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The Benefits of Dress-Up Play

Two sweet little preschool children, boys, playing superhero in the park, summertime

Did you know that playing dress-up can actually be extremely beneficial to your children? It does! Dress-up is more than a fun game to play with your kids. It can also teach your kids to respect others, build their vocabulary, and more. Read on to learn more.

See the world through other viewpoints

When children play dress-up, they learn valuable ways in which others contribute to our lives. Perhaps a child is playing the role of a mother and has a crying baby to nurture, or maybe they’re pretending to be a policeman and stopping “the bad guys.” This sense of imagination allows children to learn empathy through having to see alternative viewpoints and respond to them accordingly.

Building blocks for a diverse vocabulary

When children play through dress-up, they begin to explore terms, phrases and words that are often inclusive to the role they are playing. These strengths can develop through hearing certain words in books and transferring them into the role they’re playing where children will eventually use them in daily conversations.

Confidence building

For children, dressing up and having theatrical elements to their play can greatly impact their overall confidence. Self-expression is incredibly helpful when building self-confidence, and this is just another way we can allow children to develop that skill. What child doesn’t feel on top of the world while dressed up as their favorite super hero?

If your child loves playing dress up, consider purchasing some outfits for one of their Zoo Factory stuffed animals so that the two can play dress up together! Visit our website for a wide selection of outfits.

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How to Encourage Mental Resiliency in Your Kids

family holding hands in front of sunset

As parents and caregivers, we know at some point, our children will have to deal with adversity. One way to do that is to encourage mental resiliency in our kids. But how do you go about doing that? Here are some tips to help:

Role model

Children model their behavior after us. If we show mental resiliency in the face of our own difficulties, our children will start to mimic that behavior. Additionally, talk with your children about your personal goals and challenges, and how you’ve overcome challenges in the past.

Help then control their emotions

Resilient people often have good control over their emotions. This does not mean that they do not feel their emotions, but rather they don’t let their emotions overwhelm them. Mindfulness is a great technique to help your children control their emotions. Mindfulness practices teach you how to be aware of your emotions, but not let them overcome you.

Build up their self-confidence

Children who are more confident in themselves can be more resilient. They’ll know that a few setbacks do not reflect their overall ability. Work with your kids to build up their self-esteem, independence, and self-confidence. A big part of this is encouraging healthy self-talk. Help your kids reframe their negative thoughts into more realistic ones so that they are not bombarding themselves with put-downs or catastrophic thinking.

For more tips on how to care for your kids, read through our blog posts today!

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How Stuffed Animals Help Kids with Autism

young girl sitting on bed with stuffed animals

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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Parenting Tips for Helping Your Child Through Their Preteen Years

preteen girl holding school books

Parenting is difficult no matter what age your child is. However, the preteen years pose unique challenges. During these years, children enter puberty and start to experience the emotional and physical changes associated with it.

To help, we’ve gathered some helpful parenting tips to guide your child through their preteen years.

Educate your kids about puberty

Puberty can seem scary to children, but it doesn’t have to be. The more your children learn about puberty, the better able they will be to handle what’s coming. Chances are they will learn some things in their Health class at school, but it’s always good to talk with your child yourself to see if they have any other questions.

Allow your child some independence

Their preteen years is often when kids start looking to be more independent. While this can be hard for parents, it’s best to allow your children extra independence as they get older. This may also include letting your child explore new interests and hobbies. Be supportive and try not to control what hobbies they participate in.

Help your preteen learn new skills

As your children gain more independence, they should also gain more responsibilities. Your preteens should start helping out around the house, and to do this, they’ll need to learn new skills such as doing laundry, cleaning, and more.

While your child will certainly change as they go through their preteen years, some things will stay the same. That includes the love they have for stuffed animals. To find the perfect stuffed animal for your preteen, look through our website today!

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Tips for Organizing Your Baby’s Belongings

Children's knitted clothes on hanger. Denim jacket, jumper, hat, shoes. Children's room, nursery

When you first bring your baby home, life will be more than a little chaotic. But as things start settling down, you can begin to bring some organization to your baby’s belongings. Organizing your baby’s items will not only keep things neat and tidy, but it will also help you quickly find the items you need when time is of the essence.

Keep bottles in a dry, well-ventilated area

Baby bottles should always be properly washed and stored, as they can easily attract mold or bad smells. The best to prevent this is to keep them in a dry, well-ventilated area such as a lazy susan or a bin on the counter. If you use the bottles frequently enough, you could also simply keep them on the drying rack until their next use.

Have a baby wardrobe

For your baby’s clothes, a wardrobe is a necessity. Use dividers inside each drawer to ensure things don’t get too messy. To save space, you can also hang some clothes in the closet, especially for items you use frequently. This will prevent you from having to dig through the wardrobe just to find a particular item.

Keep toys in a bin

Don’t leave your baby’s toys just lying around. You could step on them and break them. Instead, keep their toys, stuffed animals, and other knick-knacks in a bin in their room. Anytime you take a toy or stuffed animal out, remember to put it back in the bin again.

As you’re organizing your baby’s belongings, you may find you need more toys and stuffed animals for them to play with as they get older! Here at The Zoo Factory, we have plenty of options. Look through our website to get started!

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5 Tips for Getting Your Children to Unplug from Screens

boy and girl playing on tablet

Every time you look over, it seems like your kid is burying their faces into another screen. Whether it be their cellphone, computer, video game, what-have-you, their entire lives seemed to be consumed by technology. This can be a serious problem, as several studies have proven that too much time staring at screens can have an adverse effect on our children’s health. So, if you find your child spends too much of their time with their computers, then here are some ways to get them to unplug:

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Set some rules

First thing’s first—if you want your child to stop using screens, you’ll need to establish some ground rules. Namely, make sure there’s a time limit on how many hours they can spend in front of a screen. You should also consider taking screens out of the bedroom or putting your phones away when dinnertime comes around.

Set an example

Our children learn from our actions, so if you spend most of your time staring at your cellphone too, your child is hardly going to change their habits. Instead, try and set a good example by following those house screen rules just as your child has to.


The more time your child spends staring at a book instead of a screen is time well-spent. The benefits of reading are endless, and a good book will ensure that your child doesn’t get bored and wander back to their electronics again.

Pick up a hobby or sport

A new hobby or sport is just the thing to get your kid active and engaged with the world. If you’re not sure where to start, try experimenting with different activities until your kid finds something that they enjoy.

Play some games

A lot of the time, when children are using electronics, they’re usually playing games. So, if you want to encourage them to step away from their video game for a bit, try to provide other sources of entertainment. Buy them a new set of toys or a new stuffed animal that they can use to play with their family members and friends.

Getting your child a new stuffed animal to play with is a great way to encourage them to put down their electronics for a little while. So, if you’re looking for a stuffable animal to give your child, then take a look at our selection here at The Zoo Factory.

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Why Hugs Are So Importance for Kids

mother and daughter hugging one another

Do you remember what it feels like to receive a great big hug from someone you love? We’re going to guess it felt pretty great! Hugs are a wonderful way to show people we love them, but the sad truth is, we don’t nearly hug each other enough. This is especially true for our children. Hugging our kids more can foster love, connection, and other positive emotions.

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The Importance of Hugging Our Children

Hugs are a simple yet powerful act. It’s a sign of affection and warmth, two things that we humans thrive off of. We all know how great it is to receive a hug, and our kids are no different. Regularly hugging our children can bring many benefits, including the following:

  • Co-regulation: This is a scientific term for when our body “syncs up” to another’s. It’s why when a stressed child is hugged by a calm and loving adult, they also calm down.
  • Connection: Hugs provide a sense of love and connection with other people. As social animals, humans need to feel loved and connected.
  • Calm: Hugs cause a release of oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin suppresses cortisol, the stress hormone. As such, hugging someone can boost their mood and promote a sense of calm.

How Often Should You Hug Them?

So, you know that hugging your child is important, but does that mean you should be squeezing them close every hour of every day? Not quite.

There is no magic number to how many hugs you should give your child. Instead, it depends on you, your child, and your child’s comfort level with physical affection (more on this below). Just do what feels natural.

What to Do If a Child Doesn’t Like Hugs

Not everyone enjoys physical affection, and there’s nothing wrong with that! If your child doesn’t like hugs, don’t try to force it. Instead, find other ways to show your affection, such as verbal praises or high fives.

You could also consider giving your child a stuffable animal to hug if this feels more comfortable to them. Here at The Zoo Factory, we have plenty of lovable stuffed animals for you to choose from. Look through our website to get started!

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Why Do Dogs Love Stuffed Animals?

dog sleeping with a stuffed animal

Is there anything cuter than looking at a bunch of photos of dogs playing with their favorite stuffed animals? We don’t think so! From dogs nestling up with their stuffed animals to take a nap to dogs “wrestling” with their stuffed animals, it’s absolutely adorable to watch a dog interact with a stuffed animal.

As it turns out, there are a number of different reasons why our beloved dogs seem to gravitate towards stuffed animals:

Dogs enjoy holding something in their mouths

One theory people have for why dogs love stuffed animals is that many dogs, including Golden Retrievers, enjoy walking around with something in their mouth. People believe that dogs feel good about themselves when they have something like a stuffed animal in their mouth and get to enjoy a sense of accomplishment. Another theory for why dogs love stuffed animals is that playing with them reminds them of their natural instincts to hunt. While not all dogs are hunters, many of them are, and the thought is that dogs are reminded of their hunting ways when they’re shaking a stuffed animal all over a room.

Dogs simply enjoy playing with stuffed animals

But the most prevalent theory on why dogs loved stuffed animals is probably the most practical and believable one. The majority of people think dogs enjoy stuffed animals simply because they’re a lot of fun to play and cuddle with. Just like your child might love to line up their stuffed animals and play games with them, dogs also seem to enjoy having stuffed animals around that they can play with whenever they want.

You know who loves stuffed animals and teddy bears as much as dogs? Just about everyone else too! Call The Zoo Factory at 480-699-5519 today to get your hands on some of the cutest stuffed animals around. Just be sure to hide them from your furry friends before they get their paws on them.

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Mindfulness for Kids: Benefits, How to Practice, and More

The Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids

At its core, mindfulness is all about awareness. It means being fully present and noticing what’s happening around us. Most of us practice mindfulness in daily meditation or yoga practices that use our breath or our senses to keep us in the present moment. By staying present, both adults and children are able to enjoy a wide variety of short-term and long-term benefits.

Benefits of Mindfulness

While mindfulness can be extremely beneficial to adults, it can also bring a wide range of benefits to kids. Here’s how:

Strengthens Cognitive Skills

Cognitive functions such as organizational skills, attention spans, and remembering details can be strengthened by repetitive mindfulness practices. In fact, one study conducted over an 8-week period showed that a regular mindfulness program helped children better focus on the task at hand while also learning how to regulate their emotions.

Improves Emotional Health

In the modern day, stress, anxiety, and depression all seem to be commonplace. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Daily mindfulness practices can actually ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, improving overall self-esteem and emotional health. This is accomplished by teaching kids how to be present, and to reflect on their emotions in order to better understand them.

Improves Social Skills

By improving their cognitive skills and their emotional health, mindfulness can also help our children when interacting with their peers. Mindfulness allows for greater empathy and compassion, helping kids better understand the people they interact with on a daily basis.

How Kids (And Parents) Can Practice Mindfulness

Clearly, a daily mindfulness practice can be a great help to our kids, but how do we get started? Thankfully, there are a few ways you can go about it:

  • Download a meditation app: Many popular apps such as Headspace or Calm offer special meditation plans for children.
  • Buy a book on children’s mindfulness: In addition to apps, there are also many books available to teach parents and kids how to practice mindfulness.
  • Practice yoga: Meditation is the most common form of mindfulness, but it’s not the only form! Yoga is a great way to practice mindfulness and may be preferable for kids who struggle when sitting still. You can find various yoga practices for kids on YouTube, like this one here.
  • Practice Breathing Buddies: This is a breathing exercise uses stuffed animals to teach kids how to focus on their breath.

At The Zoo Factory, we believe a daily meditation or mindfulness practice can greatly benefit all children. So, if you’re searching for a breathing buddy, look through our inventory to find yours today!

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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!