Monday, November 21, 2016
What I Noticed in the Toy Kitchen Ad
I was flipping through a Costco catalog recently and came across the toy kitchen ad above. It struck me as odd, and I spent some time studying it to see if I could figure out why it gave me that impression. I decided the main thing that puzzled me is that the children seem so detached from any involvement with the kitchen. The girl especially seems to simply be passing by. She steadies herself by holding the countertop. She is equipped with a cell phone. Perhaps she is going to order a pizza and re-heat it in the microwave? The boy appears to be holding on to the back of the refrigerator with his right hand while he half-heartedly reaches for the handle of the refrigerator. Both children may need to hold on to something because, if you notice their feet, they each have one foot turned on its side. It's not a stance that lends itself to taking action. It seems really odd to me that both children have their feet placed this way.
An alternative explanation of the detachment from activity is that the photographer needed the children out of the way to be able to showcase the kitchen. However, this could have been overcome by showing the girl putting something in the sink and showing the boy in the act of filling a glass from the water dispenser in the refrigerator door--or many other options.
I decided to look at vintage ads for toy kitchens to see what I could learn by comparison. I chose to study the one below.
Of course the pink appliances are noticeably different from the first picture and imply that the kitchen is the girl's/woman's domain, but the main thing I notice that is different from the modern ad is that each unit is open, implying active participation. I can't tell if the girl's hand is actually touching the refrigerator handle, but the door is open, and she is holding something in her other hand--maybe a plate--definitely something to do with kitchen play. She is clearly happily involved in her pretend world. And look at her feet. Both are flat on the floor. I notice that she doesn't lean on anything. After looking at her and seeing how upright she is, I recalled how good posture used to be emphasized to children. I even remember being instructed in proper sitting posture in first grade in 1966, which included both feet being firmly planted on the ground.
With this insight, I went back and looked again at the children above with their turned feet. I think the modern girl looks more confident than the modern boy. She gets the more upscale outfit and shoes; he gets the sneakers and jeans. The oversized untucked shirt gives him a soft look overall.
Looking back at the pink kitchen, I notice the emphasis of time. See the big clock above the stove? This girl is going to get meals cooked on time. She is productive. I don't get that impression from the modern children.
Maybe "hanging out" is the new play.