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).
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.