Devolving Toys for Today’s Kids   

Back in the good old days, we had toys that left lasting memories.  Sometimes, these toys left lasting scars, burns, and fractures as well, but mostly just good, warm memories.  One of my fondest memories growing up was playing with the Holly Hobbie Oven.

The Holly Hobbie Oven was a stove that was made to look old-fashioned.  Like, really old-fashioned.  The old black cast iron wood stove your grandmother used when she was young kind of old-fashioned.   Picture Little House on the Prairie old-fashioned.   It came with pots and pans, a rolling-pin, and a few mixing bowls and spoons.  It cooked, like its predecessor the Easy Bake Oven, with the heat of a light bulb.  It was sheer genius in its simplicity.  It was safe to use if you didn’t put your hand in too far (don’t ask me how I know this) and may be the reason some little girls grew up to be fantastic cooks.  I said some, not all (cough cough).

click the pic to learn all about Holly Hobbie!

I got mine for Christmas in 1975, if I remember right.  What I do remember clearly is just how excited I was to play with it and make real food (of a sort).  I played with it all the time too; this may be one of my favorite toys ever from childhood, next to my Curious George stuffed monkey (which I still have, by the way).  I still get warm fuzzies when I think of this toy and the hours spent cooking, creating and imagining.

In today’s world, where is the source of a child’s warm fuzzies?  It seems that kids are growing up too fast to enjoy life’s simplicities.  Adults feed a child’s need for distraction, myself included, but maybe we’re choosing the wrong kinds of distractions.  Where is the imagination and excitement of the simpler toys in life, such as building blocks and good old-fashioned board games?  I wonder if the kids get the same sense of wonder when they unwrap an iPhone for Christmas that we used to get while unwrapping our Barbies and GI Joes.   In a microwave world, maybe I am hopelessly camp-fire addicted, but I believe that we need to allow our kids to have an “innocent stage” for as long as we can. It’s hard to do in today’s world, though.

There are some kids who still enjoy the simpler toys like yo-yo’s and Legos (my son was NUTS about Legos growing up) but in general, it seems society has outgrown these things.  I find that sort of sad.  There is no imagination needed in today’s scripted world of video games and smart phones.  What are we teaching our kids about self-reliance?  Are they learning how to simply slow down and enjoy the fun things in life, like cooking with a light bulb or ripping off Stretch Armstrong’s arms to see what his gel insides looks like?

I am glad that society is moving forward, don’t get me wrong.  I think there is a time and a place for electronics, but I also believe technology needs to be balanced out for our youth with good old-fashioned toys that spark the imagination and employ creativity; toys that evoke a friendly competitive rivalry like Monopoly, Uno and Sorry (umm…well, in my house, to this day, when we play these games, someone usually almost always gets killed before it’s all said and done, but still, they’re fun games…yeah, that’s right, fun games!)

I’m not saying we shouldn’t embrace progress. I’m all for progress. Maybe it’s good that toys have evolved, along with everything else. And maybe it’s sad that things like the Holly Hobbie Oven are tossed to the wayside.

21 thoughts on “Devolving Toys for Today’s Kids   

  1. Thanks for introducing me to the Holly Hobby oven, a previously unknown hole in my pop culture mental database. One of my sisters had an EZ Bake Oven but I never knew of its country cousin.

    For me (big surprise) I remember getting a chemistry set that had a number of things in it that would get you arrested if you were to give them to a child these days. Mercury, an alcohol burner, sulfur… It was the sulfur that got me banned from experimenting in the house. I did the experiment just as they instructed, it worked perfectly, and I confirmed that yes, sulfur will burn and it will smell TERRIBLE!!

  2. I still have the doll my grandfather gave me for my first birthday. She turns 74 in the fall. She bas been all around the world, recovered many times but always has her new embroidered face match the prior one. She has been pillow, comfort cuddle, confidante. The ultimate warm fuzzy.

    • That is so cool! I love my Curious George! I’ve had him since before I started school even…so 4 or 5 I guess. My son in turn played him and so did my daughter. His name has worn off the front of his shirt, but otherwise, he’s in good shape and he sits on a shelf now, his “kid days” done. Two dolls I wish I still had were ones my mother made…it was a girl and a boy, with yarn for hair and soft fabric bodies. I don’t know what happened to them, but they were perfectly made and I do wish I still had them.

  3. I agree. We have lost something that made us get to know ourselves and others better. I think the harm that is being caused, by constantly looking at a screen, or taking pictures of one’s self is truly terrible.

  4. What did you make with your Holly Hobby oven? I always wanted an EZ Bake oven but never got one.

    The toys of my childhood included a Light Bright set, Shrinky Dinks, pick up sticks, balarina and native American costumes, Play Doh, the big box of Crayola Crayons, a harmonica, lots of books, Barbies and her yellow Corvette, playing cards, Silly Putty, yo yos, Holly Hobby and other stuff of course.

    • It was mostly different kinds of cakes and brownies. Right up my alley! LOL I wasn’t really into Barbies, but I had shrinky dinks (fun!), pick up sticks, break the ice (which I still have), a spirograph, stuffed animals galore, a very cool large-size ranch set that had the ranch-house, ranch owners/family, and horses (and pens for the horses), among other similar toys. My brother I remember had a cool chemistry set and GI Joes and an erector set.

  5. I had Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven. Burned myself a couple of times on the hold light bulb. I don’t remember how I did that. And I pretty much ate the fudge mix uncooked. (at some point) and then I ran out of product and that was no longer a useful gift. My mom forgot and never bought supplies for it. I never purchased it for my daughter. I always thought, this will become one big mess in the room and be out of supply in 1 day.

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