The Build-a-Bear Workshop experience is far more than just shopping for a cuddly toy. You bring your new furry friend to life, customise its sounds and even smells, as well as choosing a very special outfit. We visited the Belfast Build-a-Bear Store at Victoria Square to make a Smyth family Christmas friend. The idea is that we bring out our unique plush friend every December to sit under the tree, a new tradition that our son will remember fondly when he's a grown up.
Yesterday was the first step in starting the tradition, creating the bear, or in this case reindeer, with help from Jonathan from the Build-a-Bear Workshop Store.
As well as the regular range of bears, pups, kittens and My Little Ponies, there are a selection of holiday themed bears to choose from. Rudolph with his light up nose, his sister with a light up heart, snowmen, snow dogs and even Santa himself.
The light up nose option quickly swung the decision for my son, and I don't blame him, look how cute Rudolph is!
After you've chosen the bear, the next step is deciding which sounds you'd like your friend to make. There's a fun sound board for your child to try all the options. We picked Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer for one hoof, and pressing the other hoof makes him say one of five phrases.
Next, Jonathan helped us choose a scent for Rudolph. This is very unique part of the Build-a-Bear Workshop creative process. Little scent pods are stowed safely inside the plush toy, with smells like strawberry, bubblegum and blueberry to choose from. There are two exclusive Christmas scents, Christmas Cake Icing and the one we picked, peppermint.
Then it's time to stuff Rudolph! Your child gets to help by pressing the foot plate to feed the fluff into their bear.
Now it's heart adding time! There's a special little routine you have to do before putting the heart into the bear, and even though Michael is a 'big, grown up six' now, he still loves acting out this part.
It's then bath time for Rudolph, blowing off all the loose fluff and brushing up his fur before the gets beautified in front of the dressing room mirror, choosing his clothes.
There is an exclusive Christmas clothing department for all bears. Elf suits, Christmas jammies, Rudolph slippers and Santa suits to fit any existing Build-a-Bear toy.
The final step is printing a birth certificate for your new pal. Choosing the name and officially adopting your new Build-a-Bear. We now have the perfect Christmas mascot for the whole family, and a little gingerbread house to take him home in. Thank you to Jonathan who helped us bring Rudolph to life. If you would like to create your own friend, but you don't live near a store, the website has the Build-a-Bear Workshop Christmas range to browse and buy right now.
Don't forget Build-a-Bear Workshop as a Christmas gift idea. As well as the Christmas outfits you could buy from your child, or grandchild's existing bears, you can also purchase gift vouchers for them to come along in the new year and make a bear in the process like Michael did. I promise it will make you the most popular of all the grannies/uncles/aunties/neighbours/godparents! So says Michael!