The Case for Creative Play in a Digital Age

Perri Klass:

All the excesses of my own childhood are, of course, available on eBay, priced for the vintage market. There are the accessories for the 1960s Thingmaker, from Mattel, with its metal molds to be poured full of plastigoop (I can smell it now) and cooked to a nice soft solid texture on the square little electrical stove, then lifted out of the mold with a pin and assembled into Creepy Crawlers or Creeple People. I saw a vintage 1965 Thingmaker available for a mere $25, but full sets run to a couple of hundred dollars.

I don’t know if you’ll actually be able to find Chop Suey, a 1967 board game in which a bowl is filled with small plastic food items, and you have to pick them out with (wait for it) chopsticks as the bowl spins. Culturally insensitive, perhaps, but very good for learning how to handle chopsticks; in the interests of defeating my brother in the contest for slippery little pieces of plastic, I developed reliable skills that have served me well.

Let’s not even talk about Barbie and her dream house. Most evocative of all for me, there on eBay are the 1960s vintage Easy-Bake Ovens, and as I look at the photo, a jingle starts to play insistently in my brain: “Be a Betty Crocker baker, make a Betty Crocker cake, in your Betty Crocker Easy-Bake oven!”