We were invited a few weeks ago to a charity event at the Build-a-Bear workshop at the Trafford Centre in Manchester. We could help make some bears for the charity Tommy’s to pass to babies in neo-natal care, and have the chance to meet the Chief Executive bear, the founder of Build-a-bear workshop, Maxine Clark. Having never been to a Build-a-Bear workshop, I was keen to give it a go!
I was not sure how the geekdaughter would react to making a lovely, cuddly teddy bear and then giving it away once it was finished, so we had several conversations ahead of time about how we were going to make bears for poorly children in hospital. She seemed fine with that as a plan. So we bundled the geekson into his pram and set off.
On arrival at the Build-a-Bear workshop we were greeted by their huggable mascot Bearemy, although the geekdaughter was a bit shy and really didn’t want to cuddle him! We were welcomed at the door by Maxine, and then handed some bear “skins” to make into bears. This was my first visit to Build-a-Bear workshop, and I must confess I was expecting it to be slightly tacky. How wrong I was! What we found was a magical store which has managed to turn the simple act of making a teddy bear into a real experience. You can select any one of a huge selection of “skins”, have it stuffed as hard or as soft as you like. You can put a sound box inside your bear as well, although I managed to steer the geekdaughter past that bit without her noticing! There’s a little ceremony where your child inserts their bear’s heart, then you can choose from a vast array of outfits for your bear. Finally you can choose your new bear’s name and get a little birth certificate printed for them. The whole experience is relaxed and unhurried – even though the store was really busy due to the event, we were never rushed through any of the processes, and allowed to take as much time as we wanted.
We took our bear skins to the machine to be stuffed. The geekdaughter was initially a little nervous of the stuffing machine, but she soon got the hang of it, and helped the staff stuff our bears and put their hearts in. Once complete she was quite happy to hand them over to the staff to pass to the poorly babies. Bless 🙂
We were then invited to make bears of our own to take home, and the geekdaughter had a lovely time picking out suitable bears and accessories for herself and the geekson (I dread the day he’s old enough to have his own opinion!). It was quite a time consuming process, as there was such a huge selection of bears, clothes, shoes and accessories. However, both kids were very good throughout the whole process, and have ended up with beautiful bears that will be treasured for years to come.
Whilst we were in the store, there was periodically a prize draw called (we were given some raffle tickets on entry), and I was amazed when our number came up at one of these! So we won a special limited edition Maxine bear and a copy of Maxine’s book The Bear Necessities of Business: Building a Company with Heart.
This is why we ended up going home with three bears between two children (although the geekdaughter has already decided that the Maxine bear is daddy’s!).
So did I like the Build-a-Bear Workshop experience? You know what, I loved it! So much so that when I was back in the Trafford Centre last week with the geekdaddy I dragged him in to the store to show him what it was like. There’s something really fun about watching the kids create their bears, and the attention to detail (for example although all the bears look very different, the outfits have been designed to fit all of them like a glove) is most welcome. I’d definitely recommend it, not just as a place to buy a lovely bear, but also as a great fun family experience.
Bears start from £9, although if you want anything more than a basic bear you’re looking closer to £20, possibly £30 with an outfit.
Whilst at the Build-a-Bear event we met up with Kate from the Five F’s blog – you can read her post here. We also completely failed to meet up with Cheshire Claire but that shouldn’t stop you reading her post about it either!
Disclosure: We were provided with two bears and outfits by the Build-a-Bear Workshop. The opinions stated are my own. This review contains an affiliate link to amazon.co.uk