsa airplanes, and a million cheap, plastic contraptions. You kept them all.

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Diverse hands are join together on the wooden table

Making up a secret handshake with your best friend

How would you know if your best friend was really your best friend or if they were an alien that just looked like your best friend as part of their diabolical quest to take over the earth? Make a secret handshake only the two of you would know! Bonus points if you still remember it and do it whenever you run into the old gang.

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British blue kitten is very beautiful. The British kitten looks straight. The British kitten looks very closely.
Zhalabkovich Yauheniya/Shutterstock

Holding a kitten

Baby animals are always cute but when you’re just a few years removed from being a baby yourself, they hold a special kind of magic. There was nothing so special as being trusted to hold a fluffy, fragile kitten. (And nothing so heartbreaking as when mom said you absolutely couldn’t take one home!) A goldfish just wasn’t the same. These 21 cat adoption photos will melt your heart.

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Andrey Popov/Shutterstock

Opening all your parent’s junk mail

“Junk” is a relative term, especially when it comes to things appearing in the mailbox. You opened every envelope, keeping all the fake credit cards, entering all the contests, and sticking address labels on anything that would hold still (including your brother).

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Baby clothes on a table, close up
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Getting new clothes for back to school

Shopping for back-to-school essentials was no fun (“Why do you have to look at everything Mooooooom?”) but getting an awesome new outfit, complete with shiny new sneakers, for the first day was worth the pain. And you definitely couldn’t let your mom pick it out for you! Nope, that neon ensemble with the teddy bear print suspenders and fishing hat was all you. Just don’t waste your cash on these back-to-school supplies.

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Pink piggy-bank on the table

Counting the money in your piggy bank

No matter how big your bank balance is now, it can’t compare to the joy of shaking your little ceramic piggy bank and hearing all your coins rattle around. It was the sound of untold wealth! Plus it was just fun dumping it out on the carpet and counting it (and imagining all the toys you’d buy someday when you were “rich”). Do you know these 11 money rules you should master before you’re an adult?

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Two pencils with an iron sharpener

Sharpening a pencil with the fancy sharpener

Those little plastic pencil sharpeners you had at home worked OK but they couldn’t compare to using the school sharpener, watching the wood shavings pile up as you whittled your yellow #2 into the perfect, sharp point. If you were one of the lucky classrooms to have an electric sharpener, even better! You could sharpen an entire box in under a minute.

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Silly String

Spraying Silly String

As an adult, surprising your friends by hosing them with strange liquids is generally frowned upon, but when you were kid, nothing was as fun as hiding behind the bathroom door with a can of Silly String and waiting for the perfect ambush opportunity.

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colorful water balloons in the basket prepare for games.

Having a water balloon fight

Summer wasn’t complete without a raging neighborhood water balloon fight! We won’t talk about the hours you spent beforehand filling the balloons (only to watch the rubber ring disintegrate when the water reached the top, spraying you with water) or the hours spent afterward picking up every tiny, brightly-colored piece of rubber smashed in the lawn. Worth it.

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movie theater empty auditorium with seats
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Sitting on the front row of the movie theater

Any sane adult knows that sitting on the front row of the theater is a recipe for neck pain and a less-than-ideal movie-viewing experience. Yet somehow when you were a kid you loved sitting front and center of all the action—and you never ended up with a crick in your neck.

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Wooden door of wardrobe in kitchen for being design interior of creative background, with flat pattern in surface
Fecundap stock/Shutterstock

Scaring your sister by hiding in her closet

Scaring people now is liable to get you punched in the face but hiding and jumping out to scare a family member was a favorite childhood pastime. Sure you might have been grounded for hiding under your sister’s bed and grabbing her ankles but it was just payback for the time she jumped out of the backseat of the car at you.

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Boiling spaghetti in a silver pot with hot water
Petrut Romeo Paul/Shutterstock

Spaghetti night

Filet mignon, sushi, or other fancy fare may top your list of favorite meals now but when you were a kid “spaghetti night” (or insert your favorite family dinner) was the epitome of fine dining. Especially if you got breadsticks! You loved it for all the messy, tasty noodles but your mom loved it for how easy it was to make and the fact that it was the one thing everyone in your family would eat without complaining.

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Woman putting envelope into mailbox on wall of building outdoors

Mailing a letter to Santa

No matter how jaded you are now, there was a time you believed in fairy tales, wizards, sea monsters, tooth fairies, jetpacks—and even a fat man in a red suit sliding down your chimney with a bag of elven-made gifts seemed in the realm of possibility.

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little girl swimming in pool

Slipping into your new swimsuit

Shopping for swimwear as a grownup can be… fraught. But as a kid, there were no worries about cellulite, unflattering fluorescent lighting, or $200 price tags. All a new swimsuit signaled was the start of a beautiful summer full of pool floaties, diving boards, and (if you were really lucky) water slides. Bonus points if yours had your favorite cartoons on it!

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sweet, gelatin, jelly, marmalade, jujube, fruit, colorful bears

Eating your vitamins every day

Whoever invented chewable vitamins was kind of a genius, turning a chore into literal candy. Can you still remember the strangely sweet, chalky, mineral taste of “fruit flavored” Flinstone vitamins? Kids today have it so easy with their calcium chews and vitamin C gummies!

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Child knee with an adhesive bandage

Slapping a fresh Smurf Band-Aid on your scraped knee

When you were a child, a bandage was both a comfort object and a badge of honor. It stopped the blood and told a story, all in one. The best was when you got to pick the kind with cartoon characters on them. In fact, you didn’t even technically need a bloody wound to wear one! Sometimes they were just a super cool accessory.

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Young little girl wearing princess crown and pink dress, smiling, drinking juice and celebrating her birthday

Wearing the birthday crown at school

No office party can compare to the joy of being the birthday girl or boy at school (even if it wasn’t really your birthday because you had a summer birthday and so your teacher picked a random day to celebrate you). You got to wear a paper crown all day. Everyone sang to you. All your classmates were in awe of you because you were another year older—and back then your age was something to be shouted from the rooftops.

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halloween candy

Eating the last piece of Halloween candy

How long could you make your candy stash last after the High Candy Holiday on the last day of October? Were you the kid who ate it all at once? Did you sort it into piles by type, flavor, and color? Did you hoard it and use it to bribe your siblings to do your chores, come February (and thereby starting your career in the stock market)? So many options but eventually there’d only be one Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup left… it was stale but you enjoyed every bite. Are you ready for Halloween? Check out the 50 things you need to do before fall.