To Easy Bake, or not to Easy Bake?

This shouldn’t be such a hard decision.

Bee has this at the top of her list of gifts she’d like for the holidays.  Our hesitation isn’t because the toy oven has an age recommendation of 6 and up.  No… wait, is it 7 and up?  I’ll go look… hold on… holy cow, you aren’t going to believe this – they have it as 8 and up!?  You should be 8 years old to be able to place your hands carefully near a lightbulb?!

Anyway, no, the reason is that she made pancakes on the stove top just this morning (she’s 4), and has been cooking with me since she could stand.  She helps cook everything already.  It is true that she can’t reach the oven to put things in, or take things out – – but it is also true that the Easy Bake oven says that adult supervision is required (so that oafish 8 year old of yours doesn’t get in trouble with a lightbulb).

She wants to bake independently – and the toy isn’t even recommended for that.  It costs a good 6 bucks every time she’d want to make a cookie-sized little cake (pro-tip, you can make 3 actual cakes for that money).

The marketing and package design are sexist and entirely dismiss boys as a consumer.  Cooking isn’t for girls any more than it is for boys.  That notion is absurd and reflects an ugly history of keeping women tied to the home while men go out and earn – as offensive to the men who would prefer to be caregivers as it is to the women who want to pursue careers.

To some people, that is going to sound unfair. It turns out that (according to the reviews I’ve read) a big audience for this toy is the mothers that wished they had it as a child and now want to live vicariously through their children.  That it doesn’t occur to them to just bake with their kids is odd to me – but I know how nostalgia can be a heavy motivator.  There is the underlying point that their own parents didn’t get the oven for them for some reason.  I’d be willing to bet that ability to afford the toy isn’t the main reason (though it may have been the main reason given) – I imagine that since their own parents did a lot more cooking than parents do today, they had similar reasons for denying this toy to their kids:  they cooked regular food with the child instead.

And there is the problem area.  The “we’ll just cook normal food together, honey” solution didn’t satisfy the children in question (the one’s desiring to live vicariously through their kids today).  Maybe it is a sort of desire to do miniature cooking – maybe the tiny frivolousness of the venture is the main attraction and shouldn’t be dismissed so lightly?  Or – maybe it’s the advertising blitz this toy relies on.  Bee doesn’t watch commercial TV much at all (only on occasional Saturdays does she watch network cartoons) – and yet the commercials she’s seen for the EBO have made a big impression.

I don’t want this to be her Red Rider BB gun – the thing that she sits back and says “yeah, these are wonderful presents, but what I really wanted was that Easy Bake Oven”.  I’ve heard some interesting arguments for allowing your child to pick out trashy toys from time to time, so that they get a sense of self-determination and learn that sometimes things look better than they are – and that mom and dad are sometimes right about something being a piece of crap.

A substitute idea we have had is to get quality kid-sized baking impliments for baking real food in the real oven.  She already has a few – and we’ve seen some good ones out there.  The play kitchen, while not a complete waste of time/money/space has not turned out to be something she’s very interested in.  She wants to do the real thing – and more power to her.

Here is the part we came up with that I think might be brilliant:

Some complaints about the EBO are that it is too expensive, and that you can get a good quality toaster oven for that price.  Do see where I’m heading?  The mini muffin trays and cake pans we’ve seen on the market could fit in a toaster oven (I’ll check on this to be certain, but I know at least a mini cookie tray would easily fit).  We could also use it for strictly practical uses – heating/baking small things at lunch time, etc. (with more energy efficiency).  So – what if we had a chat with Santa about getting a real oven for Bee instead of a plastic piece of crap with a lightbulb in it and decals for temperature gauges and timers?  It wouldn’t cost any more – she could make a wider variety of things – it won’t end up unused in a closet somewhere even if it didn’t hold her interest.  So – a couple of kid-sized pans, good children’s oven mitts, and a run-of-the-mill toaster oven could be ideal.  Rational compromise.

We’ll run it by the man up north.


While you can get a regular toaster oven for less than an EBO – it would be of poor quality or too small a size, so we are 86ing the EBO subject in favor of just using the kitchen as usual.  Some kid-sized muffin pans and oven mitts are in order, though – hopefully they will scratch some of that EBO itch for the Bee.  Also, the notion of losing more counter space was weighing me down.  Maybe the suggestion would work for someone in other circumstances, though – and it seemed like a fun, smart alternative at the time.

stop the press:

Here is exactly what we wanted. Real non-stick cookware, real recipe cards with scaled ingredients.

Li’l Gourmet is the brand – they have some real sets and some play ones, the real ones are right on the money for us.

They also have a cupcake making set, a cake baking set, and others – – each have more decorating accessories than the Easy Bake brand, and they make food with ingredients you have in your cupboard, in actual batches.  The price is lower as well.


Studies: Millions of US Kids Lacking Vitamin D

In keeping with posts about the benefits of outdoor play, we have this article.

The researchers and others blamed the low levels on a combination of factors, including children spending more time watching television and playing video games instead of going outside, covering up and using sunscreen when they do go outdoors, and drinking more soda and other beverages instead of consuming milk and other foods fortified with Vitamin D.”This appears to be another result of our unhealthy lifestyles, including a sedentary society that doesn’t go out in the sun much,” Melamed said.

Free Parent’s Guide to Nature Play (+intro to C&NN)

Here’s a great resource I was turned on to by the Children and Nature Network.

First, a little about C&NN:

The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working worldwide to reconnect children with nature. C&NN provides access to the latest news and research in the field and a peer-to-peer network of researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being.

With C&NN you will find pretty much bottomless resources for raising happy healthy intelligent kids without going broke and by reconnecting with the natural world that is an integral part of what we are as the human animal.

Now, on to the resource I mentioned in the title of this post:

A Parents’ Guide to Nature Play:  How to Give Your Children More Outdoor Play, and Why You Should! by Ken Finch
Ken Finch, founder of Green Hearts Institute, has published this brand-new booklet for parents. Downloadable as a PDF, this 20 page guide helps parents understand the key elements of great nature play, why it is important, and how they can integrate it into their children’s daily lives.


Also, here’s an
Article about nature preschools.

Which sounds like a fantastic idea that needs to grow!  Support local efforts by first learning what opportunities are around you.  C&NN can help.

My interest in connecting children (and adults) with nature stems from the fact that we are an inseparable part of that natural world, and when it is thriving – we do as well.  All of our healthy activities and diets and analytical thinking comes from engaging the natural world directly – not on a monitor, by watching a cable channel, or by any other detached means.  I’m stunned and a little horrified by how many parents I know that do not even take walks in the woods with their kids – consider rocks, dirt or insects (for example) to be ‘bad or dangerous things’.  I want to shake these people.  I’ll post this (and things like it) instead.

We live in delicate interdependance with all living things – we ignore this at our peril.  Starting young is the best way to form healthy habits that last a lifetime.  As always, beware of woo which many people (including some educators, like Waldorf schools) are eager to apply to the natural world.

Lightning Bugs

These little buggers are tricky to photograph.  I’ll do a better job of it sometime, but for now – this is what you get.  Bee has been having many evenings of firefly catching this summer – and she is wicked good at it, catching 3 at a time sometimes.  This is one evening’s bounty – really underrepresented.


We learned that if you collect the ones down in the grass, you get females.  The males are the ones flying around looking for love.  If you get a mix, you get big pulsing piles of ‘snuggling’ fireflies, which is pretty cool.  Bee describes that this means they are mating, and making baby fireflies – because she is an awesome little girl whose parents tell it like it is without fear, embarassment or hesitation.


Jr. Horologist Links from the National Watch and Clock Museum

Teach and learn about time keeping, clocks, and watches with your kids and this page of Just For Kids activities and informational links from the National Watch and Clock Museum.


Make It Yourself (click on each for PDFs of directions)


Water clock

Fruit clock

Incense clock

Pendulum Power


Coloring Pages

The National Watch and Clock Museum

Street Clock

Banjo Clock

Cuckoo Clock

Shelf Clock

Marine Chronometer

Engle Clock

Scotty Dog Pendulette

Turtle Rescue

We rescued this turtle from a road it was crossing (there was nowhere to go on the other side of the road because of a long steep bank).  It came home with us for the day, and in the evening we let it go at the edge of the woods.

2.1(Bee and Turtle regard one another)

2.2(Mmmm delicious salad… for me to poop on!)


Before pooping on its salad, the turtle was not eating it – which bothered Bee.  I explained that the turtle may not be hungry, or that maybe he was very nervous because he didn’t know us.  Bee went and got some books to read to the turtle, to calm it down.  This book, Doggies – by Sandra Boynton, involves lots of barking – which I’m pretty sure did not calm down the turtle.