If you go down to the woods today… When it comes to kids and their teddies (and grown-ups for that matter), there’s an invisible bond that can’t be broken. So when we were invited to test out a Build-A-Bear party at the brand new Build-A-Bear Workshop that’s just opened in Dubai Mall, there were literally squeals of excitement.
The first surprise was the price. When (ahem) ‘pawsonal’ party planner Charm calls to arrange the details, she explains that the basic party package starts at Dhs60 per child, with a minimum of six kids in the group, which sees every child take home their very own bear at the end of the party. Generally lasting around one to one-and-a-half hours (depending on the number of guests), included in this option are: a party leader to lead the festivities; gifts for the guest of honour; party favours; and printable invitations. ‘We often include storytelling and games and always tailor the party to mum and dad’s needs and, of course, the special guest of honour,’ explains Paul Marks, GM of Build-A-Bear (surely the coolest job in Dubai!). You can also let staff know if there’s any allergies amongst the kids, as they even have ‘allergy-free’ bears to choose from, he adds.
Mums and dads can settle on a fixed budget for the animals that the kids can choose from, plus optional extras, including a personal visit from Bearemy, the workshop’s cuddly mascot, and of course a whole wardrobe’s worth of bear necessities for their new furry friends, including clothes, sunglasses, costumes and even skates!
Although the workshop is still open to the general public while the party takes place, the kids are given the VIP treatment from the outset. While it’s easy for younger kids to be mesmerised by the rails of colourful bear-wear, the upbeat and friendly party crew, led by the lovely Charm, ensure that they’re focused on the task ahead. ‘Don’t you mean Bear Builders in their den?’ laughs Paul. ‘We don’t interview staff, we audition them..it’s like Build-A-Bear Idol.’
After an initial debrief and singsong, the kids are led on a tour of the workshop, joining in the rousing chant of ‘Choose my animal, choose my animal’, a refrain that’s been stuck firmly in our heads ever since. There’s some minor indecision over which furry friend to choose – at the Dhs60 option, there’s a great choice, including a selection of soft teddies, bunnies and even a giraffe. If your budget stretches further, there’s an even wider range, including limited edition and colourful bears, dogs and even a few Smurfs.
Alternatively, parents can choose to support Build-A-Bear’s charity partnership, The Dubai Autism Centre. For every Curly teddy sold, 50 per cent of the proceeds will go to the centre, and for every Champ bear that’s purchased, Dhs10 will be donated straight to the charity. You can also choose the new chequered charity hearts to bring the bear to life, with the full Dhs3 price-tag being given to the centre.
Once the animals are chosen, admittedly looking a little sad without their stuffing, they’re taken to a giant machine filled with fluffy teddy stuffing – where they queue patiently to help stuff their new toy to just the right level of squeezability – verified with a hug test of course. Bears, bunnies and giraffes suitably filled, the kids gather in a circle as their animals are given a heart – which the kids make a special wish upon before they are sewn up. It’s then time to give the teddies an air shower to reach that optimum level of fluffiness, and some very enthusiastic brushing ensues from the little ones.
A full on dance off follows, with a special appearance from Bearemy, the Bear Builders leading songs and party dances, and the kids singing along at the top of the lungs – tightly holding on to their bears at all times.
Speaking of which, if you are worried that their new furry companion might get lost, each contains a find-a-bear ID, so that if he is lost and found, he can be returned to his rightful owner. There’s a bank of computers where older kids (or parents), can enter all the details to register the animal – bear’s name, child’s name and a parent or guardian’s contact should the bear go AWOL.
As the party ends, kids are given a personalized birth certificate and a special ‘cub condo’ carry case that can be decorated back home. With a gaggle of exhausted kids clutching their new best furry friends, it certainly was a bear-y special day indeed!
For more info, visit www.buildabear.ae.