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The Best Stuffed Toys from the ’90s

Children these days don’t know what they missed out on during the last two decades of the 20th century. The 1980s had Cabbage Patch Kids and Care Bears. The 1990s had their own trends. Many of these popular ‘90s toys have tried to make a comeback in the past few decades, but it will never be the same as their original debut. Today, The Zoo Factory is taking a trip back in time and covering all of the best-stuffed toys from the ’90s.

The Secret Keepins Pups

These plush puppies with tiny tummy compartments served as your most trusted friend during the ’90s. Their promise, “keeping secrets safe for little girls,” remained true by having the ability to lock all your prized possessions and keeping them safe from others. One of the best parts, the wearable charms on their stomachs, snapped off and became the key to opening the secret hiding place.

Beanie Babies

Beanie Babies were an iconic plush toy in the ’90s. If you grew up during this time, you most likely had a closet full of these stuffed animals. From bears to iguanas, there were plenty of animals to welcome into your plush family. These collectibles were personalized with their names, and they were a staple piece in every child’s toy chest. Today, some Beanie Babies are resold for thousands of dollars!

Tickle Me Elmo

Almost everyone knows of Elmo, the furry red monster, most commonly known for his premier on Sesame Street. In 1996, Tickle Me Elmo was the must-have toy of the year. Elmo danced, laughed, and talked if you tickled it in the right spot. At one point, consumers would do nearly anything to get their hands on the most popular toy of the year.

Yum Yums

These multicolored animals smelled like sweet treats. The lineup consisted of Peppymint Kitty, Jumpin’ Jellybean Bunny, Chuckle Chip Bear, and Lucky Lemon Lion. They even released a 1990’s TV special: The Day Things Went Sour. The Yum Yums franchise is still commonly found in Japan.

Today, some of the most popular ‘90s toys are either no longer around or they’re very hard to find. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean your children can’t enjoy a stuffed toy of their own. From mystical creatures to aquatic animals from under the sea, we at The Zoo Factory know that you’ll have no problem finding the perfect animal to bring home. Check out our large selection here.

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45,000 Stuffed Animals Tossed onto the Ice at Hershey Bears Game

“It’s raining stuffed animals in chocolate town!”

These were the words one commentator cheered as 45,000 stuffed animals fell onto the ice at Giant Center, home of the Hershey Bears (the AHL affiliate to the Washington Capitals). In fact, it was a total of 45,650 toys, shattering last year’s record of 34,798.

The Bears took on the Hartford Wolf Pack. What turned out to be an already thrilling game became even more so as the annual Teddy Bear Toss went underway. Just after the Bear’s scored their first goal, the deluge of stuffed animals began. It delayed the game for 40 minutes, and players took their time diving into piles and batting them with their sticks.

Teddy Bear Tosses have become a tradition for many hockey teams across the United States and Canada, but the Bears’ record-shattering tosses are perhaps the most well-known. All of the stuffed animals collected from the Bears’ Teddy Bear Toss are donated to 40 local charities, including schools, food banks, churches, lions clubs, as well as the Milton Hershey School, Children’s Miracle Network, and the American Cancer Society. The team also pairs with CommunityAid, a local nonprofit that donates 25 cents per stuffed animal (up to $15,000) for the Children’s Miracle Network.

As for the game, the Bears won it in overtime, 4-3, making both the children, and their fans, happy this holiday season.

Nothing brings smiles during the holiday season quite like a teddy bear, and the Teddy Bear Toss continues to impress with displays of generosity each year. If you’d like to donate or gift a teddy bear this Christmas, then take a look at our inventory here at The Zoo Factory.

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4 Fun Ideas for a Family Gift Exchange

We may not always admit it, but exchanging gifts is probably our favorite part about Christmas. No matter your age, there’s always that rush of excitement as you’re opening presents Christmas morning. But why stick to the usual gift opening routine? Instead, consider doing a family gift exchange to add a little bit more fun to your Christmas morning. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Secret Santa

Secret Santa is a great way to add a little mystery and intrigue to Christmas. Fill a bowl with names and have each person draw a name. Whoever’s name they draw they have to get a present for, but here’s the catch—they can’t tell the person they’re getting a gift for. Instead, the person must guess who their Secret Santa was after opening their gift. You can even provide clues for people to mull over if they’re having trouble guessing.

White Elephant

If Secret Santa provides intrigue, then White Elephant provides competition. With a White Elephant exchange, each person brings a wrapped gift and adds it to a common pool. People then draw numbers to determine what order they can go. When it’s your turn, you get to choose to either pick an unwrapped gift or steal a previous player’s gift. If your gift gets stolen, then you have the option to steal another person’s gift. The game ends when someone declines to steal a gift.

Grab Bag

With White Elephant, you compete for your gifts. With grab bag, you leave it up to chance. The rules for grab bag are pretty simple. Place all of your gifts in a bag and then take turns grabbing gifts out of the bag. But no peeking allowed!

Musical Gifts

This gift exchange is similar to musical chairs, except it will be the presents moving with the music rather than yourself. Sit in a circle and put on some music. Then start passing a gift along. When the music stops, the gift that is in your hands stays with you.

If you’re doing a family gift exchange this Christmas, then you’ll want to make sure that you bring the perfect gift. So, why not bring a stuffable animal? Here at The Zoo Factory, we have plenty of stuffable animals for you to choose from. Look through our inventory or contact us for more information.

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Where to Donate Your Stuffed Animals for the Holidays

Last week we talked about how you can help children and families in need by organizing a toy drive in your community. There are many of us, however, who don’t have the time to start our own toy drives but still want to help the struggling families in our area. Thankfully, you can do just that by donating some of your families’ stuffed animals. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some places that are always looking for donations, especially during the holiday season.

Charities

The most obvious place to start is your local charity. You’ll likely have a Salvation Army or Goodwill location in your neighborhood that will be accepting old toys and stuffed animals. They will then take your stuffed animals and give them directly to a less fortunate child or sell them at their thrift store. As an added bonus, you can also deduct the items you donate on your taxes.

Hospitals and doctors’ offices

While charities are usually people’s first choice, your local hospitals and doctors’ offices will also be accepting donations during the holidays. Many of these facilities use these stuffed animals to help their young patients during recovery. Just be sure to check with your local hospital or doctors’ office beforehand, as some don’t accept older items due to the risk of illness.

Police and fire departments

In addition to your local hospitals and doctors’ offices, you should also check out your local police and fire departments. Police officers and firefighters often carry stuffed animals with them to comfort traumatized children, so they’re always looking for donations from local families. Call your police or fire departments to see when and where you can donate.

We at The Zoo Factory want to make sure every child has a happy holiday this year. So, if you would like to learn more about how you can use stuffed animals to help local children in need, then give us a call today at 866-993-3325.

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4 Tips for Running a Toy Drive

The holiday season is upon us, and that means lots of presents, food, and parties to enjoy. Yet, while we will be spending our Christmas day in a warm house surrounded by family and presents, there are just as many who won’t. Struggling families want to give their children as joyful and happy a Christmas as possible, but they need our help to do it. Running a toy drive is just one way you can help the families in your neighborhood this holiday season. Here’s how you can get started:

Find a charity to work with

If you want to run a toy drive on your own, there’s certainly nothing stopping you. However, it’s often easier to partner with a local charity in order to help you organize your toy drive and distribute the donations. Good places to start would be your local YMCA, children’s programs, or your local police department.

Figure out the days, times and location

The most successful toy drives are typically five days, or one business week. This gives everyone in your community enough time to drop off their donations.

Publicize it

In order to get people to come and donate, you need to publicize your event. While you can print out flyers and hand them out, it’s often much easier (and cheaper) to publicize it on social media. Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram are all excellent avenues for you to promote your toy drive. You can create social media accounts just for your event (this can make it seem more professional, though you’ll start off with less followers), or you can publicize it on your own social media accounts. Be sure to get the help of your friends too to share your posts and spread the word!

Organize and plan everything

Your toy drive will likely get a bit chaotic, so make sure that everything is properly organized and planned ahead of time. Have donation bins to sort through all of the donations and have volunteers available for different jobs (collecting the donations, sorting through the donations, etc.).

Would you like to give a stuffable animal to a child in need? The Zoo Factory can help. Check out our inventory to see how you can start making a difference.

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Trader Joe’s Biggest Secret? Their Stuffed Animals

When you walk into a Trader Joe’s, you can find nearly anything that your heart desires. Chocolate? Check. Cheese? Check. Peanut butter? Check. What they don’t typically have are stuffed animals…most of the year.

Unbeknownst to most of us, from November to December, Trader Joe’s fills its shelves with hidden stuffed animals for kids to find.

This game of hide-and-seek was revealed on a Reddit thread by a former employee. The practice wasn’t confirmed, however, until TheKitchn spoke with Kendra Friend-Daniel, Trader Joe’s public relations director. “It’s a way to engage with kids in our store,” Friend-Daniel said. “If they locate the hidden stuffed toy, they just let a Crew Member know and they’ll receive a treat.”

The stuffed toys and treats may vary from store to store, but you can bet that the Trader Joe’s in your area will have a stuffed friend hidden behind the cans of cranberry.

And this isn’t just a fun activity; it can also be something to help parents survive holiday shopping themselves. We all know the feeling of dragging your kids with you to go food shopping. This is bad on most days, but especially so during the holidays where aisles are crammed with other stressed out parents and kids. But with Trader Joe’s stuffed animal hide-and-seek, food shopping is made fun for both you and your child this holiday season.

While we won’t be hiding our own stuffable animals in the shelves at Trader Joe’s, we at The Zoo Factory do have plenty of stuffable animals for your child to bring home this holiday season. Take a look through our inventory to get started today!

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How Stuffed Animals Help Kids with Autism

If you have a child with autism, then you know how difficult some days can be. Naturally, you want to find ways to make things easier on your child. As it turns out, stuffed animals can be one of these ways. While a stuffed animal is never a replacement for therapy or other doctor-prescribed treatments, they can help alleviate the typical symptoms associated with autism. Here’s how:

Stuffed animals are great comfort objects

Whether they’re four years old or forty, many people with autism are easily overwhelmed by the noise and chaos of everyday life. That’s why they often turn to comfort objects that can provide security and some sensory regulation. Stuffed animals can fulfill this role particularly well as they can be held, cuddled, and even weighted to provide children with a sense of calm.

They can teach play skills

Studies have shown that autistic children play differently than non-autistic children. They often lack specific play skills such as imitation skills or symbolic play (or pretend play) skills. Instead, they’ll engage in more solitary, repetitive play. Stuffed animals can be useful tools when teaching these valuable play skills through various therapeutic approaches.

They can help children practice social skills

Children with autism often struggle with social and communication skills. While they have the desire to interact with others, they usually don’t know how or get overwhelmed when they’re around new people. A stuffed animal, however, can help your child practice those much-needed social skills so that they’re more confident when dealing with other children.

A stuffed animal may not be the silver bullet, but it can certainly help your child get through each day a little easier. Here at The Zoo Factory we have plenty of stuffable animals that will be perfect for your child. Look through our inventory or contact us today.

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The Story Behind ‘The Teddy Bears’ Picnic’ Song

“If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down in the woods today, you’d better go in disguise
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
Because today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic…”

If you find yourself singing along to these lyrics, then you’re certainly not the only one. “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” has been a hit with all ages for over 100 years. First written in 1907, this song represents the love each generation has for our stuffed teddy bears.

“The Teddy Bear Two-step”

The very first teddy bear was made in 1902, and they soon took the nation by storm. They were so popular, in fact, that they became inspiration for books and, eventually, songs. In 1907, John W. Bratton, an American composer, wrote “The Teddy Bear Two-step.” This version had no lyrics, but it nevertheless gained traction among the American public. In fact, one of the first recordings of the song occurred in 1907 by the Black Diamond Band.

The Lyrics

It took nearly thirty years until lyrics were added to “The Teddy Bear Two-Step.” Written by Irish songwriter Jimmy Kennedy in 1932, this is the version that we know and love today. It was renamed “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic,” and it was first recorded by Henry Hall and His Orchestra, with the vocals done by Val Rosing. The song went on to be covered by several other famous singers including Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, and Anne Murray.

So, if you plan on going down to the woods today, make sure you bring along your friend teddy bear. Here at The Zoo Factory, we have plenty of teddy bears that are sure to enjoy their teddy bear picnic. Look through our inventory or contact us today for more information.

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Reading Buddies: How Stuffed Animals Can Help Your Child Read

Teddy Bear Reading

Whether you’re a teacher or a parent, teaching children to read can be an arduous task. Some have difficulty with the material, others are bored by it. Nevertheless, it’s always important to encourage reading young, and a great way to do that is through a stuffed animal reading buddy. Here are some ways you can use your stuffed animals to encourage your children to read:

Reading aloud

Reading aloud is a great technique to improve fluency and reading skills. According to recent research, reading aloud makes words easier to remember and helps children focus better on the material in front of them. However, not everyone enjoys reading aloud in front of other people. That’s how a stuffed animal reading buddy can help. Not only will your child be able to practice by reading to their stuffed animal, but they also won’t feel any performance anxiety by reading to their stuffed friend.

Book hooks

Stuffed animals can help with technique, but they can also help with interest. A part of getting children to read books is getting them interested, and their stuffed animal can be the perfect way to hook them in. For instance, try to find books that feature the same animal as your child’s stuffed animal in order to get them interested in the subject.

Strategy mascots

A strategy mascot is a stuffed animal that represents a certain reading strategy to help children better remember it. For example, Stretch the Snake reminds students to stretch the word out in order to help them sound it out, and Eagle Eyes tells them to look at pictures to help them figure out words. While this technique was originally used with beanie babies, you can use it with any kind of stuffed animal.

Looking for a new reading buddy for your child? The Zoo Factory has you covered. We have stuffable animals of all shapes and sizes, so look through our inventory or contact us for more information.

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The Teddy Bear That Travels the World

We all dream of leaving our normal routines and traveling the world someday. Well, as it turns out, one adventurous teddy bear is doing just that. As the travel companion of travel writer Elaine Warner, Fuzzy has traveled from Spain to Norway to the Americas and back again. Read on to learn more:

Society of American Travel Writers

The Society of American Travel Writers is a networking organization for travel writers, journalists, photographers, and other content producers. It sponsors journalists like Warner to travel the world and write about interesting places and people. About 15 years ago, the SATW started a traveling teddy program where their travel journalists would bring teddy bears along with them. These teddy bears would be assigned to classrooms where they would write to students about where they’ve been.

Teddy’s Travels

Unfortunately, the program quickly dwindled. Travel journalists have to carry a lot of equipment with them, and it became difficult to constantly keep a teddy bear with them at all times. However, one teddy bear continued with his travels. Fuzzy, the teddy bear companion of Warner, continued to travel with her on her many trips. In the past 15 years, Fuzzy has been to the Grand Canyon, Madrid, Cornwall, and more. In 2008, Warner began a blog for Fuzzy called Teddy’s Travels where she documents what Fuzzy did at their most recent destination, even sharing some pictures of Fuzzy at famous places around the world.

A Learning Tool

Teddy’s Travels isn’t just a cute blog for people to follow, it has also become a learning tool for many classrooms around the country. “It’s very hand if you have five minutes between subjects or when it’s almost time for lunch or recess and you don’t want to start something new,” said Warner. “Teachers can take it as far as they want, or just use it for that. I once had a teacher who kept track of where the bear was going on a map in her classroom, and if the children were taking a trip themselves, she asked them to journal their stories.”

Looking for a travel companion of your own? Then check out some of the stuffable animals we have here at The Zoo Factory.