Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Making new friends with Build-a-Bear

I only recently discovered the Build-a-Bear workshop. This is perhaps understandable, given the usual workshop demographic of 4 to 10 year olds, but . . . well . . . give me leave to be a child at heart.

It all started early this year when my youngest nephew was given a build-a-bear monkey by Nana for his first birthday. At this stage, I was still oblivious to the full significance of the gift, but several of us spent some time coming up with a suitable name for the new addition . . . now known as Sir Monkalot.

And then I was introduced to the shop at Southland, where . . . OMG . . . you can choose your own personal bear (or creature) and then fill it with love and stuffing (out of a massive fairy-floss-like machine) and then you can choose an outfit for your new friend to wear.

At this first visit, we purchased AFL colours for Sir Monkalot (it's a Pies household), and I completely fell in the love with the concept . . . Was I too old for a new friend?

Perhaps yes. So instead we decided to save it for when my nieces and nephew were to visit from Germany – which is now! So today we all traipsed down to Southland to visit the Build-a-Bear workshop.

The kids at first had no idea what was about to happen . . . they seemed a little perplexed at first . . . and then the fun to be had began to dawn on them. What followed was a classic display of personality as each child chose and bonded with their new friend.

First decision: choose a 'bear' from at least 20 options (as-yet-unstuffed). Number three (J, aged 5-1/2) was the most decisive. Within 30 seconds she had homed in on a fluffy pink bear, and declared she had already decided on a name. Number two (W, aged 6-1/2) took a few minutes longer, bouncing between a dinosaur and a dragon before finally settling on the monkey reasonably quickly. Number one (H, aged 8-1/2) had the hardest time choosing. She test-cuddled the 'camo' bear (in camouflage colours) and the dragon at least three times each, before suddenly discovering and settling on a different bear all-together – Champ bear.

Next came the heart ceremony. Each bear gets a soft red heart, infused with all the love of its new friend. The heart ceremony was a joy to witness, with each child hugging and rubbing and kissing and wishing and dancing and warming and energising the new heart. This was then slipped inside the new toy . . . then each toy was stuffed to the precise cuddle-ability – soft or firm – as requested. And test-cuddled before being sewn up – just to make sure!

New friends were then taken to the bathing station, and scrubbed clean. (Using a brush to fluff up their fur – no water was applied.)

Now to choose an outfit! Once again, Miss J took . . . perhaps one minute this time to come up with two choices: a glittering sequined purple ball gown and an elegant pink satin dress. The purple won, deemed exactly the right look for the newly named 'Rosie'.

Mr W's monkey – Mr Jack – first tried on a casual outfit of orange T-shirt and denim jeans, but ultimately preferred AFL colours (Bombers in this case).

As for Miss H, a tomboy, her criterion was 'unisex'. Being a swimmer, she first had her eye on a bear-sized wetsuit, complete with snorkle, flippers and mask. Hmm, quirky, but perhaps . . . There wasn't much in the way of unisex outfits, but to keep with the swimming theme, we did find some board shorts and a rashie in rather striking blue, green and yellow. Yess!

And then it was time to print birth certificates and – oh no! – now H had to come up with a name! The stress of making such an important decision (I totally understand this)! Some fast thinking and consultation with the bear-naming book eventually yielded the name 'Tex'.

So now three little children have three new friends – Tex, Mr Jack and Rosie – and I confess I'm a little envious! (One of these days I may just yield to temptation and return home with a cute bunny with floppy ears, called . . . ?!)

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