Childhood Traditions We Now Realize Were Super Gross Gallery

Children are super messy. It's just part of growing up! Pool parties, finger painting, field day... Kids definitely aren't afraid to get a little dirt under their fingernails. It's a good thing, too — because amidst these chaotic activities were some of your favorite childhood traditions. Red rover was a blast. Wrecking your best friend's hair with wacky knots and braids was way too fun. And cooking messy treats with Mom was always something to look forward to.

The only thing you dreaded about these plans during childhood was that afterwards, there was a prompt and thorough cleanup to endure. These were planned messes; parents were always at the ready, armed with disinfectant wipes and a change of clothes for when things got out of hand.

But left to your own devices, you weren't always the most cognizant of dirt and debris. You were probably pretty careless about germs. And many of the traditions you took part in at school and with friends swapped all kinds of spit, mud, germs, and invisible contaminants.

Sure, bobbing for apples is fun and all. But how much spit do you think lurked in that water? It's no wonder kids are always getting sick! Bobbing for apples, licking cheese dust off your fingers, and other totally "normal" things we all did as kids were actually really gross.

Blowing Out Birthday Candles

What could possibly be wrong with this classic birthday tradition? Well, when you think about it, blowing air and spit full-force over your food before you eat it isn't a great idea. Studies show it deposits an extra serving or two of bacteria. Above the thick layer of frosting, the birthday boy or girl sprays an extra coat of their spit before everyone eats a slice. Delicious!

Bobbing for Apples

This might be the only apple you ate that did not keep the doctor away — it probably earned you a visit. Not only has that piece of fruit been floating around in a cesspool of other kids' saliva, it's also probably not been washed in the first place. Then you used to stick your open mouth in the water to try and fish for the dirty apple. Whoever made this a popular party game did not think this through.


Yes, eating the plain half of the chip after finishing that first guac-covered bite is a bummer. But there is something worse: eating the spit and residue of the previous snacker's bite. Studies show that the bacteria from your mouth does transfer to the bowl if you double-dip. Looking back, we probably ate a lot of contaminated queso.

Food Dares

Kids are impressively creative — especially when it comes to conjuring new and nauseating combinations of foods from a lunch tray. Eat a cupcake covered in ketchup! Mush your sandwich into a bag and scoop it with a spoon! Bet you won't eat this Pop-Tart grilled cheese. (Believe it or not, that last one's a modern trend adults are making...) You always hoped you weren't on the receiving end of one of these nasty dares. Other than some mild emotional scarring, most of these bets were benign. But if things went unregulated, they could get seriously unsanitary. The five-second rule is not real, folks. So anything that's been on the floor even briefly could be contaminated. Plus, food that's been spit on, chewed up, or spit out was fair game.

Keeping Teeth for the Tooth Fairy

That bleeding, sharp piece of flesh and bone you just extracted from your mouth? Here's a great idea: Hold onto it till you get home from school. Show it to your friends, feel it with your hands, go ahead and put it in your pencil case! (Need we say more?)

Lake Showers

There were a lot of gross things that happened at summer camp. You probably rolled in dirt, swallowed dirty water, and ate grotesque combinations of already-questionable foods. Gray chicken nuggets dipped in apple sauce? Worth every nauseating bite in exchange for the laughs they earned you from your new best friends. But perhaps the grossest camp tradition of all was what was referred to as a "lake shower." Instead of actually showering, your exhausted teenage camp counselors would let you and your friends loose in the lake, splashing around in your bathing suits with a couple of bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Sure, you lathered your hair and rinsed underwater. But no one could possibly get clean after a lake shower — not when the water itself is thick with algae, fish fluids, other kids' pee, and who knows what else.

Licking Cheese Dust Off Your Fingers

After eating any package of salty, cheesy, overly-processed snacks, what was the first thing you did? You probably licked the cheese dust from your hands. And as benign as that habit seemed, it was actually super gross. Not only were your hands probably not even clean to begin with, but you probably didn't wash them directly after. So everything you touched after the fact was exposed to bacteria from your tongue.

Playing With Slime

Slime. Muck. Goo. Putty. Whatever you called it, you probably played with all kinds of gunk when you were a kid. It was mushy, it was colorful, and (above all) it was sticky. Your grubby little fingers weren't the only thing that stuck to the slime's surface like glue. Bacteria, debris, and hordes of contaminants clung to its gooey exterior — only to be picked up again and again until it finally grew unusable, weeks later.

Playing on a Playground

This is especially nasty if that playground was outside. Your party animal friends weren't the only ones rolling around and wiping snot all over the plastic structure — actual animals probably did, too. Hello, raccoon spit! Luckily, parents are usually aware of the contamination and take the proper steps to disinfect kids before they eat or use their hands again. But still, kids are quite careless. The hordes of germs that studies reveal often lie on these bright-colored surfaces could do some damage.

Saving the Rest of a Lollipop for Later

Lollipops took forever to finish, but no kid is going to let candy go to waste. To make the most of every sucker they could get their hands on, children would keep the wrappers to their lollipops and rewrap them to keep for later — even though the candy was already coated in saliva. Even though it was rewrapped, there's no way it was sealed well enough to keep germs from leaking in their hands and pockets before they reopened the candy later. Gross.

Spit Swears

A "spit swear" occurs when two people spit on their hands before partaking in a handshake. The idea is that whatever was being shook on would be strengthened by the bond of saliva. When you were a kid, there was truly nothing like this fresh swap of spit to solidify a promise. But you probably didn't realize what else you were swapping with this exchange. You were rubbing all 100 to 200 species of bacteria from the other person's mouth onto your palm. Hope you washed your hands before dinner!

Stuffed Animals and Blankets

Almost every kid had one — a teddy bear or blankie they refused to ever part with. Wherever you went and without fail, Pooh Bear or Koala or Blankie was by your side. That means its fur caught dirt and debris from everywhere you did: the floors of your school, the nooks and crannies of your car, the slide on the playground, and so much more. But you probably cuddled with your security blanket to help fall asleep at night, without washing it even once. Some kids will even put their mouths on these stuffed companions. The fabric and fur of your childhood best friend was always there for you when you needed it — but it was also a breeding ground for all kinds of germs.

Sucking Your Thumb

This was a bad habit for more reasons than one. Hygiene was certainly something to consider; after all, you were exposing yourself to all the bacteria from the surfaces and items you touched all day. But your teeth were being affected, as well. Once you're old enough that your teeth start to grow in, sucking your thumb can cause problems with the growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth.

Wet Willies

A wet willie occurs when a prankster licks one of their fingers and inserts it into their victim's ear. This is unsanitary for both parties involved — the first for licking their unwashed finger and the second for getting germs in their ear canal. While you probably won't catch a cold from within your ear, you might if you somehow get those germs onto your face or hands. Don't get too grossed out by these cute little traditions, though. If you somehow stayed safe from these shenanigans, you were still exposed to insane amounts of bacteria when you were little. Most of them probably came from seemingly clean places in your own home that are actually teeming with germs!

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