I love it when the whole Madhouse Family can get involved in some hands-on testing and reviewing and today was one of those days because we were all invited along to the Build A Bear Workshop in Brighton's Churchill Square shopping centre. We'd popped our head around the door a few times but had never really looked at how it all worked so the girls were really excited.
The lovely Hayley welcomed us into the store and showed the children to the empty bear "cases" before handing us over to Perrie to help us bring them to life. I say bears but despite the name, that's not all you can choose. There are a selection of cats, monkeys, rabbits, loads of other animals and, at the moment, limited edition Hello Kitty friends. The girls oohed and aahed with Juliette hugging them all going "This one ... Oh no, this one ..." but they finally settled on a Hello Kitty for Juliette, a pink Sweet Cuddles soft bear for Sophie and a blue Sweet Cuddles soft bear for Pierre (who wouldn't stop cuddling it, even before he was stuffed ! ).
Once they'd made their choice, it was time to move along the noise selector machine. For a supplement, you can choose from a selection of noises ranging from cute giggles to magic noises to Jonas Brothers music. The girls had fun pushing all the buttons to listen to the noises then both chose the 6-in-1 noise which makes your bear say a range of aah-inducing sentences like "I love you", "Give me a hug" and "You're my best friend". Pierre went for a cute giggle that makes him laugh every time he hears it.
Next was off to the stuffer. Before filling your bear with fluff, you get to choose a cute little padded heart to put inside him. The girls looked very serious as they carefully chose their hearts then followed the drill, rubbing the hearts in their hands to make them warm-hearted, rubbing them on their hearts to make them full of love, on their funny bones to make them funny, on their foreheads to make them brainy.
Then it was time to put the tube in the toy's back and activate the pedal on the stuffing machine, choosing the degree of firmness you want (soft for cuddles or hard to sit up).
Although the little padded heart may be a gimmick, there is something much more serious that goes in the back too - the bar code off the label. If you ever lose your cuddly friend anywhere in the world, if someone takes it to a Build A Bear shop, they can track you down via the bar code and send him back home to you.
Once he's sewn up, you can give him a (pretend) bath and fluff him up, then it's off to choose the clothes and accessories. I was actually expecting these to be really pricey and while it's easy to get carried away and spend a fortune, each individual item is quite reasonably priced. Juliette chose a Hello Kitty Tshirt and dress outfit, Sophie went for a very posh purple dress with necklace and bag and Pierre's bear got the Liverpool football strip which was reduced to the bargain price of £2 !
The final step before heading to the tills is the Birth Certificate computers to register your bear with your name, address, email and birthday and choose the name you want to give him. This allows you to log on to the Build A Bearville website where you can choose a toy that looks like your new friend and a human that looks like you !
Even when you get to the tills, the fun still hasn't stopped. Along with a few added extras (like bows, colouring books and stickers) and his birth certificate, your cuddly friend is packed in a sturdy cardboard house-shaped carrying box that you can keep and colour in when you get home.
The girls and Pierre were absolutely enchanted with the whole experience and haven't stopped hugging and stroking their bears since we've been home. They've already asked to log on to the online game but I'm saving that for tomorrow ! The toys are really high quality and I'm sure that the accessories and extra clothes will be pocket-money buys for a long time to come. Make sure you ask for the loyalty card when you buy your bear so that you can add up points every time you buy (and what do points make ? prizes ! ) and also qualify for money-off vouchers.
The girls have told me I have to give the whole experience top marks because it was a beary beary grrrrrr-eat day out !
star rating : 5/5
RRP : £15 - £20 for the basic toy, approximately £3 - £10 for the clothes and accessories
for more information : http://www.buildabear.co.uk/
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