The last time we popped into a Build-A-Bear Workshop was about 3 years ago when Abby was 2. I wanted to get her a cuddly toy with our personal message in (which has been haunting me with my own voice over and over again ever since), and I liked the idea of her creating her own bear (a rabbit actually), one with 'life', to get her to cherish her toys a bit more. However, she was still too young to understand the whole 'build your own bear and give it life' idea.
Having met the lovely PRs at BritMums Live, I was given the opportunity to do a shop review at one of the Build-A-Bear Workshop. Although we have been there before, the whole experience was completely different now that Abby is 5 and thecollections has been expanded too.
We visited the Manchester Arndale branch, and were quickly served by one of their lovely and patient staff Rhianne soon after another party have left. Rhianne patiently guide Abby through the whole process. They started off by choosing an empty bear. Abby chose a Furever Heart Bear, which is one of the popular ones amongst girls, and she was also allowed to choose one for Clay who was fast asleep! She spotted the Deep Blue Sea Bear, which appeared to be one of the best sellers as well, and there was hardly any left in the box!
They moved on to the next stage, where Abby got to choose a sound for each bear. She chose the I Love You sound for hers and the boys 5-in-1 sound for Clay's. Rhianne placed the sound boxes into the teddy's paws, and let Abby start the Heart Stuff machine using the stepper while she fluffs up the teddies. Rhianne is really experienced and got the softness just right for both teddies! Abby's rabbit, made in another branch was a touch too hard in my opinion.
While they were working hard fluffing up the teddies, we spotted the new Scentimentals. It's a bit like a car freshener but with scrummy scents, and are placed inside each bear close to their chest. Abby chose the Bubble Gum for herself and Candy Floss for Clay. I think Bubble Gum smelled nicer! The smell seems to build up the longer we have the bears. I could smell their teddies from a single bed space away! Rhianne said they do last for months, and even if they run out, the replacement process would be really simple.
The next step is to give the teddies a heart. They have a beating heart or satin heart to choose from, and both Abby and I thought that the beating heart was a bit scary as it was so realistic! Abby chose the satin hearts instead. What happened next was a blur to me but was also the funnest part. Rhianne told Abby to liven up their teddies by preparing their hearts. First she needed to warm them in her hands, and then make a wish with her eyes closed. She then had to rub them on her cheeks for the cheekiness, on her nose for their nosiness and her heart (I'm guessing for being loving?). She should then shake them in the air to wake them up, rub them on her tummy (I forgot what it was), then on her arms and legs to give the teddies strong arms and legs. Abby's been giggling along, and I can imagine all the children enjoying the process too! I must say that whoever invented this is very thoughtful and clever!
Another thing that's new to us was the grooming and fluffing station. Rhianne said that it makes their fur shiny. When Abby checked her teddy she realised that it has shimmering fur!
Next is of course clothes shopping. We are used to seeing naked bears so an outfit to us seemed a bit weird. I can however understand when Rhianne told us that she thought the same when she first started her job, but after the years she's been working there, she found it weird if the teddies leave the shop without an outfit! Now that I got used to Abby's teddies in their outfit, I completely understand what she meant!
Anyway. The shop has a wide selection of clothes and accessories for the teddies, and they are really fancy too! Abby was a bit overwhelmed with the amount of choices, but she loved the Hawaiian outfit and insisted that her teddy should be wearing the coconut shell bra. I know we as parents shouldn't manipulate their decision making but a teddy with a coconut shell bra is a bit hard for us to absorb. I wouldn't even let Abby herself wear bikinis (seriously unnecessary and image planting). We persuaded her to look around, and found 2 cute cheerleading outfits, one in blue and the other in red. Abby had no problem changing her mind to the blue one, as she really loves cheerleading. Although being manupilated a bit, she was really happy with the choice. Sometimes you just have to look around a bit more with an open mind to find something more suitable. Rhianne really knows her things and quickly found a pair of socks and shoes to match the cheerleading outfit. Very professional!
We kept Clay's outfit simple as he was well decorated already! he even came with his own Nemo! A pair of beach shorts and he's ready to go.
After that, Abby was led to the computers and created a birth certificate each for their teddies. Abby named hers Rainbow Drop, which she changed to Dream Bear afterwards, and we named Clay's Banana (pronounced the Despicable Me way), because he loved the Despicable Me minions too much, especially when they were doing their Banana song!
The workshop has made it really special by providing colourful ribbon ties for the certificates, and gave Abby a strip of bear stickers too! The last bit of the experience is to make their vow to their teddies. It's really adorable and touching too! Then in they go into their cardboard carriers for the kids to carry them home, just like you would when you get a fluffy pet from a pet shop!
The whole process takes about half an hour, depending on how big the party is. According to Rhianne, they had a party of 30 two weeks ago and it was hectic but fun! I can only imagine. it would be hectic for the adults but lots of fun for the kids! Their party package is quite interesting, and they partner with a couple of restaurants nearby too, so if you book them through Build-A-Bear Workshop, you can get a discount for the meals.
We also spotted stationery and different type of bears in the shop, they have been expanding their range to keep their customers happy. Abby is already talking about going back for another outfit, a house, a bag....
Later that day, we found out that one of her best friend have exactly the same teddy but with a red cheerleading outfit! The thought of their similar choices made me smile!
We loved every bit of the Build-A-Bear experience, it really made it special for the children. I'd say that it's more for 3 years plus when they understand the whole process better, but also perfect for adults to make one with their personal message in for their babies. You can also gift them to other adults of course, I gave hubby one 10 years ago when we were on a long distance relationship (with my ever so horrible voice of course) and she's still with us, though very naked compared to these 2!
Disclosure: We were given the opportunity to review the workshop and were given 2 teddies free of charge for the purpose of the review; all opinions are still honest and our own