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Pandemic Pods: Everything You Need to Know

Pandemic Pods: Everything You Need to Know

The majority of schools around the country have some form of online learning. Unable to sit in a classroom with their peers, many kids and parents are turning to pandemic pods to fill the void. Here is everything you need to know:

What are pandemic pods?

A pandemic pod is like a bubble. A small group of families get together and only interact with the people within the pod. They will provide childcare, educational assistance, and playdates to everyone in the group. By interacting only with the people within a pandemic pod, families can allow their kids to socialize without putting them at risk of contracting the coronavirus.

How to set up a pod

With cases starting to rise once again, you want to keep your kids safe, but you don’t want them to become isolated. Pandemic pods act as a great compromise, allowing children to socialize safely with a low risk of infection. But how do you set one up? Here are a couple of steps to get you started:

Talk to parents of your children’s friends

When forming a pod, look for families you trust and who are good friends with your children. You can also stay within your family, asking cousins to join in. The key is to provide your kids with similar-aged peers to hang around with.

Set the rules

Once you have a few families who have agreed to the pod, it’s time to set some ground rules. These include the following:

  • Determine who, outside of the pod, families can interact with (ideally, only those within the pod should interact with each other, but you can add in close family members as well)
  • Make a plan for if anyone gets sick
  • Determine if you’ll wear masks and social distance (you should do this if you interact with people outside of the pod)
  • Figure out which days you will meet and who will supervise during these meetings

We at The Zoo Factory want our kids to have fun but also stay safe. For more tips on protecting your child during the coronavirus pandemic, read through our blog here!

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What Is Dramatic Play and Why Is It Important?

What Is Dramatic Play and Why Is It Important?

We all know how beneficial playtime can be for our kids. Not only is it lots of fun, but it can also lower stress levels and decrease symptoms of depression. But did you know that different types of play can have different effects on our kids? Dramatic play provides kids a chance to show off their creativity and live lives they otherwise wouldn’t have. Read on to learn more:

What is dramatic play?

Dramatic play refers to the make-believe games your kids create. They often include characters and stories of your kid’s creation, almost as if they were putting on their own play. Some kids may become especially dedicated to the game, putting on costumes and dressing up their dolls and toys to fit in with the scene.

Dramatic play vs. pretend play

Another term that is thrown around is pretend play. Dramatic play and pretend play are extremely similar, and many people use the terms interchangeably. However, some view dramatic play as a more complex form of pretend play, employing plots and three-dimensional characters.

Why is it important?

Dramatic play can bring a whole host of benefits to your kids. After all, dramatic play requires creativity and imagination, two things that can enhance critical thinking skills and symbolic thought. But that’s not all dramatic play can do:

  • Boosts intellectual development
  • Enhances verbal skills
  • Develops symbolic thought
  • Let’s kids practice higher-level thinking
  • Works on creativity and imagination

At The Zoo Factory, we carry plenty of lovable, stuffable animals for your child to play with. Look through our inventory today to get started!

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How to Improve Your Child’s Fine Motor Skills

How to Improve Your Child’s Fine Motor Skills

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard about your child’s fine motor skills. Known as the ability to move the small muscles in your hands, fingers, and wrists, our fine motor skills impact our everyday lives. It can affect how we write, how we play, and how we do our work. \

As children, developing our fine motor skills is crucial, but how do you do so? Follow these steps to find out:

Drawing, coloring, and writing

Fine motor skills are mainly used when we write our names or draw a picture. As such, the more our children practice drawing, color, or writing, the better they’ll become at all three. Their work doesn’t have to be perfect, for even small scribbles and doodles can make an impact. So, grab your kid a colored pencil set and let their imagination run wild!


If your child doesn’t enjoy drawing or writing, they can always try their hand at some crafts.  Origami, paper snowflakes, and scrapbooking are just some of the many crafts that can improve your child’s fine motor skills. Plus, these activities can be relatively cheap. All that your child needs is some paper, glue, and scissors to make something wonderful for you or themselves.

Toys and games

Many toys and games can help improve your child’s fine motor skills. Even video games are known to help, thanks to the various movements you have to make on their controllers. Just make sure that the toys and games you get for your child are age-appropriate and don’t pose any risks to their health.

The Zoo Factory’s stuffable animals can be great tools to help your child work on their fine motor skills. Look through our inventory to get started!

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How to Help Your Kid Set a New Year’s Resolution

How to Help Your Kid Set a New Year’s Resolution

The New Year is almost upon us, and you know what that means—it’s time to set for your kids to set their New Year’s resolutions! However, setting a New Year’s resolution and keeping a New Year’s resolution are two different stories. We all have those moments where we told ourselves we’d start working out on January 1st, and by February 1st, our treadmills have collected dust.

So, how can you help your kids to be more successful with their resolutions? Here are a few tips:

Be specific

Research has shown that the more specific your goals are, the more likely you are to achieve them. If your child wants to be more active, simply stating their goal as “exercise more” won’t cut it. Instead, encourage your child to be specific about their goals. For example, instead of saying “exercise more,” they could say, “I will play soccer every other day for 30 minutes.”

Break a big goal up into smaller chunks

Big goals, while ambitious, can be intimidating. Even if your child wants to play soccer every other day for 30 minutes, going from playing no soccer to a lot is difficult. Start small and work your way up. So, you can have the over-arching resolution be to play soccer every other day for 30 minutes, have your child start January by playing soccer once a week, and working their way up each month.

Set a reward

Your kids will feel motivated to complete their resolutions on January 1st, but they’ll feel much different on February 1st. To stay motivated, set a reward for meeting their New Year’s resolution. If you’re breaking your big goal up into smaller chunks, have a small reward for each stage and then a big reward for the end of the year.

At The Zoo Factory, we hope everyone manages to create and stick to their New Year’s resolution in 2021! And what better reward for a year of hard work than a lovable, stuffable animal? Take a look through our inventory to get started!

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How to Set Up a Holiday Budget (And Stick to It)

How to Set Up a Holiday Budget (And Stick to It)

The holiday season may be a bit different this year, but there are some things you can always count on. Specifically, buying lots of presents for your kids and family members in the last few weeks of the year. While we love getting the perfect gifts for the people we love, our bank accounts say otherwise.

With a holiday budget, you can get those perfect gifts without breaking the bank. Here’s how to get started:

Project your income

To understand how many gifts you can buy, you first need to know how much money you’ll have on-hand. Calculate your total net income (your income after taxes) until the last possible date you can buy presents. Then, subtract all of your necessary expenses. This should include your rent or mortgage payment, food expenses, utilities, gas, and other monthly necessities. The amount you have left is the amount you can spend on your gifts.

Make a list and check it twice

Next, it’s time to make a list. Start by listing out everyone you’re buying a present for. Then, take a look at the projected income you calculated earlier to see how much you can spend on each person. The amount you spend on an individual will depend on your relationship with that individual. For example, you’ll likely spend less money on your mother-in-law than you would on your kids.

Look out for sales, coupons, and rebates

The holiday season is full of sales, so use this to your advantage! Keep an eye on your potential present to see if the price drops anytime during the holiday season. Additionally, be sure to check other sites and stores to see if they have lower prices. You can use one of the many Chrome extensions that automatically search for sales and coupons to make this process easier.

Keep track of your expenses

As you start buying presents, keep track of how much you’re spending. Take the list you created earlier and subtract the expense from the total budgeted amount you have for each individual. For example, if you’re setting aside $50 for your husband, and then you buy a gift for him that costs $25, subtract the 25 from the 50. You can save the extra 25 for another gift, you can spend that extra on someone else, or you can save it for later.

Are you looking for the perfect holiday present for your kids or loved ones? Then take a look at some of our stuffable animals here at The Zoo Factory!

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4 Easy Tips for Keeping Your Playroom Clean and Organized

4 Easy Tips for Keeping Your Playroom Clean and Organized

Let’s face it. A playroom can get really messy. Toys will be strewn about the floor, and all of those shelves and baskets you bought for organization will remain empty. However, there are ways to keep your playroom clean and organized. Here are a few tips to get started:

Donate old toys

The first step in reducing mess is reducing how many items can create a mess. If there are toys that your child doesn’t play with anymore, donate them to local organizations to free up space in your playroom. Just make sure that your child agrees to donate their old toys. If they’re having trouble giving some away, talk it over and emphasize that the toys are going to a good home.

Put sentimental toys in long-term storage

There will be some toys that you and your child simply don’t want to give away, even if they don’t play with them anymore. After all, many of us still have our childhood stuffed animals tucked away somewhere. For these toys, consider placing them in long-term storage to keep them safe but out of the way. You can store them in air-tight bins, or you could display them in a freestanding case.

Encourage your child to clean up

It’s much easier to keep your playroom clean if you’re not the only one cleaning it. Encourage your child to clean up after themselves every time they take out their toys. You can do this by turning cleaning into a game. Set a timer and see if they can clean up the room before the timer goes off. If they do, offer a reward. This can be anything from a piece of candy to their choice of a movie.

Make it easy to clean

If it’s not easy to clean up your playroom, then neither you nor your child will clean it. Instead, you need a quick and simple system that works for both of you. Set up baskets around the room so that all you have to do is pick up the toys and drop them in. We recommend using multiple baskets, one for each type of toy, so that things stay organized.

Do you have your own tricks for cleaning up your child’s playroom? Then leave a comment below or contact us today!

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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.