> The Beesley Buzz: Building Happiness and Joy: Our first experience of the magic of Build-A-Bear Workshop

Building Happiness and Joy: Our first experience of the magic of Build-A-Bear Workshop

Christmas is a magical time. Miss T walks around and announces 'Love Christmas' at any mention of the word or any sign of a Christmas tree or decorations. So it was especially magical to experience our first visit to Build-A-Bear Workshop in the run up to Christmas.
The store itself reminded me of a magical elves workshop with so many different types of cuddly toys to choose from. The walls were lined with a huge selection of bears and cuddly toys and there was an enormous selection of outfits and accessories too!
We were greeted with a warm welcome, the children were given reindeer hats to wear, and the lovely Gwen in the Maidstone store led us through the process. We soon realised that this isn't about buying a bear but it is about experiencing the excitement and magic that happens when you create your own bear. We've put together a short video of our experience:

The range is enormous. As well as bears, there was the Christmas range of beautiful reindeer as well as a Frozen themed selection of bears and Olaf the snowman of course!
We were also delighted to see a Pudsey bear option and the wonderful Spots of Fun Pup that we blogged about here. Build-A-Bear have teamed up with Children in Need and a portion of the proceeds from sales of Spots of Fun Pup will be going to the charity. There were also a number of Children in Need themed accessories and outfits too.

I have to confess that in the run up to our visit, I was just as excited as the kids. I had heard so much about Build-A-Bear Workshop that I just couldn't wait to see it first hand. In my mind I was imagining which toy each of my children would choose. I wondered whether Miss T would pick Olaf because she loves him so much. D is also a Frozen fan so would he opt for a Frozen character? J had been mega-excited to hear about the Spots of Fun pup as he is a big fan of Children in Need but would he change his mind when he saw the other options available?

Whilst the selection is huge, the kids didn't take as long as I expected to settle on their choice of cuddly. J did indeed pick out Spots of Fun pup. Miss T chose Rudolph from the Christmas range with his awesome light-up nose and D went for a Batman themed bear.
Cuddlies chosen, next it was time for choosing a sound. You can press the buttons to hear all the options. Again Frozen featured on the sounds too with Let it Go and a couple of other Frozen songs being available.
Miss T chose a very apt 'Rudolph the red nose reindeer' song for her Rudolph. J chose a dog's woof for Spots of Fun Pup, and D couldn't decide what sound he wanted in his Batman themed bear. He was tempted by the Star Wars sounds but then decided to record his own with the 'Build-A-Sound' option.
Then the Bears have their stuffing put in from the huge machine which is a real centerpiece in the store. Without this machine, the toys would remain pieces of loose fabric but this machine is where the real magic happens to bring them to life.
You can choose a 'Scentiments' fragrance for your bear. There are options of bubble gum, cupcake, gingerbread, cotton candy, and strawberry to choose from. This bear shaped fragrance gets popped into your toy along with the stuffing from the machine. There is a pedal that the children got to press to get the stuffing flowing into the toy.
There are also buttons to press where you can add oodles of love, kindness, friendship and hugs 'n' kisses.
But Gwen knew a better way to give our toys all that and more. When it was time to choose the 'heart', she led them in a little ritual by doing things like kissing the heart, rubbing it on your head to make your toy clever, rubbing it on your ears and eyes so that they can hear and see, and rubbing it on your legs to give them strength and speed and my favourite, rubbing it on your cheek to make them a little bit cheeky. This part was such fun and I wasn't sure if the children would go along with it but they did and they loved it.
The heart is then carefully sealed inside along with a barcode which can help reunite children with their bears should they lose them.

Next its time for a bit of pampering. There is a special station where you can 'wash' (with air) and brush your toy to make them all soft and fluffy.
By this point the children had each been given a shopping basket for their toys and it was time for even more fun and plenty more choice by picking an outfit out of the really massive selection available.
As well as clothes, there are also lots and lots of accessories available including skates, sunglasses, a bear version of a passport called a 'pawsport', chairs and seats and lots lots more!

 Again this didn't take as long as it could have done because Miss T was drawn to an eye-catching sparkly reindeer dress (yes there was a selection of clothes specifically designed to fit the reindeer) and a christmas hat. D knew that he wanted his 'Batbear' to have a proper superhero Batman outfit. J was torn between dressing his Spots of Fun Pup in a Pudsey outfit or getting a different style of outfit. In the end he picked a Star Wars themed Jedi outfit.
The toys get to try on their outfits so that you can check you are happy with your choice of outfit in their 'dressing room'.
And the adventure doesn't stop there....Next it's time to name your bear at the naming stations. The computers were really child friendly and straightforward to use, even Miss T was able to press some of the buttons.
Here you can also opt to register your own details so that if your toy does go missing, it can be reunited with you as the stores can retrieve the barcode inside and match up to the details they keep on file.

Using the information you input on screen, a Birth Certificate is created and printed for your toy. This goes into a special box which doubles up as a house for your toy. Ours were Christmas themed and can be coloured in at home to really personalise them as a little house for our toys. You also get to keep your sturdy little cardboard hanger that the outfits come on which is a nice little touch.
Having had a totally awesome afternoon, we said our goodbyes and came home with three new additions to the family.
I loved how the boys undressed their new toys for bed and have really looked after them. Miss T introduced her reindeer, which she has named 'Christmas', to her beloved Hoppy and Patch. They all took their new toys to bed with them. Miss T's is standing guard by her cotbed to look after her through the night.
I realise this review is already long as I'm aware just how much I have raved about Build-A-Bear Workshop, but before I finish there are a few myths I want to bust first...

Isn't Build-A-Bear Workshop too expensive?
Well with Bear prices starting at £10 and getting such an amazing experience from building your own bear, I actually think that is jolly good value for money as you could easily spend far more on a regular 'shop bought' bear.

Parties also offer amazing value for money. With a minimum of only 6 children and a starting price of £10 per bear it makes Build-A-Bear Workshop parties something that we will definitely be considering for birthdays next year.

Isn't Build-A-Bear mainly for girls?
In our household we've never stereotyped toys by gender. Both J and D had dolls houses and play kitchens and Miss T has cars and garages, so we would never consider bears or soft toys to be more for one gender or another.

The huge selection of cuddly toys to choose from and the vast number of outfits and accessories really does mean that there is something for everyone.

Is my child too old for Build-A-Bear Workshop.
I personally think you are never too old for a bit of magic and excitement. Whilst I'd never make an older child come along who didn't want to, J is now 10, and D is 8 and neither are showing any sign of losing interest in their cuddly toys. They both still take their fave cuddlies to bed with them (which now includes their new Build-A-Bear ones) and they've both asked to return to Build-A-Bear again.

We have another friend whose son is similar in age to J i.e. close to secondary school age, and also on the Autistic spectrum like J and his favourite thing is to go to Build-A-Bear Workshop. So I think there is added appeal for older children who are particularly into their cuddly toys in cases like this too.

I don't have time to stuff my own bear. Why can't I just buy one ready made?
It really is such a fun and special process that it is worth spending half-an-hour to an hour to do it but if you really don't have time to build your own bear, then there are some pre-stuffed bears ready to buy. Including the Frozen characters that are proving so very popular this Christmas!

I've never been there before, do I need to book?
No you don't need to book. Unless it is for a party, you can pop in without booking a time slot. The staff are truly friendly and passionate and will guide you through the fun process of building your own bear.

If you've never been before, I really do recommend it as a fun family experience. My only regret is not going sooner!

Thank you Build-A-Bear Workshop for such a fun afternoon and for our new cuddly toys.
Disclosure: We were invited to try out Build-A-Bear Workshop for the purposes of review and the children received a toy each. All opinions are our own. 

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