Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Build-a-Bear Manhattan: Actually, Not Lame!

Before you have kids, you can't believe you'd ever want to do anything as lame as go to the "Build-a-Bear" or American Girl doll store. (I only know about that second thing because my friend Kevin, Dad of two, has blogged about it.)

When my sister was here last week with her 3 kids, 6, 4, and 2, she suggested an impromptu trip into the city (New York City, that is) to see our sister's apartment. To give the kids something kiddish to do, we'd first swing by Build-a-Bear. This sounded horrible to me. I pictured a crowded place full of screaming kids... but I admit, I felt the pull of the bear. My baby's first birthday is coming up, and I envisioned myself buying him a really painstakingly built bear, crafted with fine accessories which I imagined were part of a complex part of assembling a bear. I grew more enthusiastic about Build-a-Bear.

The nine of us- me, my baby, my parents, my sisters, my middle sister's 3 kids- drove in two cars to the commuter train station. We managed to get ourselves onto a train and an hour later were in Manhattan, hiking a few cold blocks to the BAB store in midtown.

Although I had fun at Build-a-Bear (the baby slept through most of it), I was let down by the "building" process. The assemblage, which I pictured more like Santa's toy shop with tools and crafting of the bear's attributes, only involves you pressing the pedal on the machine that puts the stuffing in the bear (so you can decide the bear's firmness or floppiness) and picking out its outfit. The store should really be named "Stuff and Dress a Bear." See photo above of me and the sleeping baby stuffing his bear.

Still, I had fun watching my niece and nephews get their bears- rather, the two olders chose dinosaurs- and I did get a pretty cute Jedi Knight bear. The store wasn't that crowded, surprisingly, for a Sunday. No kids were acting obnoxious, although their parents were sort of loud.

The only really bad thing about the store is the deafening cowbell they ring, right at the front door by the checkout area, to announce yet another kid's birthday. I did not appreciate an ear-shattering COWBELL right next to my baby's head. That's actually pretty idiotic of the Build-a-Bear people.

I admit, I'd go to the Build-a-Bear place again. I'm not even sure why. Maybe because although it's about buying stuff, the options are limited. That's good for kids. It's a better (albeit pricier) option than having to choose from an entire toy store. I think that's why the kids in the store were so well-behaved: it was a controlled purchasing experience. The other good thing was that I felt the toys were fairly priced- not cheap- but not exorbitant. 16 bucks for the bear, same for the clothes. No, not cheap, but I expected double the price.

And being able to do Manhattan with kids is pretty priceless! We walked a bunch of blocks to my sister's apartment and the kids did great. There was some complaining near the end, but truth be told, pounding the pavement was tiring, and it was very cold!

Here's my sis, her kids, and my Dad at 30 Rock.

I am really looking forward to my next trip into the city with the baby. It is so easy just to put him in the ERGO and wear him around. However, I wore the baby for about 4 hours straight on BuildaBear day, and my hips were really tired the next day. For a long day in the city, it's best to bring the stroller. That's what I did last month when the baby and I took the train in along to see my sister's new apartment. I put him in the stroller, cozied up in the BundleMe, and put the plastic over that because it was very cold. He fell asleep and I was able to walk briskly to my sister's. Walking that much with 20 pounds on my hips is just not doable any more. This is why I need to buy a mai tei, so I can stick the baby on my back, rather than trying to wear him on my front in the ERGO. I hate the ERGO for back carry.

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