Easy Bake Oven Photo courtesy of myjudythefoodie.com

Easy-Bake Oven
Photo courtesy of myjudythefoodie.com

When I was a kid, I always wanted an Easy-Bake Oven. I was amazed that a small light bulb in a bright pink, plastic oven could create brownies, cookies, and many other delicious goodies. When I finally received the coveted Easy-Bake Oven for my eighth Christmas I wasted no time in making my culinary daydreams come true. Sure, the brownies were always runny in the middle and the cookies never baked completely through, but I did not care. It was always exciting to slide an aluminum pan full of batter into the electric oven and watch the magic happen. The Easy-Bake Oven is so popular because it is seen as a safe way for children to learn life skills through play. However, just because a toy is a smaller replica of its twin in the kitchen, does not mean that it is not dangerous.

This late nineteenth century/early twentieth century cast-iron toy stove is a great example. It was produced by the Empire Stove Company (later renamed the Tappan Stove Company) as an exact replica of its full-sized version that was sold to housewives

Stove, metal. Farmers' Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Amelia D. Bielaski, New York State Historical Association, N0162.1979. Photo by Sammy Smithson

Stove, metal. New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Amelia D. Bielaski, New York State Historical Association, N0162.1979. Photo by Sammy Smithson

across the country. [3] This stove came with six burners, a stovepipe, grate, and a compartment for burning coal or wood. The hope was that young girls could practice their cooking skills on this toy stove before graduating to the one their mothers used. There is one snag, however. The Empire toy stove is not modified in any way other than size; it is as fully functional as a full-sized stove and potentially just as harmful. Working toy stoves like this were produced well into the 1960’s; some could be heated up to almost 600 degrees Fahrenheit! [4]

Easy-Bake Oven Injury Photo courtesy of youtube.com

Easy-Bake Oven Injury
Photo courtesy of youtube.com

It may seem hard to believe that parents would give their children such dangerous toys, but the concept of childhood was still relatively new. In medieval society individuals would be expected to assume adult responsibilities, duties, and clothing as early as age seven. [1] More recently, society has taken major strides to ensure that children are playing with the safest toys in the safest way possible. The Consumer Product Safety Commission was established in 1972 and now toys, strollers, and even stuffed animals can be recalled if they do not follow the strict regulations of safety that the CPSC has set forth. [2] In fact, the Easy-Bake Oven was recalled in 2007, 2013, and 2014 for incidents involving burns, electrical fires, and partial finger amputation. [5] However, new and improved versions continue to be sold at many toy store and can even still be seen under the Christmas tree. This begs the question, at what risk are we willing to bring children into the kitchen through play?

Sammy Smithson

[1] Ohio History Connection. “Tappan Stove Company.” Accessed October 20, 2015. http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Tappan_Stove_Company?rec=2620.

[2] Urban Ghosts. “Retro Fails: 10 Dangerous Toys Alarmingly Given to Children.” Accessed October 20, 2015. http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2015/07/retro-fails-dangerous-toys-for-children/.

[3] John Clarke. “Histories of Childhood.” In Childhood Studies: An Introduction, edited by Dominic Wyse, 3-12.Wiley-Blackwell, 2004.

[4] Consumer Product Safety Commission. “About CPSC.” Accessed October 28, 2015. http://www.cpsc.gov/en/About-CPSC/.

[5] Ibid.