Long-running toys can be fascinating historical objects.
Barbie plays tennis and drives a peach convertible in the 1950s (and appears to have a massive brain), has “Teen Talk” in the 1990s (remember “Math class is tough”?), and rung in the millennium with a pinhole video camera in her chest (for creepy little girls who like to surreptitiously record their friends).
The toy has been a hit since its debut in 1963, and has been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Though kiddie ovens go back to Victorian times (when they were made of steel or cast iron and required actual solid fuel for heat, in keeping with the child safety norms of the time), the Easy-Bake Oven was the first to become a wildly popular trend.
This sassy 'lil oven came out in a time when America was in love with appliances that made daily chores faster and easier. The oven also benefited from its use of incandescent light bulbs as the heating source, which helped assuage parents’ concerns about safety (because by then they kind of cared)—even though the temperature inside got up to 350 degrees. The year of its release, the Easy-Bake was the must-have-toy of the Christmas season, and stores couldn’t keep it on the shelf.
The toy also demonstrates changing preferences in children’s toys over the years. Initially it was all about trendy kitchen colors: turquoise and pale yellow in the 60s; burnt orange, avocado green, and gold in the 70s. Then microwaves became the tech rage, so Easy-Bake models in the 70s and 80s mimicked that look. By the 1990s it was all about colors girls liked: pink and purple. Now there are also appropriately masculine models so boys don’t have to just use their sister’s. Truth.
Yes, the Easy Bake Lives on for Generation Z, and now, thanks to federal legislation, in a more energy-efficient model! Let’s just hope you don’t find any pinhole cameras in the dial.