Robin is a former third-grade teacher, has a Masters in Education, and has three children of her own.
Make Your Own Teddy Bear at Build-A-Bear
Build-A-Bear was founded in 1997 in St. Louis, Missouri, and has since become one of the most beloved places around the world for young children to create their own stuffed animals. As an added bonus, the company is very philanthropic, donating to World Wildlife Fund, Make A Wish Foundation, and other child-based charities.
We recently went to the Build-A-Bear workshop in Downtown Disney. It was our first experience at building a bear. Our girls loved the experience and are much more interested in their bear and bunny than any of their other stuffed toys.
Here's a highlight of our experience and what you can expect from Build-A-Bear. In five enjoyable steps, our girls were able to create and personalize their own stuffed animals from the huge variety of options available. Below, I've briefly described each station at Build-A-Bear and what it brought to our overall experience.
Making Your Build-A-Bear
1. Choose Your Animal
2. Choose Your Sound
3. Stuff Your Animal
4. Dress Your Animal
5. Register Your Animal
Step 1: Choose Your Animal
Although the name suggests that you are building a bear, Build-A-Bear actually offers a huge variety of animals to choose from. In addition to their regular stock, stores often carry limited-time toy options depending on various promotions. For example, at this workshop, they had Sanrio characters in honor of their 50th Anniversary: Hello Kitty, Chococat, My Melody. They often carry animals featured in current movies as well as seasonal animals, such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and even have dinosaurs for the more adventurous kids.
Prices range from $10 to $23. Don't forget these prices are just for the unstuffed bear. Your Build-A-Bear experience will include additional features, so you may want to encourage your child to choose a less expensive animal so they can add clothes, a beating heart, or any other add-ons later.
Our girls chose an unstuffed peace bear and a bunny. It was a hard choice. If you want to prepare, you can check out the options at Buildabear.com before you arrive. On the website, it is possible to build your bear online, but most of the fun of the bear is doing it yourself in the store. Recently, the company has become more interactive by launching BuildaBearville.com, a website for online games and interaction that encourages further engagement and fun with your Build-A-Bear after you've made it and brought it home.
Step 2: Choose Your Sound
The next step is to choose whether or not you want your bear to say anything and/or have a beating heart. Our girls got to choose one or the other. This ranges from $2 to $5. If you choose a sound, you have the option of recording your own sound or choosing a pre-made option. Especially if you are making the bear as a gift, it can be truly wonderful to record a message in your or your child's voice for a relative or friend, or simply to keep as the child grows older.
If you don't choose a sound, they will give you a heart to place in your bear before it is stuffed. I thought this was the best part of the process. The Build-A-Bear worker says a sweet poem for the heart ceremony and you promise to care for your bear and make a wish to the heart—sealing it with a kiss. Each store has a different poem, and each worker can individualize their poem. I just remember that it was very sweet and the girls loved it. The little ritual brought the toys to life in a darling and personal way. It definitely helped inspire a greater attachment between the girls and their new toys.
Step 3: Stuff Your Bear
The child then puts the heart in their bear and the worker asks if they would like a soft cuddle bear or a plump bear. The bear is attached to the fluffing machine, and the child can push down on the pump to watch the bear be stuffed. The kids love this because it gives them a level of control over the whole process; they can choose exactly how soft or firm their toy becomes and can check the stuffing process at any point by squeezing or hugging the bear. It personalizes the huggability of their new friend.
Like the heart ritual and the sound recording options, the stuffing process ensures that the child's new toy is unique both inside and out. Personalization is the cornerstone of the Build-A-Bear experience; they want each child to leave with a toy absolutely unique to them, which encourages the children and parents to keep coming back and investing in that particular toy. If you look, you can see how each station has been created with this in mind.
When the bear is perfect, it is stitched up and given to the child. You can then take it to the grooming station and air dry it and comb the animal. This completes the process of creating the toy itself, but the decision-making process has just begun, as the next station contains more options than all the other stations combined.
Step 4: Dress Your Bear
There are many choices to dress your animal after it's been stuffed. We were at Disneyland, so of course there were a lot of princess outfits and Mickey and Minnie outfits. This particular Build-A-Bear was two floors with an overwhelming number of costume choices. Naturally, it took the girls a little while to decide, but eventually the peace bear was outfitted in an appropriate peace shirt and bell bottom jeans, while the bunny had a pink princess outfit with glass slippers to match.
This section is where many kids will probably get a little overwhelmed and excited with all the possible clothing and accessories, and you might have to gently reign them in as the prices start to stack up. The clothing options range from a simple dress, t-shirt, or jeans at about $7 apiece to a Wonder Woman costume or football team uniform at $16 or $18.
The trap lies not in any single outfit or accessory, but simply in the desire for all the options—what child doesn't want their bear to have a day outfit, a party dress, a batman costume, and pajamas, not to mention a $40 purple and pink armoire to keep the outfits, and perhaps a matching toy convertible or surfboard? The genius of all these choices, of course, is that you and your child can always return to any Build-A-Bear location for more outfits and accessories, friends for their original animal, and even more outfits and accessories for those friends.
The possibilities are endless. For now, keep in mind that while all the bear-clothing and accessories look like great fun to play with, most of them are not very comfortable to cuddle in bed. And, after all, your kid might want to get to know their new toy a little better before deciding all of its extracurricular interests.
Step 5: Register Your Bear
When you are finished creating your animal, there are computer terminals to name and register your bear. When you finish this process, you pay for your bear and are given a birth certificate with the information that you provided. The bear is placed in a "home" box that can be colored and decorated.
Once home, you can use the birth certificate to register your bear at BuildaBearville.com, a sweet, child-friendly website where kids can play online games with and customize virtual versions of the toy they've just created. They can even play multiplayer games with other kids, which can be a fun way to set up a virtual playdate with friends who have also been to Build-A-Bear.
Overall, our girls (ages 5 and 8) loved the Build-A-Bear Workshop experience. They still sleep with their animals and are very attached to them. They seemed like the perfect age for this activity.
If you have a birthday coming up, a Build-A-Bear party could be a lot of fun. The company provides you with:
- a calculator to itemize out how much the party will cost
- a leader to guide your guests through the process
- party favors
- a photo for the birthday boy or girl
- a virtual party room at BuildaBearville.com
- thank you cards
When booking a Build-A-Bear party online, you have a choice between a party that includes just the animals, a party that includes animals and clothes, and a superhero- or princess-themed party. Within those choices, the website allows you to customize how much you are willing to spend per guest and plans your party accordingly.
I've actually never been to a Build-A-Bear party, but I think it sounds like a great way to plan a birthday with a lot of fun activities that can appeal equally to both girls and boys. Not to mention, it takes a lot of the work of hosting a kids' party off of the parents. A Build-A-Bear party would be a ton of fun for kids and parents alike.
Holly on June 18, 2020:
Tomorrow is my birthday i going to be 36.
Allyson on March 03, 2018:
I Love My bear
Olivia on April 18, 2013:
Build a bear was a great experience for me chelsea (my bear) plays with me all the time i have been back to the store seval times to get new outfits for her she now loves her new home!
selindya on December 17, 2012:
i love build a bear and i want go so badly iv'e never ever gone i am going this month yeah ...........
Grabbergirl on September 09, 2012:
My little sister loves Build-a-bear but I find the Heart Ceremony disturbing so I hide behind my dad when it happens because I can't tolerate it.
Maury on April 28, 2012:
I bought a bunny in Buil-A-Bear Workshop on Vesterbrogade 3 Copenhagen: The clerk recorded my Bunny (it's a gift for a child) but I lost the sheet that she has printed. And 'possible to print the paper again? How can I do? thanks
Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on August 17, 2011:
My granddaughter has 4 of these bears...they travel around the house in her Build A Bear box until bedtime. So adorable! Nice hub!
Eiddwen from Wales on August 09, 2011:
Emma from Houston TX on March 17, 2011:
Excellent work you did in here.Great research and introduction on the history of teddy bear which really fascinated me.Thanks a lot for these work.
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on December 28, 2010:
I always love Teddy Bear. It looks cute and pretty. You made this so beautiful. Thanks for share with us. Love and peace!
The Lion Queen on December 27, 2010:
I love this. Got one for nursing school graduation that I still have. I think it's one of the few gifts I still have from that time.
Earth Angel on December 22, 2010:
Dearest Robin, girls and Paul,
I am delighted to hear you had such a wonderful time at Build-A-Bear! Me, too! It is just the BEST!! No matter how old you are!
Each year, at Christmas, my twin God-sons send me a Special Angel Bear made just for me! Always decked in gold with Angel wings and fancy shoes, the sweet girly Bear speaks to me in their voices!
Each year their message to me in their voices has been unique and reflects something special we have learned/shared during the year!
I treasure each of my Angel Bears and would not dream of parting with a single one!
No matter how old we get, we still have children inside of us waiting to love and play and show compassion for all living things!
Have a wonderful Holiday Season! Your new Bear and Bunny are fortunate to have you!! I know you will give them good homes!!
Blessings always, Earth Angel!
Hello, hello, from London, UK on December 22, 2010:
That must have been a real experience for all of you. Thank you for sharing it.