The idea of boys playing in kitchens seems more palatable to parents today than in earlier generations, probably because of how they were raised and how they run their households, says Dr. Michael Kaplan, an assistant clinical professor at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut.
“Men are reshaping and rethinking their roles,” he says. “They are doing much more (cooking and housework) than they ever have.”
Young fathers also are more likely than their fathers to have been reared by a working mother, Kaplan says.
And television has contributed to making men more comfortable in the kitchen.
“Some of these roles have been helped by the Food Network,” says Robert J. Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University in New York. The network “has defeminized the kitchen” with programs such as “Iron Chef,” “Emeril Live” and “The Restaurant,” he says. Many young children – boys and girls alike – also enjoy watching the enthusiastic Rachael Ray.
Toy manufacturers say they try to offer plenty of gender-neutral options. Pottery Barn Kids, which introduced pink and blue sets several years ago, is adding a white line this holiday season.
Tom Prichard, vice president of Little Tikes, the Hudson, Ohio-based toy manufacturer, says the company doesn’t track how many of its kitchens are bought for boys or girls, but employees regularly receive letters from parents who write that their sons love them.