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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!

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How to Use Teddy Bears to Encourage Clean Rooms

young boy's room

Are you having trouble teaching your child how to keep their room clean? The parents of young children often struggle to show their kids the value in cleaning up after themselves and keeping their rooms neat and organized. However, we have a tip that might just work!

Many parents have found it beneficial to use teddy bears and other stuffed animals to encourage their kids to clean their rooms on a regular basis. Here’s how:

Build a stuffed animal zoo

When kids are young, teddy bears and other stuffed animals are often a prized possession. However, that doesn’t stop them from throwing their precious stuffed animals on the floor or under the bed. You can use this to your advantage by building a stuffed animal zoo for your kids. This zoo can serve as a storage place for your kids’ stuffed animals while also allowing them to turn clean up time into a fun activity.

How to build a stuffed animal zoo

You should take the DIY approach to building a stuffed animal zoo for your child. You can create a zoo for them using little more than pine boards, paint, nylon rope, and wooden letters. This will allow you to personalize your zoo and build something that will be completely unique to your child. You can decide how big to make it, what color to paint it, and more when you design a zoo on your own. But no matter what it looks like in the end, it should be large enough to house all your child’s stuffed animals at once. It will encourage them to keep their room clean by putting their stuffed animals away in the zoo when they’re not playing with them.

If you need help filling your stuffed animal zoo once it’s finished, The Zoo Factory can lend a hand. We offer stuffed teddy bears as well as a variety of other animals. Check out our inventory to place an order today!

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Importance of Donating Stuffed Animals

Kids volunteers sorting toys, clothes, books, donation goods in donate charity boxes indoors

Many children grow up with an abundance of stuffed animals, and all of them are their very best friends. Children acquire them from relatives, grandparents, holidays, festivals, carnivals, and more. However, many children that live in poverty don’t receive the large number of stuffed animals that others do, missing out on the benefits that come with having a stuffed friend to love.

Consider talking to your children about donating old stuffed animals, or stuffed animals that they don’t play with to children in need.

Donate to a Shelter

If you have a local shelter that struggling families can access, consider donating stuffed animals there. As hard as it is to accept, there are children that spend a lot of their childhood living out of local shelters. A simple stuffed animal can bring them comfort and joy during a difficult time and provide them with company when they feel alone.

Donate to Charities

If you’re not sure which local charities might accept your gently used stuffed animals, look for services like Donation Town. This website will match you with charities in your area based on your zip code and the items you want to donate. Many charities including Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and Hope Services are likely interested in your stuffed animal donations to give them to a child in need.

Things to Keep in Mind

After a time of crisis, like right after a natural disaster, donation centers are often looking for necessities. However, if families have lost everything, they might be grateful for a stuffed animal that can serve as a comfort to their child. Don’t hesitate to reach out to local charities and see what types of items that they might benefit from. Always wash stuffed animals before you donate them.

Looking to create a brand new teddy bear or stuffed animal for your child or for a child in need? Make your own stuffed animal with Stuffable Animal Kits from The Zoo Factory, LLC.

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Tips on Cleaning Teddy Bears

teddy bear on clotheline with baby clothes

If you haven’t yet cleaned the teddy bear that your child sleeps with on a night basis, you’re not alone. Washing stuffed animals can be a hassle and many children don’t want to part with their teddy, period. Thankfully, there are ways to easily clean your child’s teddy bear without ruining it.

Check the Tag

Many stuffed animals are machine-washable (including ours), but you should always check a stuffed animal’s tag for washing instructions. If it doesn’t indicate washing instructions, you can usually get away with a cold wash on a delicate cycle or soaking it in cold water with detergent.

Use a Garment Bag

 

A garment bag typically protects a teddy’s plushness, making sure that it doesn’t get harmed in the washing machine. This can often allow you to wash it with other items, but we suggest washing teddy alone in order to be sage! If you don’t have a garment bag, you can use a pillow case that zips closed as an alternate.

 

Allow a Natural Dry

 

The dryer can be a little hard on teddy’s fur, instead, place teddy somewhere comfortable (preferably outside) to air dry. Make sure the teddy is completely dry before you returning it your child. A teddy that gets soaked might be damp on inside which can result in a build-up of bacteria. If you have a hair dryer, use that to speed the drying process and to ensure the inside of the bear gets dried too.

 

Consider a Spot Clean

 

If teddy has a tendency to stick his foot in spaghetti sauce or toothpaste, most of these stains can be easily spot cleaned. Use a damp cloth along with a blotting method to remove stains and spots. If water isn’t doing the job, use a tiny drop of detergent and use a clean damp cloth to remove the detergent from the toy.

 

Looking for another stuffed animal to add to the family? Make your own stuffed animal with Stuffable Animal Kits from The Zoo Factory. 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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How to Keep a Large Family Christmas Celebration Simple

family having christmas dinner

We want to celebrate Christmas with everyone we care about. However, if you have a large family, Christmas gatherings can quickly become unwieldy. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can have a simple celebration even with a large family. Here are a few tips to help:

Don’t buy a gift for everyone

In large families, it’s almost impossible to buy everyone a gift. Not only do you not have the time, but you likely don’t have the money as well. Nevertheless, you still want to do something. So, consider doing a gift exchange where everyone only gets a present for one other person. Games like Secret Santa or White Elephant are great ways to accomplish this.

Delegate, delegate, delegate

As much as this may bother your inner control freak, it’s important that you learn to delegate during this time. No one can host a large family celebration by themselves. Even if you’re the one hosting, make sure that everyone in the family has a job to do. This could range from bringing appetizers for Christmas day or helping set up the table for dinner.

Meet up together only once

Some families try to gather multiple times during the Christmas season, specifically on Christmas Eve and then again on Christmas Day. However, this can be hard on the host and difficult to arrange for everyone else. To keep things simple, only gather together once, and don’t stay all day.

Don’t buy a gift for everyone

In large families, it’s almost impossible to buy everyone a gift. Not only do you not have the time, but you likely don’t have the money as well. Nevertheless, you still want to do something. So, consider doing a gift exchange where everyone only gets a present for one other person. Games like Secret Santa or White Elephant are great ways to accomplish this.

Of course, rules will be different for the kids. You should always buy presents for the younger children in your family. For options, look through our shop today at The Zoo Factory!

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Top 3 Tips for Christmas Shopping with Your Kids

mother christmas shopping with her two daughters

Most years, you do your Christmas shopping alone. But suddenly your babysitter has the flu, and your spouse has a work commitment. It’s up to you, then, to both shop for Christmas and keep track of your kids. This is no easy feat, but it can be accomplished with fewer tantrums as possible. Read on to learn more:

Bring a backpack filled with essentials

Christmas shopping can take the whole day, and at some point during that day, your kids may get tired, thirsty, hungry, or bored. This is often where many of the tantrums and outbursts begin. So, make sure you’re prepared by bringing a backpack full of essentials while you’re shopping. This should include the following:

  • Snacks
  • Water bottles
  • Phones, games, toys, and/or video games for your children to play with

Share your expectations

Younger kids may not know the proper rules and etiquette of shopping malls. So, it’s important to lay down some ground rules and share your expectations with your kids. Remind them that they cannot scream, shout, or run around in a shopping mall. Additionally, they need to stay by your side at all times. If they understand this, then they’ll be less likely to act out.

Reward them at the end

Shopping can take a lot out of even the most well-behaved child. So, be sure to reward your kids at the end of the day with a trip to their favorite store or restaurant. You can even tell them in the beginning that if they behave well, then they’ll be rewarded.

As you’re shopping, keep an eye out for what your kids seem interested in, as this can help you shop for them as well! If you notice them wandering towards the stuffed animals, then be sure to get them a lovable, stuffed animal from The Zoo Factory! Look through our shop today to get started.

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What Is Phonics?

young girl reading to stuffed animal

Phonics is the relationship between letters and sounds. In fact, you’re using phonics as you’re reading this blog post. But let’s break it down for you.

Think of the word “big.” How do you know what that word sounds like just by looking at it? Because at some point in your life, you were taught that “big” means large, but you probably didn’t yet know how to spell it. When you went to school, though, you learned that individual sounds are represented by individual letters. As such, you realized that the individual letters /b/ /i/ and /g/, when put together, create a series of sounds that equate to the word “big.”

If you’re the parent of a young child just starting school, then this is exactly what they’re learning when their teacher talks about phonics. But how is it taught?

How is phonics taught?

There is more than one way to teach phonics, and your child’s teacher will likely be using a variety of techniques. Some of the most common are as follows:

  • Analytical phonics: With this method, children analyze letter-sound relations to avoid pronouncing sounds in isolation.
  • Analogy phonics: This technique has children analyze unknown words and see how they compare to known words in order to figure out their pronunciation.
  • Synthetic phonics: This approach teaches students to convert letters into sounds, and then blend those sounds to form words.
  • Embedded phonics: With this method, phonics instruction is given while reading a text instead of as a separate lesson.

Here at The Zoo Factory, we know that children need a partner when they’re learning how to read and write. Stuffed animals can be the perfect partner. Look through our shop today to find your child’s new best friend today!

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How to Help Your Child Transition into a New School

mother talking to daughter as she waits for schoolbus

Our kids are likely comfortable in the school they’re in. They have friends there, they know the teachers, and they’ve likely been in that school district for several years. However, some kids don’t always stay in the same school district until they’re 18. They might end up in a new school because their family moved or because they can get a higher quality education at another school.

Whatever the reason for it, changing schools is never easy. That’s why we’ve put together some tips to help your child transition into a new school:

Let them be anxious

As parents and caregivers, it’s never easy to watch our children get stressed or anxious. However, changing schools is a stressful endeavor, and trying to get rid of your child’s anxiety will just, counterintuitively, make it worse. Instead, it’s better to acknowledge your child’s emotions and to let them work through those emotions in their own way.

That doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to reduce your child’s stress (more on that below), just that your child can be open about what they’re feeling and be comforted by the fact that it’s perfectly normal to be nervous.

Explain why they’re changing schools

Most children don’t want to change schools. They’re comfortable in what they know, and they enjoy spending time with their friends at their current school. So, simply telling your child that they have to go to a new school might make them resist the change even more. By explaining to them why they’re going to a new school, they may accept the idea more.

Take them to the school ahead of time

Children are often nervous going to a new school because they’re afraid of the unknown. Thankfully, you can help reduce their stress by making the school a more familiar place. You can do this by scheduling a tour and having your child meet their new teachers before the school year starts. Doing so will help cut back on the number of things your child has to worry about.

Changing schools can be a stressful time, so make sure your child has a few sources of comfort by their side. A lovable, stuffed animal may be just the thing to help your child through the transition. Look through our website to find the perfect stuffed animal for your child today!