When I was first approached and asked if I wanted to review the Build-a-Bear Workshop my first thought was “hold on, my children are 20, 18 and 15, why on earth would I want to do that?”.
And then remembered that you are actually never too old for a new hand made teddy. So accepted gratefully and told E that we were off to Basingstoke the following Saturday.
There is no denying that if you go to a Build-a-Bear Workshop, on a Saturday it is going to be heaving with small children. And loud. And bright. And busy. And fabulous. Of course it is. It is designed for children to have fun in and also to have parties (more on that in a minute) so of course it is going to be all those things. But the greeting from the people that work there is always warm and the process of choosing your bear skin and how you bring it to life, explained thoroughly as soon as you step through the door.
There are around 30 “skins” to choose from and they change every month. As well as also having a seasonal selection or those that tie in with, say Disney Movies. For instance from October there will be Frozen themed teddies and from next month there will Toothless related teddy bear goodies to choose too. Prices start from around the £15 mark for the small bears and go up from there.
Having chosen your bear, we went for a pug, you then go along and have it stuffed, add a heart to it, make a wish and watch your bear come to life. It was lovely to witness the children ahead of us being actively encouraged to make those wishes and rubbing tummies etc as part of the process.
Once the bear is made there a bazillion accessories to chose from. That might be slight exaggeration but you name it, your bear can have it. From shoes and shades to tutus and tiaras. Football shirts in your team colours? You got it. Flip flops? You got it. And how clever that once your bear is made you can keep coming back for accessories, or can then buy them as a gift for the next birthday etc. Very clever, and from just a few Pounds so they can be bought with pocket money.
One thing I loved loved loved was this:
For a child in a wheelchair to make a bear that then sits in a wheelchair, or as a gift to a child with a wheelchair, how thoughtful is this? It really touched me.
Next it is time for the bear to be adopted and a certificate issued. Each bear has a bar code in it that is then registered to the new owner, so should it ever be lost it is possible to reunite it with its owner!
I mentioned parties and there was one in full swing when we arrived. Prices for those start at £9 a head and go up to, well whatever you want really, you can set the budget per head. For an extra fee of around £20 you can also have the mascot come out to play and have photographs taken. Clearly there is no food as part of the party as there are no facilities for that in the stores but they do have partnership deals with local restaurants. In Basingstoke it is Giraffe, who offer a deal on parties that have started in the Workshop.
A nice touch.
We were honoured to be asked to build our own bear and bring him to life (he is called Bam Bam by the way and lives with C in her new house now). We received the bear free of charge along with a couple of accessories in exchange for this review.
Photo of the Build a Bear Workshop courtesy of Shutterstock