When you have a six year old daughter there are certain things that you just don’t turn down. Like the chance to review a store that sells teddy bears. Great, Big , Gorgeous, Fluffy Take-Me-Home-You-Know-You-Want-To Bears. Bears that you can dress . Bears that can talk. Bears that can wear sunglasses . Bears that can wear ruby slippers .
Now Imagine that you are six years old and your Mummy gets asked if you would both like to visit said store , and see how the bears are made . Mummy gets to write a review. And You get to choose a bear ? For your very own! Maybe choose an outfit? Even bring your best friend?! Imagine the excitement! What would your six year old child do? What would he or she say?
I know what my six year old child said. How could we possibly say No?
It was with great excitement that the Great Day Approached. There were many requests to be told (again) how many sleeps there were to go until The Great Day. Until , finally, there was just One More Sleep to go. And then No Sleeps. The Great Day was Finally Here .
Then Disaster Struck. A phonecall early Sunday morning. Best Friend had been struck down by a mystery bug . Oh No !
But , our Fairy Godmother and her Very Lovely Daughter came to the rescue.And so it came to pass that two Mums and two very excited girlies rocked up to the Build A Bear Store one Sunday morning , ready for action.
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At this point of the proceedings I would like to introduce Frances. Here is Frances at the stuffing station , helping the girls to stuff their bears.
Frances was absolutely lovely . When we arrived at the store it was already very busy. This was at 11.30 on a Sunday morning. This is testament to just how popular Build A Bear is. Which makes me think that they must be doing something right.
It was so busy that our pre-arranged contact was taken up with serving a very long queue of customers awaiting checkout. It was reassuring that said contact did not break away from dealing with the queue to deal with us immediately, despite knowing that we were there to do a review. I liked the idea that they treated all of their customers the same. That is just as it should be.
After a brief run through by our pre-arranged contact of what we needed to do we were ready to get started.
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First the girlies chose their bears.
Then they chose a sound to go inside their bear. There were lots of buttons to press and lots of sample sounds to listen to. There was also an option to record your own message, in your own voice. I could see this being a popular option for people buying bears to give as gifts. Eldest chose a Happy Birthday sound, as she recently had a birthday.
Next we moved on to see The Lovely Frances at the stuffing station. The girls selected red satin hearts to go inside their bears, along with their pre-selected sound boxes. Frances chatted with the girls while she operated the stuffing machine. She encouraged them to Make A Wish. She encouraged Us Mummies to Make A Wish. The Girlies liked this. The Girlies were able to work the foot peddle so that they could help and be fully involved with the bear stuffing process.
Then Frances directed us over to the fluffing area where the girls were invited to ‘fluff up’ their bears under two streams of warm air using the brushes provided. The girls loved this and giggled as they fluffed and brushed up their bears coats into veritable Bear Bouffants. This shared experience was a joy to watch.
It was after this that things got a bit hairy for me. Not because of anything that Build A Bear did . This was the time that Eldest’s excitement thermostat stopped working. I don’t know if you have ever seen Charlie and The Chocolate Factory ? Verucca Salt? Now to be fair my daughter is nothing like Verucca Salt. She isn’t spoilt. But. Anyone seeing what happened next could have been forgiven for thinking that she was. You see, Eldest had spotted THE CLOTHES.
Eldest LOVES clothes. Handbags , shoes, sunglasses, hats , tiaras – so you can imagine. There she is , standing in Clothing and Accessory HEAVEN. It’s all around her. What do you think happened?
Think two minute trolley dash and you may get an idea. She liked this, she liked that ,and into the basket it went. You may wonder at this juncture where I was in all of this, as her Responsible Parent. About five out of breath paces behind her pleading restraint, THAT’S where, and supervising the careful re-instatement of said items Back To From Whence They Came. Later I asked my repentant Eldest about her Dale Winton inspired Mad Five Minutes, to which she forlornly replied ‘But Mum, I just wanted everything’ – and I knew exactly what she meant. As a six year old I would have wanted everything too. I wouldn’t have got it. She knew that she wouldn’t . But I’d have wanted it. Not because I was greedy , or because I really wanted everything , but because I was spoilt for choice , and that’s what she was, spoilt for choice. Which roughly equates to Heaven when you are six years old, and it’s Bear related. You know that saying ‘Like a kid in a candy shop’ ? That needs changing. To ‘Like my six year old daughter in Build A Bear’.
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Eventually outfits were chosen. Eldest chose night time attire for her bear , including slippers, and a pair of rollerskates. Fairy Godmother’s Daughter chose a dress ,bag and roller skates for her bear. Much careful and tender dressing of both bears took place at The Dressing Station. Like the fluffing up station, this was a shared experience that was lovely to watch.
Now obviously such well dressed bears needed to be named, so names were chosen . We went for floral names. There are stations where you can enter your bears name and details into computers and these are sent over to checkout to be made into a Birth Certificate for you. Each bear has a unique code and entering this code, and your details, allows your bear to be ‘micro chipped’ (metaphorically speaking) – so should said bear get lost it can then be traced back to its owner. Clever.
You can also access the Build A Bear website which is called BearVille. Eldest hasn’t accessed this but Fairy Godmother’s Daughter has , and is very taken with it.
Eldest’s bear was very pink. I was quite surprised as she isn’t usually a particularly ‘pink’ kind of a girl. Maybe she was expressing her Pink Side. And why not.
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Back again with The Lovely Frances we were directed to a spot just by the entrance where we could take pictures of the girls with their bears.
Both girls looked like they would burst with sheepish pride, holding onto their bears. Then Frances took them through their Build A Bear Promise , which they repeated after her, one line at a time, to ‘bring their bear to life’. Both of the girls were clearly taking their vows VERY seriously.
Frances was very helpful to the end, even making harnesses from long ribbon for the bears so that they would stand up with their roller skates on. It was this attention to detail that I was very impressed with. I didn’t get the impression that it was just for us either. The customer service at Build A Bear is obviously very good. Then we were ready to skate off into the sunset and to bid Frances and the other Bears left in the store a Fond Farewell.
Our bears were packed into Build A Bear cardboard carry-boxes. You know that cliche that is trotted out every Christmas? The one about children getting an expensive present and playing with the box that it came in instead? Well I can report that at Build A Bear they play with both. Eldest’s Bear is tucked under her arm each night as she nods off. It’s usually still there when she wakes up. If you are a parent then you will know how much this kind of thing warms the Parental Heart. The cardboard carry-box is very well designed and has a little door and windows – Eldest has put hers in her den under her bed with her toy animals and uses it as a house for them. I am heartened by this. It is good to see intelligent package design that adds play value to something that could so easily be discarded and left to languish in landfill had it not been so well designed. Bio-degradeable too. Nice One, Build A Bear.
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When I was first asked if I would be interested in writing a Build A Bear store review I wasn’t sure that I could do it, as I had never been to Build A Bear and quite frankly wasn’t sure if it was my cup of tea. I’m not that big on Anthropomorphism. But this is Teddy Bears that we are talking about here. And who doesn’t love a teddy bear? Who still has their teddy bear from their childhood? I do.
I thought that I knew what Build A Bear was about. What I wasn’t expecting was to be so thoroughly charmed by the experience . There were many moments during the bear making process where you could see the magic of being six reflected in Eldest’s eyes. It was her Wonder Face , where her eyes go wide and she becomes bashful , because of the magic of it all – think small child meeting Father Christmas. Except it is Build A Bear instead. They are busy Being Six Years Old, and Believing. As a Parent I embrace and hold onto these moments. Because before you know it, they are all grown up.
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To conclude, I have a confession to make. It wasn’t just my daughter that was very taken with the bears. I was too . I hadn’t expected to be. My inner child was very taken with this :
Great Teeth. I’ve got a thing for Wolves. And for Halloween. Double Whammy!
I see a return visit on the cards . . . . . . .