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?