I thought I knew what made my toddler jump with excitement when in fact I knew nothing. Christmas proved underwhelming for Tilly, her birthday rather more fun but my goodness how it paled in comparison to the prospect of a new soft toy from our local Build a Bear Workshop. 

IMG_3066.JPGSay what you about unabashed American commercialism, and I sometimes do, but they have refined shopping into an experience and Build a Bear (BaB) nailed it for our just turned three-year-old. The mere thought of making up her own bear triggered raptures of anticipation hitherto unseen.

The excitement scarcely needed amplifying though as this visit also represented the culmination of some weeks of Tilly’s reward star chart. Take an adoration of soft toys, add a shot of newly discovered obsession for the colour pink (urgh) plus the prospect of making your own bear and you have pure catnip for toddlers.

When we finally arrived at the threshold to the shop Tilly sank to the ground and folded herself in half. For a moment I thought she was emulating the Pope’s tradition of kissing of the tarmac upon arrival in an esteemed destination but in fact I think she was rather overcome by it all.

The shop was brightly coloured; its walls adorned with bears and their accessories plus areas for the various stages of construction. For a moment we were as taken aback as our daughter. Happily a member of staff immediately appeared to lead us through the process. Nay, let’s call it a journey.

British shops often struggle to replicate the faultlessly cheery demeanour found in American stores and to be fair expectations in Wycombe, our local shopping centre, aren’t very high by default, but our bear builder (for want of the correct phrase) got it just right. She engaged with Tilly brilliantly but held back when she was appearing overwhelming and when us mean parents overruled Tilly on having her bear smell of candy, she deftly managed the situation to everyone’s satisfaction.

The process, I mean journey, works a bit like this: First you choose a bear. In Tilly’s case it must be pink bear. My wife worried that they might be out of stock of pink bears on the day. How we chortled about that later, when the bear builder produced no fewer than four different bears for Tilly to choose from, each in its own shade of pink. Next there are accessories which include sounds in its paw (which now seems a less good idea than at the time), the aforementioned candy smell and most importantly the clothing. Some bears may be content to go ‘au naturel’, and it would certainly be cheaper but Tilly had her heart set on pink attire from top to toe and so it was to be.

The stuffing than needs to be knocking into the bears, using a rather fun looking machine, which Tilly helped press the pedal for. Once sewn up it’s off to the dressing room to be robed in the many accessories. From there we went to rather 1990s looking keyboards to enter some particulars that will appear on the bear’s birth certificate, which you take home in the rather fun bear box.

We visited early on a Saturday morning, when it was quiet enough to get immediate one-to-one service, which was great. They also had a party going on in the corner, which I can imagine Tilly might well enjoy in the future. We returned home, laden down with an extremely pink bear and one incredibly happy small child.

Particulars: Tilly’s bear cost £19 and £40 once complete with accessories. The visit is based on our honest opinions and was paid for ourselves.

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