…with Build A Bear!

I was recently put in touch with Estelle from Publicasity, who wanted some Mummy bloggers to have a trip to Build A Bear and blog about their experience, and it’s somewhere I’ve wanted to take Daniel for ages so I leaped at the chance. And I have to say, I absolutely love this shop and cannot recommend them highly enough. With or without children.

We went to the Metrocentre store, which I am reliably informed is one of the biggest in the UK. I can believe it – there is loads of room to manoeuvre a pram, despite there being plenty of customers, and still have loads of products to look at – in fact, I had no idea you could get this much gear for a teddy bear! Anyway, the store is lovely and welcoming, and big enough so that a small child doesn’t feel hemmed in.

Now, I need to remind you that Daniel is just over 3, and has more mood swings than I did when I was pregnant. All the way there he was excited, talking about the big orange bear he was going to make. The minute we stepped foot inside Build A Bear, he clammed up and clung to me or Grandma, refusing to look at the bears or any of the display models. We built Emily’s bear, we coaxed him towards the machines, the clothes, the brushes, but he simply refused to take part. All through this the staff were unfailingly patient. Kate, who was looking after us, never faltered in her enthusiasm or her extremely kind manner with him, but eventually we admitted defeat. We decided to go and have a drink and a sticky bun, then come back, and as soon as we left the shop, the weather vane spun again and Daniel suddenly couldn’t live without a bear. Grr. So we trooped back in, and the wonderful Kate took a very quiet but happy Daniel through all the steps of building his bear.

If you’ve never done this, you have to. I insist. Now. Go. After choosing your bear, and there are too many gorgeous ones to choose (I was particularly drawn to the monkey and the terrier, but both children got traditional teddy bears) you take it to the stuffing machine. These are pretty big and noisy, but Daniel wasn’t in the least bothered, and I think this is mostly because the child controls the machine using a pedal. This kind of detail shows how much the designers have taken children’s needs into consideration, and it was very much appreciated yesterday. By the way, a note about the actual bears. Some, for example the Champ that Daniel chose, are quite long-haired, but the Velvety one we got for Emily is specially designed for babies or children with asthma or other allergies. It has short hair that doesn’t moult and is very baby safe. Just in case you were wondering. And the construction of all the bears is really clever, so that when it is stuffed you cannot see which bits were ready-stitched and which were just finished off in the shop. There are no loose threads, for example. Anyway…

I’m not going to go through every step of the process, but Daniel loved it. He chose the sound to go in- we decided to go for a pre-recorded sound rather than doing it himself. Watch out for the giggle, that’s a little creepy, as is the optional ‘beating heart’. The other sounds are great though. All the way through Daniel felt really engaged, and he was obviously in charge of his bear, brushing its fur and choosing its clothes. Oh, the clothes! Beautifully made, a HUGE range of styles and colours, and even some novelty costumes (including a Darth Vader outfit – seriously). Shoes; accessories for every occasion – no excuse for a well-dressed bear to ever be without the perfect outfit. Daniel ended up with a groovy guitar dude, complete with hoodie, jeans and shades. Once he was dressed, we went to the computer station to complete the bear’s birth certificate. Yes, birth certificate. Although Daniel insists it’s a treasure map. Armed with birth certificate, which is really nice because you can personalise who stuffed the bear, for example Emily’s says “Stuffed with hugs by Mummy”, the bear is popped into its house (a sturdy carrying box) and away you go.
The thing with Build a Bear is that although the initial outlay is a little high – although well worth it, for the quality of the teddy – the clothes and accessories cover pretty much any budget. You can get, for example, a full outfit for around £10-ish or something small like a guitar for £2.50, which means it’s a good bet for pocket money or birthday money. Also, these bears will last for YEARS, and there will always be some outfit or accessory you haven’t got, so it’s a brilliant idea for grandparents or relatives who may be struggling for present ideas. You can even get a wardrobe to keep it all in!

The problem is, I can see it becoming addictive. I went straight home and looked on the website for more outfits and shoes.

I’m just glad I have my children. Now I have an excuse to keep going back!

Note: I have some lovely pictures which I took on my visit but for some reason WordPress is not playing nicely so until I can figure out how to get these pictures up you’ll have to imagine two very cute bears and two even cuter children. Many thanks.