Our first visit to Build-A-Bear Workshop was two years ago, and it obviously made a big impression on the geekdaughter. Although she was not even four then she remembers all the details of the visit, and the bear she made has become a firm favourite and travels with her everywhere. We don’t give her official pocket money yet, but every now and again the geekdaddy gives her his loose change to play with, and we’ve noticed that she’s started squirrelling that away in a purse. Whenever I asked her what she was saving for she gave me the same reply – another trip to the Build-A-Bear Workshop.
When we had all our sleep troubles over the summer and I started using a reward chart as a way to encourage the geekdaughter to stay in her room overnight, I knew right away what the “big prize” was going to be. Thirty stickers, thirty nights where she didn’t wake us up, and I’d take her back to Build-A-Bear Workshop. The incentive had some effect, the geekdaughter’s sleep improved, and a couple of months ago she earned enough stickers for that trip. With very fortuitous timing the PR team for Build-A-Bear Workshop invited us to review our local store, and so a few weeks ago we all bundled into the car after collecting the geekdaughter from school and headed off to the Trafford Centre.
I can certainly recommend after school as a good time to visit the Build-A-Bear Workshop – we were the only people in the store and enjoyed the undivided attention of the staff, who looked after us brilliantly. They didn’t even flinch when the geekson changed his mind about the bear he wanted when we about to stuff his first choice. He saw that you could get bears on roller skates that you could pull along, and that was it, he would accept nothing else! Probably because it was the closest thing he was going to get to a car at Build-A-Bear! It was actually lovely to watch him enjoying the experience this time – as he was only one year old the last time we visited he didn’t have very strong opinions on what he wanted, but this time around he really got into the whole thing. From picking out his bear to choosing the heart; from pressing the foot pedal that operates the stuffing machine to choosing an outfit for his bear, he loved the whole experience.
The downside of the store being less crowded was that I was unable to shepherd the kids past the displays of sounds that could be added to the bears, and we’ve ended up with two bears that make noises. I’m using the word “bears” in the loosest possible sense as the geekdaughter fell in love with the My Little Pony “bear”, and the geekson, whilst originally choosing a more traditional bear, changed his choice to a limited edition Halloween cat when he saw he could get roller skates. We had a great tip from the staff that the four legged bears work best on the roller skates, as they can balance and you can then pull them around, as demonstrated by the geekson in this video:
(of course, buying a four-legged bear means you then have to buy twice as many shoes and skates).
As he’d missed out on our first trip, this time we also brought the geekdaddy along for his first Build-A-Bear experience, and he thoroughly enjoyed it too. It really is an experience – the children go through the whole ceremony of creating their own special bear, and even get to print out a special birth certificate at the end. I appreciate the store was very quiet when we went, but we must have been in there for about an hour, all told. The Trafford Centre staff were lovely with the kids, happy to take as long as we wanted, and they even snapped a lovely picture of all four of us together at the end. The geekdaughter definitely felt that she’d had a fantastic reward for improving her sleeping so much. The experience of the staff really showed when we came to pack the bears into their little travelling boxes at the end of the visit – neither of our children wanted to pack their bears away, so the staff suggested that we pack them with their heads sticking out so they could see where they were going. Both kids thought that was an excellent plan, and a major meltdown was skillfully averted.
The new bears have been played with so much already, and I just know they’re going to bring years of pleasure to come. I thoroughly recommend the Build-A-Bear Workshop experience, with just one little word of warning. Whilst the bears themselves are very reasonably priced (they start from £9 with most around the £15 mark), adding sounds, special hearts and outfits can all add up. The store is laid out such that it’s hard to avoid the displays, and it would take a stronger parent than I to take their child in and say “no” to everything. If your child is old enough, I’d recommend giving them a budget before you go in to make sure you don’t spend more than you planned.
The Build-A-Bear Workshop at the Trafford Centre is open 10am – 10pm Monday – Friday, 10am – 8pm Saturday and 12pm – 6pm Sunday.
Disclosure: We were invited to visit Build-A-Bear Workshop at the Trafford Centre in Manchester, and our two bears and all accessories were provided at no cost for review purposes.
All photos apart from the last one were taken by the geekdaddy. The last one was taken by the Build-A-Bear lady.