retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Associated Press has a story about how some companies are ramping up their efforts to introduce kids to kitchen skills and equipment, with the theory being that it will help them be more self-sufficient and even, perhaps, healthier eaters.

"Play kitchens," of course, are staples of the toy business, and over the years they've evolved in terms of sophistication.  But now, they're moving to the next level:

"KidKraft’s Farm to Table kitchen nails the country-chic trend with lights, running water and cooking sounds, a farmhouse sink, hooks for cooking tools, and window boxes 'planted' with plastic onions and carrots that can be chopped and prepared. The Create & Cook kitchen has a vintage vibe, and is equipped with lots of cooking and storage sections. Three food sets let you make faux avocado toast, peach popsicles and apple pie.

"Pottery Barn Kids and West Elm have collaborated on a midcentury-modern toy kitchen with two-burner stove, oven and sink set in a poplar frame with white MDF (medium-density fibreboard) cabinetry. Or choose the Chelsea kitchen, with Shaker-style cabinets in white, gray, blush pink or black, with brass-toned hardware.  For play prep gear, Pottery Barn Kids’ cream-colored, solid-wood toaster pops out two perfectly done slices of (fake) bread with a flip of the lever. And there’s an Italian cookery bundle with a metal pasta pot, sieve, ladles, serving dishes, and soft faux ravioli and bow-tie pasta made of felt.

"Melissa & Doug’s sliceable, wooden, cookie dough set comes with icing toppers, a tray, spatula and oven mitt for some sweet pretend baking. Start the play meal off with a tasty salad, using their 50-piece set of felt greens, veggies, chicken and shrimp, as well as bowl and utensils. Self-stick tabs give the vegetables a crunchy sound when sliced.

"Time for a beverage? A coffee maker comes with three pods, faux cream and sugar, and a menu card so little baristas get the order right."

But even more important, the story suggests, is equipment that helps kids get beyond the faux.

America’s Test Kitchen, the story says, gives "high marks to Opinel’s Le Petit Chef knife set with built-in finger rings to help kids learn proper holds, as well as a plastic finger guard."  The Klutz Kids’ Magical Baking Set "includes tools, decorations and recipes to make imaginative treats like mermaid-themed pies, fairy-size cheesecakes and pretzel wands.

"Baketivity’s 31-piece set has a bunch of recipes, kid-size tools, and a silicone baking mat printed with helpful measurements."

KC's View:

I've never really understood the appeal of faux ingredients for kids, when dealing with the real thing can be utterly safe and rewarding.  Anything that food businesses can do to encourage kids to cook is a smart investment in the future.