Why '80s Kids Had the Best Childhoods

I love the 80s neon

Yes, every generation on earth thinks that theirs was far superior to any other. If you grew up in the 1980s, you roll your eyes every time Grandma utters, "When I was your age?." Forget it, Granny; '80s kids know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you had it better than anyone ever had or ever will again. Whether you need convincing or would just love another walk down memory lane, here are some reasons why growing up in the '80s was totally radical.

1. Jamming to the Tunes

For every 21st-century kid who thinks '80s music sucks, there are plenty of fans ready to defend its audacious and sometimes cheesy greatness. First of all, disco was finally taking a nosedive, paving the way for even catchier beats. Second, all (or nearly all) female bands came into their own. Sure, there were acts like Debbie Gibson touring America's malls. But there were also Siouxsie and the Banshees, Salt-N-Pepa, and the Go-Go's kicking ass and taking names.

And what other decade can boast groundbreaking performers such as Madonna, Prince, and Michael Jackson? Add video to this musical mix, and all of the aforementioned exploded in popularity like no one's business. Everyone enjoyed sounds they'd never heard before, and plenty of '80s kids rocked out, gothed out, and punked out (among other things) - or at least watched in envy as their older siblings did.

In fact, if you'd like to take a break right now to catch up on your Smiths collection or listen to "Sledgehammer" for the 4,000th time, please go ahead. This is a no-judgement zone.

2. Sportin' Some Air Jordans

If you know absolutely zero else about the 1980s, you'd know its fashion in a heartbeat. From footwear such as jelly shoes (or jellies to the cool kids) and L.A. Gear sneakers to insanely over-the-top jewelry, every kid wanted to be more outrageous and colorful than the next.

Those bands mentioned earlier? They also prompted fashion choices. So you took notes when the big kids channeled their inner Bob Smiths with all black or not-so-inner Cyndi Laupers with a bunch of pieces that didn't even come close to matching. Guess what? Some of those styles were so awesome that they're still around today. You're welcome, '80s kid.

3. Poofer or Hairdog?

Woman with teased hair

Kids in the 1980s got to experiment with hairstyles galore, and no one even looked twice (except maybe Grandpa, who had the same haircut since World War II). Styles were big, or permed within an inch of their lives. Even the younger kids enjoyed colorful streaks, while their teen sibs used a crapload of Sun-In for blonde highlights - to go with that super dark tan, of course - to create a totally boss look.

Just like '80s fashions, some of those hairstyles are vogue once more. So dig out those Scrunchies and start ponytailing!

4. Where's the Beef?

While today's kids have to deal with stuff like kale and quinoa, '80s kids had it much, much simpler. Granted, food fads came and went faster than you could say "New Coke," but when they were hot, they were super-hot. Who didn't love Jell-O Pudding Pops from the incredibly cold cafeteria freezer? Remember how they would mercilessly stick to your lips? What about breakfast based on your favorite pop culture icon? You'll never eat Gremlins or Mr. T cereal again, and that's just sad.

How many kids did you know who had food allergies back in the '80s? Probably not many. These were the kids who gobbled up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Wonder Bread and still had plenty of energy to go outside and play, kale be damned.

5. E.T., Please Call Me!

Girl at the cinema

Just like with music, the magic that is 1980s movies cannot be understated. How great were they? So great that Hollywood can't stop remaking them, over and over and over again. Those of you who were kids in the '80s adored "Ghostbusters" when it was fresh and new and will most likely never love the 21st century reboot with the same passion. What's next? A new "Princess Bride"? (Pease, let's never, ever see that happen.)

Who cares if the critics weren't as excited about "Dirty Dancing" as you were? (Even if you had to sneak in, because your parents thought it was "too adult.") Kids who got to see movies such as these for the first time - in a big, dark movie theater, no less - experienced a type of magic that today's kids don't get. There's nothing like actually having to wait with fevered anticipation to see a new movie vs. pirating it from the internet the second it's released.

6. Welcome to Couch Potato Central

The trend in TV these days? Shows set in the 1980s (such as "Stranger Things," "The Americans," and "Halt and Catch Fire"). The creators know who their demographic is: adults who were kids in the '80s and want to be reminded of days gone by, when playing "Dungeons and Dragons" could spark imagination and wonder. Not to mention more than a little bit of terror?

TV shows of the '80s were great for kids, mainly because there were cartoons out the wazoo. Transformers. Smurfs. Snorks. Even better, some of your nighttime stars turned into cartoons, like ALF. Mister T was also a thing. Even the more "adult" shows were great. Kids got their first taste of MTV, when it was all about the music. And who among you wasn't just a tiny bit in love with Alex P. Keaton from "Family Ties"? Yeah, didn't think so.

7. Take a Look, It's in a Book

There are plenty of incredible novels for adults that were written in the 1980s (some of you probably snuck a peek at these when your parents weren't looking). But oh, the plethora of literature that was written just for kids! This was an excellent time to be young, when reading for pleasure wasn't interrupted by a text or desperate need to Instagram.

From Judy Blume, you got heart-wrenching and funny coming-of-age stories, such as "Tiger Eyes" and "Superfudge." The Baby-Sitters Club books made childcare seem fun, all while dealing with other young person problems. And if it weren't for Roald Dahl, there would be no fantastic worlds where giants were not just big, but they were also friendly. Time to make a cup of tea and revisit the bookshelf (bonus if you remember how to look up books in a library's card catalog - and extra bonus if you used Troll or Scholastic book order forms to fatten up your collection).

8. Strawberry Shortcake Isn't Just for Dessert

my buddy doll
80s Original My Buddy Doll

Other than maybe the Speak & Spell, there weren't a ton of electronic handheld devices to distract kids from using their imaginations during play. How many times did your G.I. Joe action figures join forces with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? How badly would you like to have them do it right this second?If you don't immediately grin when thinking about the toys you had an as '80s kid, then you must be comatose. Toys from the 1980s were both basic and mind-blowing, all at the same time. The coveted Cabbage Patch Kid was at the top of many a Christmas list, perfect for both genders. Add My Buddy to that list - along with his memorable jingle, which you probably still know!

9. Parental Supervision Optional

Remember the freedom of being a kid in the 1980s? Mom would say, "Just come home in time for supper," and you did just that. You'd go to the park with your friends, playing until you were exhausted and happy, the fears of an adult world not looming over your head.

Not only were you free to roam without impediments, but you might also have been a latchkey kid. While being alone at home was not exactly a new concept, children in the 1980s found both parents having to work relatively commonplace. As a result, you probably had way more freedoms than kids do today - and you're more than a little bit smug about it, too.

10. There's Some Good News, and There's Some Bad News

Just like every decade, the '80s had its share of not-so-great times. The Challenger space shuttle explosion. The Cold War. Olympics boycotts by both the United States and the Soviet Union. Reaganomics. AIDS. These were things to make you want to hide under the covers; instead, you just went to school and practiced another air raid drill.

But there were some amazing things that took place in the '80s that left their mark on history. The Berlin Wall coming down. Sandra Day O'Connor becoming the first female Supreme Court Justice. Sally Ride as the first woman to go to space. And an entire world, adults and kids together, putting aside self-interest to focus on the hunger situation in Africa.

The Bodacious 80s

You might not feel that the 1980s were all that bodacious - but you would be totally wrong. Feel free to love on another decade but remember this: There would be no Upside Down without the '80s. Later, betty!

Was this page useful?
Related & Popular
Why '80s Kids Had the Best Childhoods