Boys will be chefs

Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a young boy playing with his new train set, his baseball glove and his toy kitchen.

That’s right. Kitchen. As in junior-sized appliances, where the lad can pretend to cook and do dishes.

According to an article from The Associated Press, boys increasingly are playing “chef” with toy kitchens, even though the thought of it can make uptight fathers dash out into the yard and roll in the flowerbeds.

Many modern dads are OK with their sons playing with toy kitchens, the article said, partly because the dads themselves spend more time in the real kitchen. Boys see their fathers whipping up dinner, or they see male chefs on the many food shows on TV, and they want to emulate those activities. Toy companies are catering (ha!) to that interest by making gender-neutral kitchens for kids, the article said.

“Men are reshaping and rethinking their roles,” said Dr. Michael Kaplan, an assistant clinical professor at the Yale Child Study Center. “They are doing much more (cooking and housework) than they ever have.”

Kaplan said boys shouldn’t be discouraged from playing with toys usually associated with girls because it can lead to self-esteem problems.

That’s where he lost me. I’m a living, breathing example of a man who played with a toy kitchen, over his father’s objections, and, as anyone who knows me will tell you, “self-esteem” is the least of my problems. Just the opposite, in fact.

My toy kitchen was a little turquoise-colored number -- a stove, a sink and a refrigerator with food items and condiments painted on the inside -- where I whiled away many hours making mud pies that I insisted all the grown-ups actually eat.

I was 4 years old at the time, which would’ve made it around 1961. Not an era when men spent much time in the kitchen.

I vaguely recall my dad expressing concern over his firstborn son spending so much time baking mud pies and what that might do to my developing male psyche. At least I think that’s what he was saying as he rolled in the flowerbeds.

Clearly, everything turned out fine, as I grew up to be a housewife. Kidding! I grew up to be a work-at-home dad, who doesn’t mind spending time in the kitchen. Still not much of a chef, but at least I don’t serve up mud pies anymore.

Today’s toymakers can appease all the worried dads and still make a buck off the toy kitchen market. It’s simply a matter of tailoring the appliances to men.

For instance, toy kitchens for boys shouldn’t come in colors like pink or turquoise that might “feminize” them. They should be made of stainless steel. Like a DeLorean.

Manufacturers could make macho dads happy by designing a toy fridge that holds nothing but beer. For the garage.

Microwave ovens didn’t exist when I was a child, but now we can’t get along without them. Every boy’s kitchen should come with a microwave, preferably one that can actually make live cats explode. (Kidding some more! Take it easy, cat-lovers. Sheesh.)

Even the most manly man thinks it’s OK to cook outdoors. Most will, in fact, hip-check their wives away from the barbecue grill so they can char their own steaks.

If toymakers want to make a really authentic barbecue grill, they should rig it up with a 10-foot-tall blaze that will singe off hair and eyebrows. Then Junior can look just like Dad.

To extinguish the flames, they can roll in the flowerbeds together.

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