I'd always tried to avoid those Build-A-Bear shops like the plague when we went past them in town, despite my daughter's best efforts. We'd promised her a Bear for her birthday which was back in May, but we just never really got round to it. I thought they were pretty much a cuddly toy version of a Barbie shop. The other day I relented though as it wasn't quite so packed as it usually was so I thought I might stand a chance of getting the double buggy in there.
A budget priced bear shop it is not, and some parts are a bit cringey for the adult but I was really wrong in terms of what it was. I even got a bit emotional seeing the pleasure Evie was getting from the whole experience in the shop, and her beloved Lyla has not left her side since.
So what actually happens when you go in? Why did she have so much fun? It's about the experience of creating your very own Bear, just as much as it is about what you actually take home.
You go into the shop and choose what kind of toy you'd like. It's very easy to spend a fortune, but we looked around first so we didn't get too seduced! They have a variety of different branded bears, like Hello Kitty ones, and lots of different sizes too, generally the bigger the more expensive, but Evie opted for a glittery purple one - her favourite colour. The addition of glittery bits of fluff were just the icing on the cake for her!
You can choose something for your Bear to say if you want to, but we didn't get this particular option so we went straight to the stuffing station. You decide how cuddly or firm you want your Bear to be. You then have to give your Bear a heart, so you kiss the heart and put it into the bear before it gets stuffed to help make it 'come alive.' The children then press the pedal themselves to stuff the bear.
Next stop is the pamper section, where Evie had great fun fluffing her new Bear, and grooming it with special brushes and combs.
You then move onto the clothes. We'd told Evie she was allowed to choose one outfit for her bear, and she chose a little Hello Kitty number (as modelled below!) but she could have got very carried away in this section. There are also accessories, like handbags and hair clips, which she fully intends to put on her Christmas list.
Once she had finished we were asked to go and 'register the birth' of our bear by using the in store computer to create a 'Birth Certificate' and when we paid, our Bear was boxed up in her house to take home.
At home, you can then bring your bear to life online in Build-A-Bearville. Using the code on the Bear's Birth Certificate, you create a profile on this web world. When you enter your code, it automatically brings up a profile picture of the Bear created in the shop. I haven't had a chance to explore this fully yet, and Evie's probably a bit young for it, but it seems like a child friendly social networking kind of thing. Evie can talk to the 'carers of other Bears' through the website but can only interact with the bank of phrases on offer, which I can only think is a good thing when aimed at children this young.
So even though 'Lyla' is nearly a week old, (ancient in 3 year old's terms yes?!) the novelty is still going strong. She loves dressing and undressing her and is so totally besotted because she created her. Our Bear cost just over £20 including the clothes. It is expensive in terms of what it actually is, but if you compare this to the price it costs for some days out where you have nothing to take home at the end of it, it seems a little more reasonable in this context. Evie has definitely enjoyed this experience more than any other since our holiday in France back in August. She just keeps telling us that Harry needs one too now though, and I'm not confident about how many of the decisions he'll be allowed to make in the shop if his big sister's there too!