Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Building memories with Build a Bear Workshop
Ruby was very lucky to be invited along to our local Build-a-Bear workshop by their PR company for a special pre-birthday treat. I kept this a secret as I didn't think she would be able to sleep the night before!
We arrived at the shopping centre, and she was quite surprised to find I wasn't shooing her past the shop door like I usually do! When we go to the shopping centre we are generally on a deadline - car parking ticket, Christmas shopping to get etc etc. She always makes a beeline for Build a Bear, and I often lose her in there.
But today was different. She wandered in, with a confused look up to me and her dad as we failed to stop her. We were met by Lucy who clearly loved working with children, she was so good with Ruby. She instantly formed a bond with her and walked with her over to the vast array of bears and other animals. Lucy asked if she'd like to make her very own bear to take home. My daughter is not exactly the shy, retiring type, but she was totally in awe - I've never seen her so quiet!
She took in the vast display of bears, arranged from lowest price, up to the highest. She was able to check any out she liked for cuddleability. Trying to pin her down to a specific choice was tricky - her favourite was always the one she currently had in her arms! I tried to steer her towards my favourites, an adorable floppy eared bunny
Or the brand new Easter Lamb with cute swirly, furry feet at £15.
Now, I'm not daft, I know there's retail psychology going on here. Her eyes went along the line, and settled on the far end, the largest on offer, a huge 43 cm Hello Kitty. That said, the bear itself was £20 which I don't think is unreasonable for a large branded teddy bear - particularly as you get to be involved in the 'making' and the experience of customising it yourself.
Next we moved on to the sound maker. Lots of buttons to press, and delightful sounds to chose from. Now, I'm not sure if I just have a daughter with expensive tastes, or if most children choose these options, but she went for the 'medley' of phrases - not content with a simple 'Meow' or 'I love you'. This sound cost £4.50. (Apologies, the pictures are now not so great, as this is the point my camera went wrong and I had to resort to using my phone!)
There was the added option (which she went for of course!) of a little red heart to add. When pressed (ie cuddled) it activated a 'heart beat'. Personally I found this a bit freaky, but I thought it might be reassuring in a bedtime companion.
So, empty bear and voice duly chosen. We approached the stuffing machine. The bear making equivalent to a Willy Wonka factory, the kids get to see all the fluffy stuffing churning around in the machine like a giant tumble drier. There are buttons to press and coloured lights which illuminate the interior, a handy distraction if there's a bit of a queue.
When it was our turn another employee took over, and explained to Ruby that she was in charge of filling her bear by pressing the foot pedal. First up, Ruby was offered a little red satin heart. She was asked to give it a kiss and make a wish, and then it was popped inside Kitty (cute!). The 'sound box' was put into the foot and the heart inserted, and then she was stuffed - with Ruby's help of course.
After Kitty was looking a bit more Hello Kitty like, we took her over to the 'air bath'. She loved this and it was a nice little touch. It's basically set up like a doll's bath, but instead of water from the shower, a blast of air comes out like a hairdryer, and there are little brushes you can use to groom your bear to remove any stray bits of stuffing or fluff.
Once we were happy with the finished article, we moved over to the clothing section. I realise I am beginning to sound a little crazy here, but that's what this place does to you! You get totally immersed, and it seems perfectly normal to be choosing accessories for a stuffed animal!
I guess this is where you'd need to watch your budget, because small children and mummies could easily get carried away. First up, Ruby chose the dress - a beautiful satin cerise pink effort not dissimilar to one she'd worn to her uncle's wedding. This cost £10.
Dress chosen, she now needed shoes. I was most impressed with Ruby's co-ordinating, she chose these ones priced at £4.50
Then we needed knickers (yes, of course bears/kitty's wear knickers). Again, Ruby colour matched these (that's my girl) ones at £3!
Finally, what self-respecting Kitty could go out without a bag (£4):
We went over to the 'changing area' and Ruby helped to dress her. Amazing - she was still totally in awe.
Next up, over to the computers, to produce her 'birth certificate'. We went for the Build a Bear equivalent of a microchip tag, which means if bear is ever lost and handed into a Build a Bear workshop, she'd be safely returned to us.
Finally, Hello Kitty was given her own little carry-house which we planned to colour in later at home.
I'd really like to thank Build-a-bear for this experience, and Lucy for taking such good care of us. I had to send Daddy back later to get the Hello Kitty chair which Ruby was coveting. She'll be made up when she opens it on her birthday.
Hello Kitty has been practically everywhere with her since. She's her new best friend.
Check out the Build-a-bear website for news and info on products, online sales,parties, to find your nearest store and online activities.
This is a sponsored post. The bear and all accessories were provided free of charge, but any views expressed are my own and are accurate and honest.