ImageBuild-A-Bear Workshop has been around since 1997, but I am a Mommy-come-lately to the party.  After reading parenting articles where experts suggest a child may sleep better if they have a comforting object by their side, I decided to take my son to Westside Pavilion’s Build-A-Bear to create his own special sleep pal.  Plus, with Valentine’s Day around the corner, a cuddly Lovey is a perfect gift.

Around Valentine’s Day is a great time to visit the store because they have an assortment of special sweetheart-themed animals to choose from.  For folks like me who are new to the workshop, the adventure starts when a child selects the shell of the animal they want to customize.  The store’s namesake implies Teddy bears, but they actually have everything from polar bears to monkeys.

My son picked out a penguin — perhaps because we had just watched the movie “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” the night before.  To individualize the bear, the child can choose a voice or sound to put inside their buddy in the form of a tiny digital player that barks, growls or meows or says things like “I love you,” or “Let’s play ball.” 

One of the most touching parts of the bear building experience is when a child picks out a satin red heart to put inside their bear which they rub on their own heart while they make a wish.  They can also add a heart-shaped toy heart that emits a heartbeat when the bear is hugged

From there, a Master Bear Builder assists the child in filling the body of the plush toy by inserting a hose attached to a glass tank of cottony stuffing.  The child helps by stepping on a foot pedal to activate the machine.  The stuffing step was perhaps my son’s favorite; in fact, despite his penguin being rather rotund, my son insisted on more stuffing, as the child is boss and instructs the Bear Builder on how soft or firm they wish their fluffy friend.

Build-A-Bear has got the production of making a posh pet down pat.   After the Bear Builder sews it up, the child give the bear an air bath to blow off any fuzz, and then they can outfit their bear at a kid-high dressing table.  Clothing options vary from camo to tutus.  My son opted for a hockey jersey set, perfect for a penguin.  The a child can also select accessories of all sorts, like miniature ringing toy cell phone,  or a light saber with sound effects.

Lastly, the child names their buddy and helps fill out its birth certificate at a kid-friendly computer.  Their bear is now ready to go home, in a special cardboard condo carry box.

A child could go bear wild at this store with all the accouterments, but a bear naked bear can cost as little as $10. 

Build-A-Bear has become quite an enterprise, with in-store Build-A-Party celebrations, a  Bearville virtual world where play with their character bears online, and a loyalty program with rewards earned with each bear-cessory you buy.   The store associates, such as our Master Bear Builder, Anthony Villa, are well trained and friendly, making the experience thoroughly enjoyable for both me and my son.

My son was thrilled with his Valentine’s sweetheart, Penguinfred, and sure enough, he slept soundly next to him all night.

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