Latchkey kids had a lot of time to themselves to do whatever they could come up with to pass the time. In a world before screen time and doom scrolling, you could do a lot (of damage) with a few free hours on your hands.
We asked the former latchkey kids of the BuzzFeed Community to share what kind of crazy antics they would get into, and the answers were surprisingly all over the map.
Some kids just loved to roam.
1. "Revel in the freedom. It was paradise to bike home from school, hang out in an empty house with no one to bug you, watch MTV, eat whatever was around (hot buttered Cheerios, don't knock it til you try it)."
2. "My sister and I would bike all over town from morning to night, for YEARS! This was early '90s, so I was, like, age 5-10. We were constantly up to no good."
3. "'90s latchkey kid here. In the third grade, I was obsessed with tree/clubhouses for some reason, so I was always collecting discarded wood scraps on our walk home from school. Finally collected enough to make a lean-to but that wasn’t enough me."
"It quickly got out of hand, and in my third-grade wisdom, tried to smother it with my jacket. Long, dumb story short, I scorched a 4-foot diameter patch of grass in the backyard, blackened the side of the house, and ruined my jacket. When I got home the next day, my dad had demolished my lean-to, and from that day forward, hid all lighter fluid. All these decades later, hiding lighter fluid is still a practice in my parents’ house."
4. "I went out exploring with my friend in second grade, and we found some old, dried, big bones stashed away in a bag inside a bush. Now, I'm in my 30s and wonder if those were human bones."
"Oh, we also found a bag full of money (about 250€) on the same site a few weeks later. No clue what to make of that."
And a lot of them had trouble with the "remembering your keys" thing.
5. "One time, I forgot my key, so I figured out how to open the kitchen window from the outside."
6. "I forgot my key, broke a pane of glass in the garage door to be able to reach its lock, went in through the door, walked through the glass, not realizing I'd cut myself (to this day, I'm barefoot when I can be, so I don't feel much with my feet)."
7. "I didn’t get into any trouble but I’d constantly lock myself out, use the spare key, and forget to put it back, and then really lock myself out when I first started staying home alone at 8."
And there was a lottttt of the internet of yore.
8. "I was a latchkey kid in the early days of the internet, so definitely watching porn and pretending to be an adult in chatrooms."
9. "Being alone after school in the early days of the internet gave me way too much unsupervised time on message boards and AIM, and I was very consumed by my internet life."
10. "Was a latchkey kid in middle and high school from the late '90s through early 00s, and every day after school was just 🌽 o’clock for me."
"Needless to say I spent lots of time learning to erase my digital trail as best as I could!!
It felt like that part in Don Jon where he was conditioned to become aroused from just hearing the computer’s booting-up sound, though for me it was the dial-up sound 🤣."
Questionable eating was a serious thing.
11. "It was 1996 and I wasn’t allowed to use the stovetop or oven, but I could use the microwave."
12. "Now you did it, you asked THAT question! Mid-'70s latchkey from about 3–5:30. We were supposed to get home and stay there, and start dinner. There were a few people I wasn't allowed to hang out with, so I got a ride home from them every day and everyone came in and hung out, smoked weed, etc."
13. "I was a latchkey kid in third grade in the late '70s, and I didn't DARE get in trouble — my mom was scary as hell. Her rules were to go inside, lock the door, call my grandmother at work immediately, don't let anyone else in, and don't use the stove."
The rules around TV just flew out the window.
14. "After my parents split up, I started being able to stay home alone since I only lived with one (working) parent. We had just gotten cable and I discovered Dateline."
15. "I learned from my father that women are never to use their bodies to get things from men. That they must cover up and be decent out of respect for men and themselves. That women who do this are low lives. But when he would lock me in the house for the night while he went to work night shifts I found his collection of porn magazines."
16. "I would turn on Jerry Springer and watch it with subtitles because I was convinced my parents would get home early and find out."
17. "I watched a ton of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Until my stepdad came home early one day... I was in 6th grade. I was then supervised by my sister who has these weird rules about what's appropriate and what's not. She's two years younger."
18. "I would play Sonic the Hedgehog 3 on Sega with the volume low until I heard the door handle jiggle"
Kids were regularly on roofs?
19. "We used to climb out the kitchen window to sit on the roof of the garage. We could sit up there and read our books, or we'd climb up from the front porch to let ourselves in if we forgot our keys and didn't want to admit it to the neighbours."
20. "You could climb on the roof easily from my bedroom window. Me my brother and cousins used to climb on the roof and throw water balloons at cars passing by."
21. "My ability to scale the house to climb in the highest unlocked window when locked out of the house was next level. My sister and I would also take the silverware to dig in the woods and leave it in the woods."
People got in trouble in their houses...
22. "I was painting a model plane and in between coats I was bouncing a tennis ball against the wall (something my parents would have put a quick stop to if they'd been home) and of course the tennis ball smashed into my rack of paints and they all splashed onto the carpet of my room."
23. "I went for a ride in the dryer. My brother kept the door open and turned it on for a couple of spins."
24. "My bro and I took out the family room ceiling fan because we used to put Beanie Babies on all the blades and then turn it onto full."
25. "I think the worst trouble we got into was when we shaved the dog, painted his nails, and dressed him up. My mom and dad were FURIOUS at that one."
26. "I had a dental plate — a wire that ran over the roof of my mouth. I made myself instant noodles for dinner each night. Once the noodles caught on the wire and dangled down my throat, choking me."
"I had to claw it back out without breaking them or I’d be dead. I ate them again the next day and the same thing happened. Took a few goes for me to learn my lesson."
27. "Former latchkey kid here. When I was in elementary school I was left alone for approximately two hours after school until my dad got home from work. I was instructed to lock the door and not answer unless someone said the code word- blueberry."
"One day my grandmother came by and couldn't remember the magic word. Of course, I didn't let her in. My dad came home and she was FUMING on the porch. BTW I got the belt, although technically I did as I was told."
"For the record, I was making my own soup on the stove at the age of five or six. It seems really messed up looking back at it."
28. "I was young, under 10, and I had a friend sleeping over. We were in the living room watching a movie when someone started BEATING on the front door so hard we both screamed it was so abrupt. The front door had a small curtain so I tried to just barely peek out when I saw a knife."
"I called the police while I was SOBBING I was so scared. It turned out to be my cousin's dad drunk AF looking for my dad. I'd always been a really independent child and preferred to be left alone but after that, I slept in my mom's bed with her for at least a month."
...in their backyard...
29. "We also dug a hole in the backyard the size of a hot tub and lined it with trash bags. It obviously wouldn't hold water and my mom was very mad when she got home and made us fill it in."
30. "Early '90s latchkey kid here. My brother and I were home alone all summer during the day with school out. We were really into Indiana Jones, so one day we decided to play 'archeologist' and go digging for ancient artifacts…in the backyard."
...and out of the house.
31. "I snuck way too many boys in the house before my parents were home. I just got away with too much."
"I’m honestly so glad that I work from home because my daughter is a lot like me when I was young, and I know she would try all the dumb stuff I did. She’s definitely my payback."
32. "I didn't have a computer to work on homework and my parents worked late often so I often would get off the bus then walk a half mile to the next road over to my grandma's house with my dog in tow. She had lung cancer and was on oxygen so imagine my surprise one day when I saw her smoking cigarettes."
"Later I told my dad what I had seen and he asked if she at least took off her oxygen to do so. 'No she just kinks the hose.' I replied. Now at the time I just thought he was mad she was smoking still. I didn't realize she could have caused the house to explode with her, my grandpa, me, and my dog all inside. I was not allowed to go over to my grandma's anymore."