Thursday, April 02, 2015

So much for the Easy Bake Oven and piece of plastic cheese

Other than thumbing through the kitchen design books and catalogues my sisters have periodically sent my way, and (virtually) thumbing my way through fab kitchens on Pinterest, I have done precious little about Operation Kitchen Makeover.

I did have a day scheduled to check out a couple of kitchen design centers but, of course, that excursion coincided with the first blizzard. Which was followed by the second blizzard. And so on ad winter infinitum. Fortunately, my friend Peter, who will be my companion on this jaunt, is still retired and has plenty of time on his hands and nothing better than to drag around with me looking at countertops and appliances. (And it certainly helps that he’s more interested in and better at stuff like this than I am.)

No hurry, of course.

The news is that every contractor in Massachusetts is booked through 2034 working through the backlog of storm-related damage. Just ask my cousin Babs who had an ice dam in a skylight, causing a cascade of damage in her cathedral ceiling living room. In her words, it’s a war zone.

The good news is that, thanks to high-end toy kitchens, I may not need a

After all, KidsKraft has created a reasonably good design for me.

Come to think of it, given how seldom I cook, and given how small my kitchen is, I might be able to just set this baby up and fit out the rest of the room as a book nook and reading lounge.

And think of the money I’d save. At $150 or so, this kitchen would come to a very small fraction of what I will no doubt have to pay for my kitchen. Way less than one percent.

I wonder if it comes with tempered glass countertops?

On second thought, KidKraft has sold 150,000 of these, and I don’t want my kitchen to look like everyone else’s.

I also have to admit that this designer kitchen  is not all that upscale. You can get it from Walmart. And, let’s face it, anything from Walmart is not going to rev up the resale value of a place on Beacon Hill.

But it’s still an interesting example of how kids’ kitchens have gotten more sophisticated than the cardboard or plastic versions of yore. As has the food that get’s prepared in them, and the utensils used to make that food.

You can get your kid a Keurig-looking coffee maker, LeCreuset-looking pots, and knives that would do Gordon Ramsay proud. Not to mention artisanal food.

It’s a modern makeover that mirrors big changes with real food and cooking. Sparked by an interest among children in foodie culture and the popularity of reality TV cooking shows, manufactures say they have updated their food toys, now offering everything from veggie burgers and stir fry to miniature coffee makers that resemble Keurig beverage dispensers, single-serve pods included. (Source: WSJ Online.)

“Interest in foodie culture among children.”

Most of the kids I know are more into the crappy plastic toy in the Happy Meal box,or making sure that no food that is not white or pale yellow ever passes their lips. But maybe that’s just the kids I know.

Anyway, the more authentic the better, apparently.

“Childhood is about preparing for real life and mimicking what you see your parents and adults doing around you,” says Melissa Bernstein, co-founder of toy company Melissa & Doug, which will release a toy rotisserie chicken set this year for $50. With the importance of real-life modeling in mind, she says, it is important that toys—especially those that encourage educational role play, like cooking—keep up with the times.

Granted that “childhood is about preparing for real life” (more or less), and kids do like to imitate what the grownups are doing, but does all the imitation of real life have to be handed directly to the kids?

One of the things that bugs me about so many of today’s playthings are scripted.

Forget free-form Legos that let you build whatever, it’s now about specific kits that encourage kids to build what’s on the box.

Dolls and stuffed animals come with story books attached, so the kids don’t have to make anything up. It’s all there for them.

So many toys “talk”, so kids don’t need to put words in their mouths. Not to mention that they do a lot of stuff, like little robots.

Is it just me, of could kids do with a few more empty cardboard boxes and rag dolls that do nothing?

At a baby shower a few weeks ago, the best present was a set of old-fashioned blocks.

(Blocks were one of the all-time great toys in our house when I was growing out. Someone would toss them on the family room floor – we had two hugs bags full – and we’d all just sit there building stuff and designing rooms. We did fight over the newer blocks, which had brighter colors. Other than that, peace more or less reigned when we were playing with blocks)

Anyway, I’d like to see kids improvise, something they are all so genuinely capable of.

Harvey Karp is an adjunct clinical associate professor of pediatrics at University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine and author of the parental guide “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”

He says toys that encourage positive role play help children develop healthful intrinsic memories—the sorts of remembrances they pick up before they can speak that provide them with useful life skills down the road.

“If they are always playing with little toy slices of pizza, they are going to think that’s what the normal snack is,” says Mr. Karp.

“But if they are playing with toy pieces of broccoli, they are much more likely to be interested in that later in life.”

Well, Harvey Karp is certainly entitled to his informed opinion, but before the toy manufacturers start mass-producing toy kale, how’s this for an idea:

Take the kids for a walk – in the woods, on the beach – and pick stuff up. Shells, pebbles, acorns, twigs, leaves, sand – whatever looks interesting. Then turn the kids loose to make food out of it.

Maybe kids who make mud pies won’t grow up interested in healthy foods. But maybe they’ll grow up realizing that an imagination is actually more wonderful than pieces of toy broccoli.


And a tip of the toque blanche to my sister Kath, who pointed this article my way.

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