Toy oven

Toy ovens (also toy stoves, miniature ovens, or simply mini ovens) are cast-iron, steel, or plastic small scale functioning ovens designed for children to cook miniature baked foodstuffs. A toy oven can be fuelled from a range of sources, including coal, wood, gas, or electricity. Early models of this type of toy were first introduced in the late 1800s. However, these were replaced with gas and electric versions of the toy in the 1920s to 1950s.

A 19th century toy stove in the permanent collection of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Popular manufacturers of these toys include Lionel, Hubley Manufacturing Company, Kenton Hardware Company, Kenner, and Hasbro.

History, types, and materialsEdit

Early history and traditional modelsEdit

The first available models of toy stoves were available in the late 1800s. These original models were typically made from durable materials such as cast-iron or steel, which was then fuelled with wood pellets or coal. Many of these toy ovens were exact replicas of the larger versions found in households at the time.[1] Manufacturers of full-sized stoves also produced exact, small scale models of ovens and stoves in their production line. These miniature ovens were used as "salesmen samples" to showcase features of a specific oven to customers.

Einar Heiberg, Toy Stove, 1935-1942

Young girls of this era were often expected to learn how to cook for the household, so toy stoves were provided as a means of early education in this discipline. Cooking with coal and wood cookstoves was a labour-intensive task, as they were very difficult to clean and maintain,[2] so preparing the children for this chore was thought to be best practice.[3] The reality of these traditional cast-iron and steel models was that they often reached temperatures equivalent to their larger counterparts. Hence, many accidents and injuries among children using these toys were reported during this time.[1]

Contemporary toy oven modelsEdit

As households become increasingly more advanced and connected to electrical grids in the 1920s -30s, the arrival of electrical toy oven would dominate this aspect of the domestic toy marketplace.[4] Popular models of the electric toy oven were produced by model-train maker Lionel in the 1930s.[5] The manufacture of toy stoves ceased during World War II, as the materials used in the design and fuel components, became scarce.[6]

It was not until the 1950s that toy makers would again begin to produce miniature and function examples of the domestic kitchen setting, with fiberglass ovens with brand names such as Little Lady, Little Chef, and Suzy Homemaker being touted on the market.[5] These models often came with pre-packaged baking mixes for cakes, cookies and pancakes that could be made using the toy ovens. [7]

Versions of the Kenner Easy Bake Oven

In 1963, Kenner Products introduced its own range of toy ovens called the Easy Bake Oven. Using a lightbulb to cook foodstuffs, this toy oven model was advertised as being a safer alternative to earlier toy ovens. The appearance and designs of the Kenner variety of toy ovens were renown for their unique and colourful presentation that would often reflect the cultural aesthetic of the era.

Kenner was acquired by Hasbro in mid-1991, and they continued to produce a range of toy ovens up until the early 2000s.

Hasbro discontinued its range of traditional Easy Bake Ovens in 2012, due to new energy regulations in the United States, which would phase-out the 100w light bulb central to the toy ovens functional design.[8] A gender-neutral design of the Easy Bake model of toy ovens was released in 2013, after a petition from a 13-year-old girl named McKenna Pope went viral.[9]

Uses and educational benefitsEdit

Toy stoves could be used as both toys for children, as well as teaching tools. Typically, these toys would be marketed towards young girls, who would be expected to take domestic roles in the household as they matured. Recipes included with later contempotary models of the toy would teach children how to make baked goods in small scale form that they might expect to make later as adults.

Popular manufacturersEdit

In literatureEdit

Frontispiece from first edition of 'Little Men', by Louisa May Alcott (1871)

In Little Men, Louisa May Alcott’s 1871 sequel to Little Women, the character of Jo gives a miniature kitchen to her niece Daisy. The kitchen-set comes with a functional iron stove, which is described as being capable of cooking ‘for a large family of very hungry dolls.’ Jo purchases the toy stove with the help of the character, Uncle Teddy in order to teach Daisy to cook. Jo expects Daisy to ‘study hard and learn to make all kinds of things…’[14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Ewbank, Anne (2019-04-10). "Before the Easy-Bake Oven, Toy Stoves Were Beautiful and Deadly". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 2020-12-24.
  2. ^ Loomis, Bill. "When stoves were the hot new thing". The Detroit News. Retrieved 2020-12-24.
  3. ^ Brewer, Priscilla J. (2000-09-01). From Fireplace to Cookstove: Technology and the Domestic Ideal in America. Syracuse University Press. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-8156-0650-5.
  4. ^ Cross, Gary S. (June 2009). Kids' Stuff: Toys and the Changing World of American Childhood. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-03007-7.
  5. ^ a b Hix, Lisa (2015-11-17). "Easy-Bake Evolution: 50 Years of Cakes, Cookies, and Gender Politics". Retrieved 2020-12-27.
  6. ^ Onion, Rebecca (2012-11-28). "Scary Dangerous Old Toy Stoves". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
  7. ^ a b Leach, James (2011-05-10). "Kids and Cooking: Playing with Fire". Retrieved 2020-12-27.
  8. ^ "It's lights out for the traditional Easy-Bake Oven". Los Angeles Times. 2011-02-23. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
  9. ^ Nelson, Sara C (2012-12-18). "'Gender Neutral' Hasbro Easy Bake Oven Announced After 13-Year-Old's Petition Against 'Sexist' Packaging". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
  10. ^ "Toy stove:Eagle - Hubley Manufacturing Co". Google Arts & Culture. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
  11. ^ "Toy stove - Kenton Hardware Co". Google Arts & Culture. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
  12. ^ McDonough, Lauren Smith (2015-09-17). "A Look Back at the History of Easy-Bake Ovens". Good Housekeeping. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
  13. ^ McDonough, Lauren Smith (2015-09-17). "A Look Back at the History of Easy-Bake Ovens". Good Housekeeping. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
  14. ^ Alcott, Louisa May (1871). Little Men. Boston: Roberts Brothers. pp. Chapter 5. ISBN 0451529359.