More than twenty years ago the only screened device that captivated children’s attention like a smart phone was a Gameboy – or Game Gear if you sided with SEGA.
Even then, time spent on handheld video gaming didn’t even come close to holding a match to the hours spent on social media and other apps today. So if kids weren’t mesmerized by memes, viral videos and the latest hashtag craze, what were they doing with their free time?
With summer right around the corner, it’s time to vacation like it’s the 1990s. Here’s what kids did for fun before it became #fun.
Hang out at the mall
Pre-teens and teenagers spent a lot of their days off perusing the food court and shops of their local shopping malls. It was a hub to meet up and waste several hours of the day playing video games at the arcade, chasing the opposite sex, shopping (but not really buying) and loitering around the food court.
Play tag (in all its forms)
One of the best parts of being a kid was having more energy than you knew what to do with. That’s where tag and all variants of it came into play. Everything from flashlight tag and freeze tag to kick the can and hide ‘n seek, were all memorable ways to pass those long summer days.
Roller/Ice skate at the local rink
It’s safe to say that kids from the 90s are so familiar with skating rinks that the songs that made them popular could be considered a genre themselves. Whether you were racing friends, playing arcade games, enjoying a snack bar treat or holding hands to your first slow skate song (ahem … Brian McKnight “Back at One”), roller rinks are synonymous with 90s nostalgia.
See a drive-in movie
Sure, with smartphones you can take a whole library of movies with you wherever you go, but nothing says summer time more than a double feature at the local drive in. If you were lucky your parents would stay for the full second movie and you could revel in not having a bedtime. But let’s be honest, most of us still passed out in the car ride home.
Play in the backyard
As a kid, the backyard was like an oasis of potential fun. It provided an escape without having to leave your home. Kids everywhere partook in backyard baseball games with their friends, trampoline jumping (if you or a friend were lucky enough to have one), sprinkler runs to cool down on those hot days, tree house builds, kiddie pool tinkering, super soaker wars, skip it record-breaking, hoola-hooping and so, so much more.
Unless you live in California, you probably haven’t seen a rollerblader in decades. But back in the 90s, the sound of plastic wheels on concrete was as familiar as the distant hum of a neighbor mowing. Rollerblading was everywhere and so was the pop of vibrant neon clothing that accompanied it.
Create the perfect mix tape
In the 90s, if you really liked someone, you’d give them a mix tape. You’d spend hours in your room putting together the perfect playlist of songs you like, songs they like, songs you think they’d like and anything else that crossed your fancy. Anyone who’s old enough can probably remember the first mix tape they received and the first one they gave.
Don’t lie, you made your parents pitch the tent but that doesn’t mean your camping game was bad. From roasting hot dogs and perfecting s’mores, you found your love for the great outdoors in the bottom of that fire pit. Love it or hate it, camping was a rite of summer passage for 90’s kids.
Game at the arcade
Despite the stimulation overload of flashing lights and blinking screens, in tandem with the cacophony of 16-bit sound, arcades were a place of serenity for 90s kids. Arcades served as pacifiers, allowing kids to cash in that hard-earned weekly allowance for a few hours of gaming ecstasy. From pinball high scores and classics cabinets to light-gun shoot ‘em ups and ticket-spewing challenges, arcades were a digital playground for kids everywhere.
This summer, try putting down the phone and vacationing like you did back when the music was grungier, the clothes were baggier and responsibility meant getting back home before dark.