If you have never been to Build a Bear then I would strongly suggest to try and make the effort to go and visit, it is a wonderful experience and the Bears are simply adorable!
When you first walk into a store you are often greeted by a member of staff, then you can go and take a look around, the stores all work in the same format, you walk around visiting each station and completing the process and end up making your own bear, it is much more than 'just a teddy bear shop!' it is a real experience in itself.
Your first stop is to decided on which bear you will be making.The range of bears is exceptional, there is something to suit everyone, there are beautiful teddies in all sorts of colours and styles, the new Bears for winter 2011 are an Artic Polar Bear, a Kola Bear, a Blue Snowflake bear to name just a few.
Build a Bear also have a Pudsey bear, where money from each sale is donated to BBC children in need, and often do characters such as Hello Kitty and Smurfs. They change the range of bears through out the years but some regulars are always available, however if you do want one of the seasonal bears you have to get in quick as they often prove to be very popular!
Once you have made the exceptionally difficult choice of picking a bear, you move on to the sound station, where you can add a musical box to your bear with any one of a number of sounds in it, you of course do not have to add a sound, you are making the bear exactly the way YOU want, which is what is so wonderful about Build a Bear, each one is so unique and personal to you.
After this you move on to the Stuffing machine, which is manned permanently by a member of staff, who will talk you through the stuffing process and allow you to stand on a pedal to start up the machine and watch as the bear is brought to life, you can then decided where abouts you wish the sound box to be placed, hand, foot, tummy etc, and you can say if you'd like the bear soft and cuddly or abit firmer or of course anywhere in between!
The next step is to pick a heart, every Build a Bear gets a heart, which is what brings them to life, the member of staff will talk you through making a wish and giving your bear extra powers by rubbing the heart on your head (for a brainy bear), arm (for a strong bear) or feet (for a dancing bear!) The staff always seem to have time for you and make you feel special, even tho every time I have been to a Build a Bear it has been busy!
After you have made your wish the heart is placed into your bear and he is quickly stitched up via special stitches, Build a Bear, also offer a lifetime pass should the stitches come undone you can return your bear to the store at any time to be restitched (we have had to do this on one occasion as we went for a firm bear who popped open!)
The next station is to give your bear a good wash and brush, so they look beautiful and then you are set free on the clothes and accessories, which are simply stunning, the attention to detail on the outfits is second to none, they are lovely, clothes range in price, on average you can get a outfit for £10 which includes top and bottoms, there are hundreds of styles available and because they all fit all bears you can mix and match to your hearts content and find a style that suits you down to a T.
Perfect gift ideas are wedding bears, doctor bears, football bears amongst many many other character outfits from top films such as toy story and star wars, you can buy underwear, swimwear, night wear and a whole array of day wear for your bears with beautiful shoes to match! There is also a whole host of accessories such as glasses, skateboards, microphones, wardrobes and beds!
The only down side is you will want some of it all which would get rather pricey!! so it is best to go with a set figure in mind, if you tell the staff the limit you are wishing to stick to they will advice you on various options, the bears range in price from £9 up to around £20, and the items of clothing and accessories again range from £3 up So it is definitely wise to have a limit in mind before you let your children loose in the store!
Once you have picked, stuffed, brought to life and dressed your bear in whatever way you choose, you then name them on the in store computers, where you can register your details so should your bear get lost they can be found and returned to you via a bar code hidden safely inside them. This part of the process really makes the bears that bit more special than your average cuddly toy, it gives them an identity that you have chosen for them. You are then presented with a birth certificate and your bear is brought home in a club condo sturdy cardboard box, if you are purchasing the bear as a gift you can select any date you choose to appear on the birth certificate.
The Bears truly are lovely and from the first time I went into Build a Bear I have fallen in love with them, you do not need to purchase al the outfits and accessories in any one go, the great thing is they make perfect Birthday and Christmas gifts, as you can buy a bear undressed, and then the receiver can go along and purchase whatever outfit they wish as and when they want, also once you have your bear, you can add to their wardrobe for birthdays and Christmas for years to come and get a whole lot of love from just one bear, not to mention the online build a bearville which also adds to the fun!