When I was younger, I, like most of my friends and family, had a miniature kitchen playset. I had plastic bowls, utensils, pots, and even plastic food. I loved to make multi-course meals that I would force my brother to “eat.” I logged so many hours over the stove that eventually, many of the knobs, doors, and handles fell off, leaving me with a long laundry list of household repairs, much like my parents encountered in real life.
While modern kitchen sets have not always been around, I’m sure kids have been playing with their parents’ pots and pans since the invention of the pan, until someone finally thought to create miniature sets for play. A variety of companies make them and they come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. My brother even had a mini grill, complete with sound effects. They’re affordable, in the range of $50 to $200, and they come with all kinds of fun, fake accessories.
I think that one of the main appeals for these mini kitchens is what Cross talks about when he explains the necessity of mimicry (43). Mimicry is a form of learning and is something most kids do in order to associate themselves with the adult world. Mimicry is fun, although I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older that the things kids imitate are usually not as fun as they are when you’re pretending. I hate cooking and doing the dishes, which are two of the very things I used to do with my kitchen set.
In class, we talked about toys for boys and girls, and I think that kitchen sets can be very gender neutral, which is another reason for their popularity. Yes, some are clearly meant for girls (the bright pink ones) and others for boys (the grill my brother had looked “manly” in red and black colors), but many of the sets on Amazon have gender neutral colors and show boys playing with them in the pictures. My brother always played with mine when we were little. Maybe this gender neutrality is recent due to shifting gender roles, or maybe not, but either way, I think that kitchen playsets can be for boys or girls. I don’t think that there is any stigma about boys pretending to cook, especially since many men cook now.
However, I can’t say that other types of toys are always gender neutral. I remember the year I stopped getting the same toy as all my male cousins. It was sad to see them all shooting each other with their nerf guns while I stared at my stupid charm bracelet wondering how I could steal my brother’s gun without my parents noticing. However, life goes on.
Kitchen playsets are a fun way for kids to imitate their parents and enjoy their childhood. If only doing the real action were half as fun as pretending.