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Kids and Gift Giving: How to Help Your Kids Buy Gifts for Others

kid giving christmas gifts to mom and grandma

During the holiday season, one of our top priorities as parents is to get the best gifts for our kids. But what about the gifts that our kids give to others? If you have young children at home, chances are they’ll need a bit of help buying and giving gifts to their friends and relatives. So, to make things easier, we’ve listed out a few tips on how you can help your kids with gift giving.

Let them get creative

As adults, we often think the most useful gifts are the best gifts. But often, a hand-crafted gift from our child or grandchild is even more thoughtful. So, if your child wants to get creative with their presents, let them. Plan a special shopping trip where your child can gather supplies, and then set aside a day (or several) where your child can work on their gifts. Don’t try to intervene too much, only when your child needs help.

Give advice, but don’t tell them what to buy

If your child doesn’t want to create a gift, buying one is always perfectly acceptable. However, before you pull out that list of Christmas gifts, try brainstorming with your kids about possible gift ideas. Let them be the ones to come up with the idea by posing questions that may trigger something. For example, ask your child what someone’s favorite color is, or what their favorite thing to do on the weekends is to help get them thinking.

Set monetary limits, or let them pitch in

Many kids don’t understand how money works yet. So, they may come up with a great gift idea only for you to find that gift costs a few hundred dollars. As such, be sure to enforce some monetary limits. And if your kid gets an allowance, ask them to pitch in with some of their own money.

Whether you’re buying gifts for your child or for someone else in your family, consider a stuffable animal from here at The Zoo Factory. Look through our website today to get started!

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Holiday Activity Ideas for Kids

child making handcrafted christmas trees

Thanksgiving turkey, Hanukkah candles, Christmas trees…there’s nothing quite like the holiday season. As adults, we remember how much fun we had with our friends and family around this time. So, why not recreate those happy memories with your own children? Here, we discuss some of the best activities you can do with your kids this holiday season.

Thanksgiving

If you have kids who are old enough, consider having them help make something for Thanksgiving dinner. Cookies, potatoes, or anything else that is relatively simple to make can be a great bonding moment between you and your kids. If your kids are too young or uninterested in cooking, opt for crafts instead. Sit down in the days before Thanksgiving and make turkey handprints that you can hang around your home.

Hanukkah

Unlike Thanksgiving or Christmas, Hanukkah is spread across eight days. This means eight days full of fun activities celebrating Jewish history. You can make hand-made dreidels to play with, or decorate the house with the paper Star of Davids and menorahs. You can also teach your children about the story of Hanukkah by hiding candles underneath plastic cups and shuffling them around. Have the kids guess which candle is hidden under which cups, and then have an adult light them to re-enact the story.

Christmas

From baking Christmas cookies to decorating your tree, there is plenty of things to do to celebrate the Christmas season. Make an advent calendar to count the days, and then plan small activities every few days. You can make hand crafts one day, and then bake Christmas treats and cookies the next. You can also decorate your house (both inside and out) with Christmas decorations or send out hand-crafted Christmas cards to friends and family.

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a seven-day holiday starting on December 26, celebrated by Black Americans. To learn about Kwanzaa, the children’s book “The Story of Kwanzaa” by Donna L. Washington is a great place to start. You can then sit down and have your kids create their own crafts, such as necklaces, bracelets, and more. They can even write their own stories about Kwanzaa and bind it into a book!

As you’re searching for gift ideas for your kids this holiday season, consider getting them a stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory. Look through our website today to get started!

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5 Ideas for a Great Stuffed Animal Birthday Party

birthday party with stuffed animals

All children loved stuffed animals, and all adults have had one when they were kids. We can all relate to the comfort and even support these animals gave us. So having a themed birthday party around the idea of stuffed animals is a great way to celebrate.

 Ask Each Child To Bring Their Favorite Stuffed Animal

On your party invitations, invite your guests to choose their favorite stuffed animal to come with them. This gives each child  a sense of participation even before the party.

Make Name Tags

When your guests arrive, sit them all down in a circle and ask each child to introduce his or her stuffed animal. Then get the kids to make name tags to tie around the animal’s neck with a ribbon. You can get tags and different colored ribbons at a craft store, and give the kids crayons or fine-tipped Sharpies to decorate the tags and write their animal’s name.

Animal Coloring Books

Get some animal-themed coloring books and let each child choose an animal to color. This encourages the kids to explore their creativity, and when they are all finished, let each child talk about his coloring project.

Pin The Tail On The…

Make the shape of the birthday child’s favorite stuffed animal on some construction paper, and have the children play Pin the Tail on the Donkey. You can give the winner of the game a tiny stuffed animal as a prize.

Animal Birthday Cake

You can either make a birthday cake in the shape of an animal or buy one and place tiny plastic animals on it. After the cake eating, let each child choose one of the little animals.

The Zoo Factory’s party packs can be a great addition to your stuffed animal party. Contact us today to learn more!

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What to Do When Your Child Has a Cold

young girl sick in bed with cold

Cold season is upon us, and that means lots of late nights dealing with coughs and stuffy noses. As a parent, we never want to see our child sick. Yet, getting a cold is almost inevitable for children. Colds, thankfully, aren’t dangerous, but there are ways you can help your child get over their colds faster.

Keep them comfortable

A scratchy throat, constant coughing, a stuffy nose…these are all the tell-tale signs of a cold. They are also extremely uncomfortable to deal with. While you can’t get rid of these symptoms immediately, you can try to keep your child as comfortable as possible in the process. Keep them in bed or on a couch, give them plenty of blankets and pillows, and put on their favorite TV show. Keeping their favorite toy or stuffed animal by their side can also be a helpful support system.

Provide OTC relief

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can help ease your child’s symptoms. But be careful which ones you use. OTC cough and cold medicines can only be used by children older than six years of age. Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen can also be used, but only for children over six months old. Medicated nose drops and sprays can also be helpful, but keep in mind they can only be used for two to three days, and should never be used by children under six years old.

Keep them fed and hydrated

This one seems obvious, but you may have trouble getting your child to eat or drink when they feel awful. Try your best by getting snacks or drinks you know they’ll enjoy. If you’re having a lot of trouble, try and get your child to eat even a little chicken noodle soup. This classic dish is perfect for colds because it provides both nutrients and hydration.

Here at The Zoo Factory, we hope everyone stays healthy in the months to come. For more child care tips, read through our blog today!

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How to Help Your Child Overcome Their Fear of Shots

child receiving vaccine from doctor with family beside her

As of this blog post, the FDA is on the brink of approving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. And for the past several months, children over the age of 12 years old have been receiving the vaccine. We all understand the importance of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as other vaccines, in order to safeguard our public health. Nevertheless, if you have a child with a fear of shots, getting them to sit down for a vaccine can be easier said than done.

But don’t give up just yet. By taking the right steps, you can help your child ease their fear of shots and get vaccinated like everyone else!

Educate them about vaccines

The less people know about something, the more they fear it. Kids are no different. If you educate your children about how vaccines work, they’ll be less frightened once the time comes to get one. Keep your explanation simple and emphasize that vaccines are here to protect us, not harm us.

Practice beforehand

Another way to lessen your child’s anxiety is to practice getting a shot beforehand. Purchase a toy medical kit and have one person play the doctor and the other play the patient. You can even use one of your child’s stuffed animals to play the role of the patient.

Be an example

Our children model their behavior off of ours. Even if you’re a little nervous about shots, try to exhibit a sense of calm when it’s time for your child’s appointment. You can also try bringing your child with you when it’s time for you to get a shot yourself. While many adults have already received the COVID-19 vaccine, now is the best time to get your flu shot!

Bring a comfort item

When the big day comes, it’s normal for your child to get a little nervous. To help manage their anxiety, consider having them bring a comfort item with them. This could be their favorite blankie, toy, stuffed animal, etc.

The Zoo Factory has plenty of lovable, stuffed animals that can help ease your child’s anxieties. Look through our website to find their next best friend today!

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How to Clean Your Child’s Favorite Stuffed Animal

stuffed animals in a basket

That stuffed animal has been at your child’s side for what seems like ages. You can’t picture one without the other. Except, you could probably stand to see the animal looking a little cleaner! When a well-loved stuffy has seen better days, performing a little magic cleaning can have it looking like new again.

Before cleaning

Firstly consider a few factors when determining how to clean the stuffable animal. For instance, the older the animal is, the more fragile it has become. Harsh scrubbing may end up doing more damage than good, so it’s best to approach cleaning mildly and gently. Also, you will want to gage your level of cleaning on how the stuffy is constructed and what materials from which it is made. An animal with sturdy stitching and heat-friendly stuffing might do well being machine washed and dried. But an animal bonded by glue, or with moving parts will not fair well in a washing machine and dryer.

Check the label

Follow all directions on labels when you can. For instance, if it says wash by hand, sometimes you can get away with a gentle cycle on the washer. But if it says surface clean only, it is best to comply. Be sure to remove any bows or accessories before washing in a machine. Not only can these items fall off or get ruined in the machines, but they have a nasty habit of working their way inside the machine and can cause serious problems for your appliances.

Know when it’s time to let it go

Animals that have been loved hard sometimes don’t make the cut anymore. Those that are deemed unsalvageable should be tossed. However, if is very meaningful, try to replace it with a new one before tossing the old. Also, if you are going to throw it out anyway, try it in the washing machine just in case. You haven’t got anything to lose!

Spot wash when possible

Learning how to spot wash can help prevent you from having to wash the whole stuffed animal. Take a vacuum brush to the animal and gently remove dust and dirt. An upholstery cleaner may also be used on the stuffed animal, but be sure to test an area of the stuffed animal first. Use a safe, non-toxic cleaner  made of warm water and a squirt of liquid dishwashing soap. Beat the liquid and soap on a medium speed until foamy. Sponge clean the animal and use a spray water bottle to remove the suds. Let the animal air-dry. If desired, fluff the animal on a low heat or delicate dryer setting.

Have further questions on how to care for your stuffed animals? Contact The Zoo Factory today!

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How to Parent a Highly Sensitive Child

child playing with toys in living room

Every child is different, even if they come from the same parents. One child may have no problem with loud noises or large crowds, while the other can’t stand it. If your child is in the latter category, they could be highly sensitive. But what does this mean? Read on to learn more.

What is a highly sensitive child?

Psychiatrist Elaine Aron was the first person to coin the term HSP, or highly sensitive person. But what exactly does that mean? An adult or child who is considered an HSP has a highly reactive nervous system. In other words, they’re more sensitive to physical, emotional, and social stimuli, and thus quick to react.

How does this affect their day-to-day life?

For most of us, our brains filter out certain information, but HSPs take in everything. As a result, they are very perceptive. This can be a major advantage, but it can also work against them. When there is too much stimuli—such as in large crowds—an HSP can become overstimulated and overwhelmed. Adults can have the self-knowledge to handle overstimulation accordingly. But children do not. As a result, highly sensitive children may have emotional outbursts or shutdown all together.

Parenting a highly sensitive child

Parenting a highly sensitive child may require different techniques. Here’s what you can do:

  • See it as an advantage: Being highly sensitive should not be considered a negative personality trait. Your child is not “too sensitive,” they just see the world different. Plus, a HSP has qualities that others don’t, such as having a greater level of emotional awareness, empathy, innovativeness, attention to detail, and more.
  • Understand their triggers: Your child will be more sensitive to external stimuli. Understanding what triggers them can help you avoid or manage these situations.
  • Be accommodating: Some parents try to expose their child to their triggers to force them to “get over” it. However, this actually worsens the problem. High sensitivity is an inborn trait, so it’s better to cope with it than try to “fix” it. For instance, you can give them a pair of headphones to block out loud noises, or a stuffed animal to keep them calm.

A stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory can help keep your highly sensitive child calm in tough situations. Look through our website today to get started!

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The Top 3 Most Popular Fictional Bears

little girl reading to her teddy bear

Each of us remembers when we were young and had a stuffed animal that was our best friend. We also remember the many fictional bears that we read about in books or saw on the TV. Many famous fictional bears were a crucial part of our childhood, establishing our love for teddy bears for years to come. Below are three of the most popular fictional bears from years’ passed.

Winnie the Pooh

Why do we continue to love Winnie the Pooh so much? Maybe it’s his boyish charm, or his innate ability to love his friends (Christopher Robin, Piglet, even Eeyore) no matter what. Or maybe it’s the chance that he’ll likely fall into a jar of honey at least once while you’re watching. Since he premiered in the 1920s, Winnie the Pooh has captivated young audiences. And for good reason. In fact, a movie titled “Christopher Robin” was just released in theaters highlighting Winne the Pooh and his friends in 2018.

Paddington Bear

We recently found out that one day, a man named Michael Bond took shelter from the snow, and laid his eyes on a teddy bear at a store nearby Paddington Station, in London. He purchased the bear for his wife and was then inspired to write his first book featuring the character, Paddington Bear, a duffel-coat-wearing teddy who migrates from Peru to London to start a new life. He also loves marmalade sandwiches. The books written about this beloved bear eventually sold over 30 million copies.

Yogi

Ayyyy, Boo-Boo! A Warner Bros. classic, we had to give a mention to Yogi the Bear, who, along with his sidekick Boo-Boo, are on the hunt for picnic baskets, and fun. Yogi first appeared in 1958 on a show titled “The Huckleberry Hound Show” and his success spiraled from there. He was known to be “smarter than the average bear.”

These are just some of the fictional bears that we’ll remember forever, many of which continue to create new audiences with feature films, cartoons, and books alike.

At The Zoo Factory, we’re proud to offer an extensive selection of make-your-own stuffed animals. With dozens of fun, soft animals to choose from, your child can pick out his or her new favorite friend and toy.

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Tips for Buying Secondhand Baby Items

baby clothes hanging on wire

Raising a child is expensive. From cribs to clothes to toys to food, you’ll be stretching your budget thin if you always buy the latest and greatest items. That’s why many parents turn to secondhand items to buy for their children. By buying secondhand, you can get the great quality products for half the price as it would be new. Nevertheless, buying secondhand is different from buying new. That’s why we’ve put together these simple tips to help you get started.

Where to buy secondhand baby items

You can’t buy secondhand baby items in a traditional store, so you’ll have to look elsewhere. Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are the most common places to find secondhand items. Plus, you can arrange an in-person meet-up to inspect the item. There are also apps such as ThredUP that specialize in selling used items.

What NOT to buy secondhand

There are many baby items you can buy secondhand, but there are some that you shouldn’t. Breast pumps and crib mattresses should never be bought secondhand. And while many items of clothing and blankets can be bought used, you’ll want to inspect them carefully to ensure they’re in good shape.

Inspect the item carefully

Every item that you buy secondhand should be inspected carefully before purchase. While most used items are in good condition, you still run the risk of buying an item that is broken or soiled. If you’re buying online, try to find pictures of the item or make sure you’re buying from a reputable seller. If you’re buying in-person, test the item out and inspect every inch of it before you buy it.

Check for expiration dates or recalled items

Many baby items such as clothes or blankets don’t have expiration dates. But some do. Car seats, for instance, come with expiration dates of about six to ten years. Cribs or toys, meanwhile, may have been recalled after they were first purchased. Do your research before buying any older item.

While buying secondhand items can save you lots of money, it’s important to still get new items for your child. In that regard, consider buying your child a stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory. We have plenty of options available, just look through our website to get started!

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How to Prepare Your New Babysitter

babysitter helping child color a drawing

After spending weeks looking for the right babysitter, you’ve finally found the perfect person for the job. However, finding a babysitter is just half the battle. You also need to prepare them for the tasks ahead if you want to set them up for success. Even the most experienced babysitter knows that no two families are alike. As such, you should take steps ahead of your babysitter’s first day with the kids to help everyone prepare.

Create an emergency contact list

Your babysitter will know to call 911 if a true emergency occurs. However, they should also have a list of family members, friends, or neighbors to call if something happens and they can’t reach you. Have at least three names and numbers on your list other than your own. You should also create rules as to when your babysitter should use these numbers. You may want them to call only if a true emergency occurs, or you may want them to call if they have questions or if one of the kids had a minor accident.

Make a schedule

Kids depend on routines, but your babysitter won’t know what your daily routines are. You don’t need to map out every single detail. Nevertheless, you should at least mention the most important parts of the day: when they eat, when they go to bed, etc.

Prepare meals or have a list of allowed foods

In most cases, a babysitter will be working around dinnertime, so they’ll need to know what to feed your kids while you’re gone. This is especially important if your child has food allergies or is a picky eater. You can prepare meals ahead of time, or you can create a list of allowed foods that your babysitter can either have delivered or make themselves.

Introduce your child to your babysitter ahead of time

Don’t wait until the first day to introduce your child to your babysitter. Even if your child isn’t particularly shy, they may have trouble dealing with a stranger at first. So, take some time out to have your babysitter get to know your child before the big day. You should also take this as an opportunity to let your babysitter in on anything they need to know about your child. This could include their food preferences, favorite toys, what they like to do for fun, etc.

Inviting a new babysitter into your home can be a challenging experience at first, but it doesn’t have to be. By creating a welcoming environment with plenty of toys and stuffed animals, your child and your babysitter will become the best of friends. To get started, look through our website here at The Zoo Factory today!