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How to Celebrate the Holiday Season During COVID-19

How to Celebrate the Holiday Season During COVID-19

For many of us, the coronavirus has derailed many of our holiday plans. All of those big dinners and fancy Christmas parties are now taking a back seat as we strive to protect our family’s health. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean the holidays are completely ruined. There are still ways to celebrate with your immediate family and to let your kids have fun as well.

Have a video chat with other family members

We may not be able to spend time together in person, but we can spend time together virtually. Schedule a video chat with friends and family members outside of your household to spend quality time together this holiday season. You can even do this on Christmas Day as you’re opening each other’s presents.

Bake Christmas cookies with the kids

Who doesn’t love Christmas cookies? Not only will you have a tasty treat, but baking Christmas cookies is also a great bonding moment with your kids. Put on their favorite holiday movie and get to work baking their favorite Christmas cookies.

Do outdoor activities together

Socializing outdoors is much safer than socializing indoors. While you should still be social distancing with individuals outside of your household, there are still plenty of safe, outdoor activities you can do. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Cut down a Christmas tree
  • Go sledding
  • Drive or walk around with your kids to look at your neighborhood’s holiday decorations
  • Go ice skating
  • Build a snowman in your yard
  • Have a snowball fight
  • Hang up your outdoor decorations

Here at The Zoo Factory, we want everyone to have a happy and safe holiday season this year. For more holiday tips, read through our blog today!

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4 Need-to-Know Tips for Black Friday Shopping During COVID-19

4 Need-to-Know Tips for Black Friday Shopping During COVID-19

During any other year, you spend Black Friday perusing store shelves and hunting for the best deals. But with a global pandemic, things are bound to change. You still want to get your loved ones that perfect gift, but you don’t want to put yourself in harm’s way as a result.

Thankfully, there are a few ways to navigate Black Friday shopping during COVID-19 safely. Here’s how:

Don’t shop only on Black Friday

Ten years ago, Black Friday was the only day to get a great deal. That’s not the case anymore. Thanksgiving week is full of sales for Brown Thursday, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. Many stores are also extending their Black Friday deals, allowing shoppers to avoid the crowds.

Do curbside pickup

Do you want your gifts as soon as possible but don’t want to brave going into a store? Then opt for curbside pickup. Many stores such as Target and Lowe’s offer curbside pickup for their customers. Some local businesses are offering it as well. This may be the ideal choice for your holiday shopping, as many are expecting shipping delays from now through December.

Shop online…but early

No one says that you have to go to the store to shop. You can do much of your holiday shopping from the comfort of your own home. However, if you plan to shop online, do it early. As we said before, shipping delays are expected for the holiday season. If you want to get your gifts in time, start buying them now.

Ship items directly to the recipient, not your home

If you buy your items online, don’t ship it to your home. Instead, ship the items directly to the intended recipient. This will reduce the risk of getting lost or delayed in the weeks leading up to Christmas or Hanukkah. Some stores will also gift wrap your item, though this will cost you extra.

To get started on your holiday shopping, check out some of our stuffable animal kits here at The Zoo Factory. We will ship your items in a quick and timely fashion, ensuring they get to their intended destination before the holiday season ends.

 

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How to Teach Your Kids to Be More Independent

How to Teach Your Kids to Be More Independent

All parents want their kids to be more independent. After all, independent kids can clean up after themselves, pitch in around the house, and be better prepared for adult life. However, teaching your kids to be more independent can be easier said than done. We don’t want to rush them, but we also don’t want them to stay in their comfort zone for their whole lives.

Here we discuss some methods for teaching your kids to be more independent now and into the future:

 

Set clear expectations

If you want your child to become more independent, they need to know what you expect out of that. When starting out, don’t aim your expectations too high. Instead, aim for something that’s just above what they’re already doing. For instance, if they already brush their hair by themselves, encourage them to dress themselves as well.

Create a routine

It’s easier for kids to learn what they’re supposed to do if there’s a routine in place. Establish a morning, after school, and evening routine so that your kids know what they need to do and when. Plus, the more times they do it, the more likely it becomes a habit. Eventually, they won’t even think about brushing their teeth or combing their hair!

Offer incentives

Everyone, no matter their age, performs better with a little incentive. With children, offering rewards after a week or month of good behavior will encourage them to stick to their new routines. Incentives can range from 30 minutes of extra screen time to a brand-new toy or stuffed animal. You can learn how to create an effective reward system by reading our blog post here.

A new stuffable animal can be just the thing to encourage your child to be more independent. To get started, look through our inventory today!

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Play Therapy: What It Is and What You Need to Know

Play Therapy: What It Is and What You Need to Know

From babies to full-grown adults, we all enjoy playtime. But did you know that there are actual, tangible benefits that come from playtime, too? Critical thinking skills, language skills, and mental health all improve from added playtime. It’s why many therapists have turned to play therapy to help treat their patients. Here’s what you need to know:

What is play therapy?

Play therapy looks a lot like regular playtime, and that’s because it is. It gives your child free, safe space to play in whatever way they want, all under the supervision of a therapist. There are no rules or limitations, so your child can express themselves how they please.

What are the benefits?

Children don’t have the same emotional knowledge as adults (of course, some of us are still working on this). While they can’t express themselves in words, they can express themselves with actions. Playing with their favorite toys can be a useful emotional outlet for kids, and the science proves it.

Up to 71% of children who have participated in play therapy see a positive change in their mental health. Here’s how:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Increased self-respect
  • Greater levels of empathy
  • Improved social skills
  • Greater ability to express and experience their emotions
  • Greater ability to cope with those emotions in a healthy manner

When is it used?

Play therapy is helpful when a child is struggling with trauma or mental health issues. Even so, it’s not for everyone. Talk to a license therapist first to see if play therapy is helpful for your child.

Stuffed animals can be a source of comfort for any child. Look through our website to see the many stuffable animals we have available today.
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How to Throw a Kid’s Halloween Party During COVID-19

How to Throw a Kid’s Halloween Party During COVID-19

Traditional Halloween parties are a thing of the past, thanks to the coronavirus. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean our kids can’t have any fun this Halloween. There are still safe ways to hold a Halloween party for your kids and their friends, even if you have to resort to a virtual party rather than an in-person one.

Here are just a couple of ways you can throw your kids a great Halloween party this year:

Outdoor costume party

An outdoor costume party will allow you to invite people over while still staying socially distant, weather permitting, of course. Have guests dress up in their favorite costumes and hold a contest for the party’s best costume. Winners can receive extra prizes, and everyone can go home with a goodie bag or party pack. Just make sure that everyone who comes is wearing a cloth mask, not a costume one, as costume masks are thin and provide very little protection (thankfully, there are ways that guests can match their cloth masks to their costumes).

Virtual Halloween party

If the weather turns sour, or you don’t feel comfortable inviting people over, you can always opt for a virtual party instead. Have your kids and their guests dress up in costumes, and be sure to send Halloween party kits for everyone to enjoy. These party kits can have candy, games, and even stuffed animals with corresponding Halloween costumes. At the end, put on a spooky, kid-appropriate Halloween movie that everyone loves!

Visit a pumpkin patch or apple orchard

Instead of a traditional Halloween costume party, you can always spend some time at a pumpkin patch or apple orchard instead. Many patches and orchards have Halloween celebrations of their own, encouraging guests to come in their best costumes. Go with a small group of trusted friends or family members, wear your masks, and use hand sanitizer before and after touching any of the pumpkins or apples.

Halloween may feel a bit different this year, but we can still have plenty of fun. If you’re throwing a Halloween party this year, see how a party kit and costumes from The Zoo Factory can liven up the experience.

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Is It Safe to Go Trick-or-Treating in 2020?

Is It Safe to Go Trick-or-Treating in 2020?

The coronavirus has put a stop to many of our annual holiday traditions. Is Halloween among them? While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled trick-or-treating a high-risk activity, that doesn’t mean all is lost for All Hallows’ Eve. Read on to learn more:

How to safely trick-or-treat in 2020

Traditional trick-or-treating where children go door-to-door with no masks on is highly discouraged this year. You could not only run the risk of your children contracting the coronavirus, but they could spread it to family members or neighbors as well. A trunk-or-treat event (where people hand out treats from their cars) is also considered high-risk.

Yet, there are a few ways to go trick-or-treating safely this year. Here’s how:

  • Check with your local government: Some localities are banning trick-or-treating this year. Before sending your kids out for the night, check to make sure your town or city isn’t one of them.
  • Wear a cloth mask as part of the costume: Masks decrease transmission rates, so keep them on at all times. Just beware, a traditional costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask.
  • Bring hand sanitizer: Use it every time you interact with someone or something else.
  • Stay 6 feet away: Whether you’re outside or inside, stay 6 feet away from others at all times. When approaching a house, have your neighbor set the candy on the porch or sidewalk, then let your kids walk up to get it.

Alternatives to trick-or-treating

If you live in an area that has canceled trick-or-treating for the year, or if you don’t feel comfortable letting your children out, there are other ways to celebrate Halloween.

  • Carve pumpkins and decorate the house with Halloween decorations
  • Do a Halloween scavenger hunt around your house or backyard
  • Have a virtual Halloween costume party or contest (and don’t forget to let your stuffed animals join in on the fun!)
  • Set up a Halloween movie night

Here at The Zoo Factory, we hope that everyone has a safe and happy Halloween. If you’re looking for a new costume for your stuffed animal or for more tips on how to keep your kids safe this year, look through our website to learn more!

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4 Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy Throughout the School Year

4 Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy Throughout the School Year

We always want to keep our kids healthy throughout the school year, but with the coronavirus, it has become more important now than ever before. Schools have always been a prime place for children to pick up germs and illnesses, so it’s necessary to take extra precautions before your kids get onto the school bus. Here are a few ways to get started:

Keep them up to date on their vaccines

While the coronavirus is still a major concern, that doesn’t mean you should forget about the other infectious disease that your child could come into contact with. During the early fall months, take your child to their pediatrician to get them up to date on their vaccines, including their annual flu shot.

Make sure they wear their mask

For most school districts, wearing a mask is required when attending class. If you have younger children, make sure they understand the importance of wearing their masks throughout the day. Additionally, give your child two masks to hold onto just in case they lose the one they’re wearing.

Teach them proper hand washing techniques

Regularly washing your hands is just as important as wearing a mask. When your kids head off to school, they should go knowing how to properly wash their hands. You can follow the CDC’s guidelines for how and when to wash your hands here.

Keep an eye on their stress levels

During such stressful times, it can be easy for our kids to feel overly anxious. Not only does this compromise their mental health, but it can compromise their physical health as well. Indeed, anxiety and stress can actually weaken our immune system, leaving us more susceptible to diseases. Keep an eye out for common signs of stress to make sure your kids don’t get too anxious throughout the school year.

Here at The Zoo Factory, we want to make sure every child has a safe and healthy school year. For more tips, read more posts from our blog!

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How to Recognize Stress in Our Children

How to Recognize Stress in Our Children

We live in stressful times, and our children aren’t immune to this. However, it can be difficult, as parents, to recognize when our children are stressed out. Many children don’t have the proper words to express what they need or what’s bothering them, so it can be easy for parents to overlook their child’s stress.

It’s important, then, for parents to recognize the common signs of stress in children so they can get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Behavioral signs of stress

Children often display their stress and anxiety when they start acting out. Moodiness, aggression, even clinginess are all key behavioral signs of stress. This can happen at home, but it can also happen at school (especially if the source of stress is school). Teachers might complain that your child is getting into trouble or not paying attention in class. They might also start skipping school, withdrawing from their friends or family, and the like. If this starts happening with your child, try to get to the bottom of it before exacting a punishment.

Physical signs of stress

In addition to behavioral signs, there are also a few physical signs. Some of these include the following:

What to do

If your child is showing any of the above signs or symptoms, it’s important to try and find out why. Try talking with your child to see what it is that’s bothering them and what you can do to help. Once you know the reason, you can create a plan of action to try alleviating some of their stress. It’s also a good idea to teach your child better ways to manage their stress. This can be done through counseling or through regular mindfulness practices.

At The Zoo Factory, we believe our stuffable animals can be a great source of comfort for children during these times. To learn more, look through our inventory or contact us today.

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When Is A Newborn Baby Old Enough For Stuffed Animals?

When Is A Newborn Baby Old Enough For Stuffed Animals?

When it comes to bringing a newborn baby home, medical experts advise parents to do and not do many different things. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is a leading cause of death for children under one year of age. An important piece of information parents should follow is to avoid placing toys, blankets or anything else into the crib that could increase chances of suffocation or SIDS.

The dangers of stuffed animals to newborns

While stuffed animals are cute, fuzzy and appealing to babies, they can pose a threat. Most babies learn to roll over between three and four months old, which increases the chances of suffocation. There are plenty of things you can do to decorate a nursery before it’s safe to put blankets and animals in the crib.

Wait until about 12 months of age

Newborn babies don’t have the strength or skill to remove items from their face while in the crib. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents do not put soft objects in a baby’s crib until 12 months of age. A soft object includes a stuffed animal, regardless of size.   

But keep an eye out for signs of maturity

There is a definite benefit of waiting for that first birthday before purchasing a plush friend for your baby. However, just like with many other things, you’ll have to wait for signs of maturity and development, and not really a number. A good guideline is about one year, but when your baby can remove things from his or her face, that’s when it’s safe to start the snuggling!

At The Zoo Factory, we have tons of adorable and soft stuffed animal kits that make a great gift idea for your child’s first birthday. By this milestone, you’ll have a sense for what animals and colors your child prefers, making the buying process easier. Look through our inventory to get started!

 

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How to Throw a Birthday Party During COVID-19

How to Throw a Birthday Party During COVID-19

From school to work, COVID-19 has disrupted many aspects of our lives. It has even changed how we celebrate our children’s birthdays. We want this day to be special for our kids, but we also want to keep them and their friends safe from the virus. While you can’t hold a traditional birthday party in these times, you can put your own spin on it while keeping everybody healthy and safe.

Drive-by parties

If you want your child to see their friends in person, but you don’t want to run the risk of close contact, a drive-by birthday party is a great compromise. Put up signs and balloons in your front yard and have guests drive up to say hello for a few minutes. Guests can then hand over their birthday presents, while you can give those who stopped by a gift bag as well. At The Zoo Factory, we have Carry Home Boxes and other animal kits that are great for this purpose.

Zoom parties

If a drive-by party isn’t possible to do in your neighborhood, you can always opt for a zoom party. These are virtual parties done over Zoom or other video chat channels. While there is no risk of someone contracting COVID-19 from a zoom party, we still recommend that you keep the guest list small. Having more than 10 people (especially children) on one video call can get unruly. To get started, you can read our guide on hosting a zoom party here.

Backyard parties

Finally, if you’re in an area with low COVID-19 numbers, you can hold a small, outdoor party without much risk of infection. Keep the guest list small, and always provide the option for guests to attend through Zoom or Facetime instead (especially elderly family members). Do not let anyone into your home but keep the party outside in your backyard where there’s plenty of space to spread out. You’ll also want to keep high-contact activities to a minimum.

We may have to stay socially distant, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun. If you’re planning on throwing a birthday party during COVID-19, then take a look at some of our party kits to get started!