If you didn't know it yet, McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its popular Happy Meals. In terms of centuries, I guess you can call this a Quarter Pounder, as the introduction of the kid-friendly packaging really helped put Mickey D's on the map as a family destination.

McDonald's will be commemorating the event over the next few weeks by loading up its Happy Meals with cool toy premiums by the likes of Mattel (NYSE:MAT) and Motley Fool Stock Advisor and Hidden Gems recommendation Hasbro (NYSE:HAS).

Looking back, one has to wonder how the fast-food industry could live without its kid meals. With finicky-eating children driving many dining decisions, how could they refuse going to an economical eating establishment that set them up with the Cracker Jack gimmick of a free toy inside?

Those petty toys can be huge motivators from time to time. Anyone remember the Teenie Beanie Babies craze at McDonald's a couple of years ago or the Toy Story toys at Burger King? In fact, some companies such as Equity Marketing (NASDAQ:EMAK) have carved out a cozy living in producing those promotional playthings.

Casual dining restaurants may have responded with crayons and coloring book menus, but it's the fast-food chains that mastered the concept of making kids feel important in the mealtime process.

While health-conscious trends this year have inspired chains such as McDonald's and Wendy's (NYSE:WEN) to offer fruit instead of a side of fries and milk over Coke (NYSE:KO), kids still want a meal they can call their own. So while healthier salads and leaner cuts of chicken may make nutritional sense to parents, McDonald's is still looking forward to serving the younger crowd. Why? Well, they certainly aren't old enough to legally clear the drive-through lane. Accompanied by parents ordering off the pricier regular menu, which fast-food chain wouldn't want to cater to kids?

A Happy Meal is still a happy meal.

What do you think of the Happy Meal? Have you checked out the Mighty Kids Meal? What do you think this trend will evolve into? All this and more in the McDonald's discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys those healthy apple slices because they come with caramel sauce dipping cups. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.