COMMENTARY: These Chocolate Chip Cookie-Themed Toys Are as Sweet as the Real Thing

Happy holidays, everybody! In honor of May 15, aka National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, named after the delectable treat invented at a Massachusetts restaurant during the 1930s, here are some toys featuring either the real thing or a synthetic one.

It was a little surprising to find so many playthings featuring the classic snack, but it makes sense: First, the chocolate chip cookie is every bit as iconic as any character in kids’ licensing. Secondly, in general, little kids are as passionate for cookies as they are for toys, so a cookie-based toy lets them have their cake and eat it, too (though not literally, unless you add a few extra eggs into the batter. But I digress).

Either way, these items gladden our hearts and make our mouths water just by looking at them:

NewSproutsBakeItcroppedNew Sprouts Bake It!, from Learning Resources: This 15-piece collection of baking tools lets kids indulge their ambitions with baking sheets, large bowl, measuring cup, and more. Best of all, the set comes with four toy chocolate chip cookies, which kids can practice lifting off the baking sheet with the toy spatula (A good skill to have mastered before eventually moving on to the real thing). Suitable for kids ages 2 and up. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Let Kids Play With What They Want!

Every so often, I babysit my cousin’s two kids, one boy age 5 and one girl age 6. During one particular instance, we ended up saving a city on the brink of destruction while playing with a police construction set accompanied by a fire truck and superhero action figures. That’s when Alex asked his sister why she wanted to play with us when we were playing with “boy” toys.

“Because it’s fun,” she casually replied in a heartbeat, adding a quick shrug. And it was as simple as that. But what would make Alex question why his sister wanted to play with him even though there were no female characters involved in the story?

Maddie.March7While some toys in the industry are truly gender neutral, others are “reverse gendered.” Gender neutral toys, such as certain board games and Play-Doh, do not intentionally appeal to the divide between girls and boys. Reverse gendered toys don’t exactly have the opposite purpose, but the companies attempt to reach a broader audience. A manufacturer will make changes to a previously gender-specific toy to make the opposite gender drawn towards it. The most common way this is done is having the exact same product produced in two different color palettes. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Kids Getting Older Younger—Or Younger Older?

Everyone always talks about how kids are getting older younger. Kids as young as 8 years old are swapping their Barbie dolls and Transformers for iPods and tablets—but this isn’t the case for everyone. There are big kids everywhere, and toys have a funny little habit of bringing an adult’s inner-child giggling wildly to the surface.

Nostalgia is a huge trend in toys today—classic properties such as The Smurfs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Pac-Man have resurfaced and are engaging a whole new generation. Traditional toys, such as Hasbro’s Easy Bake Oven, Kahootz’s Spirograph, and POOF-Slinky’s Slinky, all still appeal to young kids the same way they did decades ago. However, adults and older kids will find just as much fun in new products primarily targeted toward youngsters, too.

RainbowLoom.Butterfly Blossom braceletThis weekend, I was loomed. A family friend’s daughter, Karli, had her wrist covered in the colorful rubber bracelets that are a product of Rainbow Loom, from Choon’s Designs. A huge craze among kids, I was enamored by the bracelets and begged her to teach me how to make one. She did, and of course, hers came out better. I’ve been staring at it on my wrist every day since she made it for me, and I was extremely tempted to purchase my own loom when I went into a Michael’s craft store and saw the enormous display (but I thought to myself: “You’re 23 years old, Marissa! Taking home product samples is one thing, but you cannot justify BUYING a toy!”).

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COMMENTARY: Manufacturers Are Shifting Gender Roles in the Toy Space

The blurring of gender roles is a trend that I’ve been noticing more and more, and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I think it’s silly to try and reinvent the wheel—let’s be honest, toys that are pink, sparkly, or doll-related attract girls, while Super Heroes, cars, and trucks attract boys (this is, of course, generally speaking)—and what’s wrong with that? On the other hand, there are some toys that are shifting to neutral territory that I think are not only appropriate, but smart on the part of the manufacturers.

neutral easy bake ovenHasbro’s Easy Bake Oven is a great example of this. Introduced in the 1960s, the Easy Bake Oven has always been seen as a girls’ toy. Recently, a young girl contacted the company and asked for a gender-neutral version of the toy. Her younger brother had an interest in cooking, but Easy Bake Ovens were only available in “girly” colors, such as purple and pink. Hasbro agreed and has created a black and silver oven that looks more realistic and appeals to all young chefs. Male chefs are certainly not a revolutionary concept, especially with the range of current TV shows featuring men in the kitchen—think Top Chef, Chopped, Cake Boss, America’s Test Kitchen. I expect that this new look will attract a lot of boys when it becomes available this fall. [Read more...]

Milestone Anniversary for the Classic Cooking Toy Commemorated with a Fresh Take

This year Hasbro Inc. celebrates 50 years of classic kitchen play with the Easy-Bake brand, stirring up culinary inspiration for generations of young chefs everywhere. To commemorate this milestone anniversary, the Easy-Bake brand will mix things up and unveil a new color scheme for its Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven: a silver, blue, and black model. [Read more...]

GUEST BLOG: Top 10 Steel Toys of All Time by Becky Cunningham

The following is a guest blog written by Becky Cunningham, a contributor for Capital Steel & Wire, Inc. and a writer with expertise in communication and public relations. Capital Steel & Wire, Inc. is a supplier of domestic and international steel bar and wire products.

Throughout history, millions of dolls, trucks, board games, balls, stuffed animals, crafts, and other toys have been introduced for children of all ages and generations. The best toys of all time are debatable, but there are those few standard toys that have made an important mark in the life of the American child. What’s more significant is that these toys have one fundamental feature in common—they are all made of steel. Check out our list of the top 10 steel toys of all time.

1. Slinky

“It’s Slinky! It’s Slinky! For fun it’s a wonderful toy. It’s Slinky! It’s Slinky! It’s fun for a girl or a boy.”  Slinky—and its famous jingle—is certainly a childhood classic; the slogan speaks for itself. But what the slogan doesn’t say is “It’s steel! It’s steel!” The ever-popular Slinky, developed in 1943 by mechanical engineer Richard James, was a hit the moment it was available in stores. In November 1945, Gimbels Department Store sold its entire inventory of Slinkys in just 90 minutes.

This “walking” toy was actually an accidental creation. In an attempt to develop springs to support sensitive instruments aboard ships in war time, James inadvertently created a spring that bounced around different levels of his workshop and recoiled into an upright position. Fascinated by this discovery, he experimented with different types of steel and tensions, and, a year later, made a spring that would walk—the Slinky.

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Inventor of the Easy-Bake Oven Dies

Ronald Howes, the inventor of the Easy-Bake Oven, has died at the age of 83. Howes created his famous invention in the early 1960s, as director of research and new product development for Kenner Products.

After returning from a trip from New York City, Howes wondered if Kenner could develop a toy version of the chestnut roasters that were popular on many New York City corners. After collaborating with Kenner engineers, they decided that a light bulb to heat the oven was both safe and practical. Later, the light bulb would be replaced by a heating element.

Howes is also credited for contributing to what would later become a modern version of the Spirograph. Howes is survived by his wife, Nancy, six children, 14 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.