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Do You Miss Toys from the Past?

Do You Miss Toys from the Past?

My sister had an Easy Bake Oven. You remember that miniature play oven the size of a shoebox that baked whatever you put in its incandescent belly, all with the help of one light bulb? Well, when my sister grew tired of her pint-sized oven, I took it over, and not for the usual boy business of melting and destruction. Maybe it says something about me, but I used to make all kinds of vaguely edible experiments in that oven, with understandably middling results. Anyone for Triscuit pie? Well eventually the light burned out on this hobbyhorse oven and it was cast off and disposed of in some landfill.

I recently came upon an Internet archive of, you guessed it, play ovens and housekeeping toys (courtesy of Slate.com) at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY. As you could imagine, there are all sorts of nifty items in this collection including play irons, play sewing machines, play toasters, and play ovens; all of which would be deemed tragically unsafe by contemporary standards. There is a cast-iron and tin baby stove from 1915 that actually burned coal in its fiery bowels, and an assortment of electric stoves from the mid-century that plugged right into the wall and likely got really, really hot. All of these toys were likely manufactured to give young girls a leg up on how to master the art and rigor of housework, and all were made at a time that predated stringent safety and litigation concerns. While most of these toys are now museum items to be gawked at in wonder, the old Easy Bake Oven still actually exists, albeit in a hopped up contemporary, but neutered, form. Gone is the scalding incandescent bulb that supplied the heat, and now we have a plastic oven with unclear heat source that requires 20 minutes to preheat and a hefty price tag (you may be better off just buying your child a cheap toaster oven).

Do you have fond memories of household toys that have been long forgotten? Is our national obsession with safety moving our kids away from essential experiences like cooking with light bulbs? What toy would you bring back, if you could?

Top 10 Terrible Toys

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

61 comments

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6:21AM PST on Dec 12, 2012

When i was little my Dad made my sister and I a doll's wardrobe each. I loved that thing!

6:43AM PST on Dec 6, 2012

Dawn dolls, Malibu Barbie and P.J.

11:59PM PST on Dec 3, 2012

I liked Pick Up Sticks and my favorite was not really playing, it was coloring. I really enjoyed coloring books and would beg for a 64 pack of crayons. Most of the time I just got the 24 pack. I liked paint by numbers as well, not the difficult one for adults, but the childrens version-large spaces, easy to see numbers. My brothers built WWII model airplanes. I had no interest in that.

7:19PM PST on Dec 3, 2012

trips down memory lane can be fun

12:43PM PST on Dec 3, 2012

How times change! Can you imagine marketing toy irons that plug in and heat up for preschoolers? I had one and my father learned quickly that he should remove the cord. It was either that or buy more first aid cream and bandages. This might explain my lifelong aversion to ironing.

9:25AM PST on Dec 3, 2012

Hot Wheels Sizzlers - they were battery-operated, rechargeable race cars, matchbox-sized, that you could put on a three-wide track and they'd race around super fast and try to pass each other and go flying off the curves until their battery died, at which point, we could have a "pit stop" and recharge the car and put it back on the track. We calculated out the scale distances and ran the "Indy 500" in our basement - took a couple of hours, but we were having a great time counting laps and retrieving our cars from under the couches!

9:07AM PST on Dec 3, 2012

When I was a kid, I spent countless hours with Matt Mattel, the astronaut, his crew, and all the really cool equipment that they had. There was also a "time machine" toy, where one would put in these plastic cubes, heat them up, and then a dinosaur would "unfold."

8:30AM PST on Dec 3, 2012

Ginny dolls, my favorites! Forget Barbie! Paper dolls, especially the ones from various countries, fun from the past.

10:39PM PST on Dec 2, 2012

Paper dolls. Cheap and entertain for hours. Using your imagination.

8:21PM PST on Dec 2, 2012

One year mom, who was trying to domesticate me gave my little sister and I a complete kitchen of cardboard and hard plastic.

My sister loved it and I could have cared less when I realized it was never going to work.

An eon later and I cook, sis can't stand it. Don't you love irony?

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