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Helping Your Child Return to School After COVID-19

Helping Your Child Return to School After COVID-19

School districts around the country are taking steps to safely return kids back to school. Some schools are bringing kids back completely, others are doing a hybrid model, and there are a few that are opting for completely digital learning. While schools are doing everything that they can to keep your children safe, there are some things that you, as a parent, can do as well to better prepare your child for the new school year. 

Talk to them 

Older kids likely understand the risks that are involved and the precautions they need to take when going back to school. Younger kids, meanwhile, may struggle to understand why they need to wear a mask or why they’re not going to school five days a week. Before the school year starts, take some time to sit down and talk with your child about why this new year will be different and how important it is for them to practice good social distancing.  

Check their temperature each morning 

One of the first signs of COVID-19 is a high temperature. Catching it early will help ensure that your child doesn’t spread the disease to other children and families. Check their temperature every morning to determine whether or not they should go to school. If their temperature is ever higher than 100.4 degrees, then they should stay home. 

Get them a mask and hand sanitizer 

It is more than likely that your school district will require children to wear masks. Even if they are not required, it is still a good idea to wear them. Be sure you have at least two masks for your child, as chances are, they’ll lose their first one eventually. You should also equip them with some hand sanitizer to further limit disease spread.  

If you can, avoid the bus 

Buses can be a prime spot for the coronavirus to spread. If you can manage it, try and drive your kid to school yourself, or have them carpool with a trusted friend. If the bus is your only option, then make sure your kid wears their mask and stays six feet away from other kids at all times.  

These are stressful times for both parents and kids. That’s why we at The Zoo Factory want to do everything we can to make things easier on families. Our stuffable animals can be a great source of comfort to kids, and our blog is an excellent resource for parents. Have further questions? Then don’t hesitate to reach out today! 

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How to Repair Your Child’s Stuffed Animal

How to Repair Your Child's Stuffed Animal

Our children’s stuffed animals go through a lot. They’ve been squished inside of a suitcase, dropped in a pile of mud, slept on during the night, and much, much more. While stuffed animals are hardy creatures, there will come a time when their stitches and seams begin to weaken or break all together. While some injuries are beyond repair, there are ways for you to get your child’s stuffed animal back to normal again.

Inspect the damaged part

Begin by inspecting the damaged part of the animal. Consider whether this is a simple fix you can do at home, or one that will require help. Often times, it’s easy enough to fix yourself, but for those who don’t know how to sew, there are repair shops, or “stuffed animal hospitals,” where a “sick or injured” stuffed animal can be “healed.”

Match the thread colors, content, and size

If you can do the repair work yourself, be sure to match appropriate thread colors, content and size. By using the right tools, you can replicate the original work, which will help maintain the integrity of the stuffed animal. Of course, to your child, just being able to hold their friend again might be all that matters, so to each their own when it comes to making repairs.

Replace the stuffing

If the animal has lost any stuffing while torn, be sure to replace it with a like fill. It will help the animal regain its original shape and keep the fabric in place. Even if no stuffing has been lost, if the well-loved stuffed animal is showing signs of stuffing shift, try to reposition it before you begin stitching or mending.

Fixing your child’s stuffed animal is often quick and easy, but there will come a time when that stuffed animal is beyond repair. When this happens, The Zoo Factory is here with plenty of stuffable animals that your child will adore. Look through our website to get started!

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How to Plan a Post-Coronavirus Playdate

How to Plan a Post-Coronavirus Playdate

We know how hard it’s been to keep your child at home these past several months. By now, they’re likely itching to get back to playing with their friends. However, with the coronavirus still spreading across the country, it is important to still follow social distancing rules when spending time with our friends.  

Planning a playdate in a post-coronavirus world can be difficult, so be sure to follow these steps to keep your child and their friends completely safe: 

Make plans with those who are practicing social distancing 

You can take as many precautions as you’d like, but if the person you’re spending time with doesn’t also take those precautions, they could be putting you and your child at risk. Only make a playdate with people you completely trust and who you know are practicing safe social distancing measures.  

Keep it outside 

In general, staying outside is safer than staying inside. Germs are less likely to spread, and you’ll be better able to stay six feet apart in someone’s backyard rather than in their living room. You can also spend your time in many outdoor public spaces such as parks, pools, and bike paths. 

Don’t forget the essentials 

Even if you’re staying outside, you should still bring a supply of masks, hand sanitizers, and wipes for you and your children. Additionally, while sharing is always a great quality to have, you should bring your own toys and snacks to keep germ spread at a minimum. When you come home, be sure to clean and disinfect the toys that you brought, too, just in case. 

Here at The Zoo Factory, we want to make sure our kids are still having fun even during the coronavirus outbreak. To learn more about how to keep your kids safe, read through our blog or contact us for more information! 

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How to Use “Breathing Buddies” to Encourage Mindfulness

How to Use Breathing Buddies to Encourage Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness can be a real lifesaver. After all, our lives are hectic, so just taking a few minutes to slow down and pay attention to our surroundings can make a world of difference. This is true for adults, but it’s also true for kids. Encouraging our kids to be mindful will help them deal with stress today and later on. We can do this through one simple technique: breathing buddies. 

How to practice “breathing buddies” 

Breathing buddies, also known as Teddy Bear Belly Breathing, is rather simple. It’s about focusing on your breath by placing a teddy bear on your belly. Here are the steps you and your child should follow: 

  1. Lie down on your back and place a stuffed animal on your belly. 
  2. Inhale through your nose for three seconds, focusing on how the stuffed animal rises as you breathe in. 
  3. Exhale for four seconds, this time focusing on how the stuffed animal falls as you breathe out. 
  4. Repeat for at least another few minutes. You can increase how long you practice over time. 

What are the benefits? 

Having your kids practice mindfulness, even just for a few minutes a day, can have a variety of health benefits. Some may see the improvements right away, leaving the breathing buddies practice with an added sense of calm. Others may see a difference over time. Regular mindfulness practice has been proven to decrease anxiety, stress, and depression, while enhancing self-esteem. It can also improve cognitive skills such as memory, organization, and attention span. And these benefits aren’t just reserved for kids. By joining the breathing buddies’ practice, you’ll experience these improvements yourself. 

If you’re searching for a breathing buddy to join you during your next mindfulness practice, then look no further than The Zoo Factory. We have a variety of stuffable animals for you and your child to choose from, so take a look through our inventory or contact us with any questions today! 

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How to Stop Your Kids from Roughhousing

How to Stop Your Kids from Roughhousing

Young children aren’t the gentlest of creatures. They are often loud, energetic, and rambunctious, creating a lot more chaos than there is calm. Roughhousing can be a particularly difficult problem to handle, as you want your children to have fun. Still, you don’t want them to hurt themselves or others.  

It’s important to teach your kids how to play gently and stop roughhousing before someone gets hurt. Here’s how: 

Demonstrate gentleness with a doll or stuffed animal 

Dolls, stuffed animals, and other toys can be excellent tools for teaching your children how to be gentle. For example, you can use dolls or stuffed animals to show your children how to hold a new pet or baby sibling properly. This hands-on approach is more effective than simply telling your children to be careful. It actually demonstrates how they can be careful.  

Model good behavior yourself 

Children learn behavior by watching their parents. If their parents are calm and kind, their kids will copy their mild behavior. Conversely, if parents are loud and irritable, their kids will replicate it and start showing signs of aggressive behavior. If you want children to be gentler, then you need to model that behavior yourself.  

Praise good behavior 

When it comes to our children, positive reinforcement is more effective than harsh punishments. If your child starts roughhousing, don’t scream at them to stop. Instead, you can offer other ways to play with their toys, siblings, or pets. Then, when they do start modeling gentle behavior, praise them for their efforts to further encourage them.  

Here at The Zoo Factory, we have plenty of stuffable animals that can help teach your children to stop roughhousing. Look through our website to get started! 

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4 Reasons Why Your Kid Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep

4 Reasons Why Your Kid Isn't Getting Enough Sleep

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and noticed that your kid still hasn’t fallen asleep? While this will likely happen every now and then, it is cause for concern when it starts becoming a pattern. Children need about 9-11 hours of sleep, much more than an adult’s typical 7-9, so finding ways to sleep better is crucial to their health. 

This can only be done, however, once you find out the root cause of your child’s insomnia. If your child isn’t getting enough sleep, then see if it’s any of these usual suspects: 

Too many screens 

From our TVs to our cellphones, we are surrounded by digital screens. While many of these devices are necessary for our everyday lives, too much exposure can disrupt our sleep. Blue light (the light that all digital devices emit) has been found to disrupt our levels of melatonin—a hormone that regulates our body’s circadian rhythm. In other words, having your child stare at screens just before bedtime can cause them to feel more alert, making it harder for them to fall asleep.  

No bedtime routine 

A bedtime routine gives our mind a chance to wind down and acts as a signal to our bodies that it’s time to go to sleep. Without these cues, it could take your child a long time to finally settle down and get to bed. A few ways to solve this is to give them a consistent bedtime and to make sure they do the same things each night before bed (brushing their teeth, reading a book, etc.). 

A bedroom that’s inconducive to sleep 

If your child’s bedroom is messy or too bright, it will make it harder for them to fall asleep. Additionally, an uncomfortable bed and electronic devices (see above) can also keep them up. Make your child’s bedroom a relaxing place where they can unwind after a long day. You can do this by providing a comfy bed, black-out curtains, and even a stuffed animal to help them sleep. 

At The Zoo Factory, we believe every person could benefit from sleeping with a beloved stuffed animal. Check out all of our cuddly stuffable animals that are sure to help your child get a better night’s rest today! 

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How Playtime Can Ease Anxiety in Our Children

How Playtime Can Ease Anxiety in Our Children

We are living in stressful times, and our children are well aware of this. As parents, we want to make sure that our children understand what is happening in the world, but aren’t so consumed by it that they become overly anxious or depressed. Recent research, however, has proven that playtime can be extremely effective in relieving anxiety in children.  

So, if your child is overly anxious, here’s how you can use playtime to calm them down: 

Make ‘em laugh 

As the great Donald O’Connor used to say: “Make ‘em laugh!” Laughter truly is the best medicine as it can release stress hormones and boost your mood. Whether it’s a funny movie or a game that the two of you play, do something during the day that will get your child laughing. 

Let them win every now and then 

There is a lot of debate on whether or not we should let our children win. While understanding the value of defeat is important for kids, letting them win a few times can help boost their self-confidence and their mood. Just don’t make this become a regular thing, as it could lead to ego problems later on. 

Special time 

“Special time” is a part of the day, usually lasting 10-15 minutes, where you let your child do whatever they want (within reason of course). This could include watching TV, eating a snack, or doing pretend play. Performed regularly, special time can offer a safe space for your kids where they can freely express themselves. 

Here at The Zoo Factory, we have plenty of adorable, stuffable animals that can help get your child through these tough times. Look through our website to get started! 

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Korean Baseball Is Replacing Their Fans With Stuffed Animals

Korean Baseball Is Replacing Their Fans With Stuffed Animals

The coronavirus is limiting how many people can gather in one place at one time, and no industry is more impacted by social distancing than professional sports. The MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL are all planning for fan-less games this season, but what exactly will that look like? Other leagues across the world are providing a clue. 

In a recent game between the Hanwha Eagles and the NC Dinos, the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) replaced their human fans with stuffed animals, filling the stands with Pikachus, Spongebobs, teddy bears, and more. 

This isn’t the first possible solution to fan-less games that the KBO has come up with. In the beginning of the season, they used everything from freestanding 2D cutouts to dressed up mannequins. They even created crowd noises to react to plays out on the field. None of these solutions, however, really stuck with the players or the fans watching at home on their television screens.  

The KBO quickly found a better alternative. On June 3, the game between the Hanwha Eagles and the NC Dinos was supervised by an adorable and cuddly crowd of stuffed animals. All of the stuffed animals were sent in by Hanwha Eagles fans, and, once human fans are allowed back into the stadiums, they will be donated to the Green Umbrella Children’s Foundation.  

So, if the MLB is still wondering what they should do with their empty stadiums, why not look to Korea for some ideas? 

Here at The Zoo Factory, we know our stuffable animals would love to spend a day at the ballpark. If you’re looking for a stuffed animal for your child, then look through our website to get started! 

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How to Make the Most Out of Hand-Me-Downs

How to Make the Most Out of Hand-Me-Downs

As a parent now yourself, you understand the value of hand-me-downs and how much they can save your wallet. However, they can also be controversial with your children, as older children might not want to give away their old toys and younger children might feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick.  

Here’s how you can make the most out of hand-me-downs while keeping all of your children happy: 

Let your oldest child decide what they’re willing to give away 

Don’t just walk into your eldest’s closet and decide what to pass down to their younger sibling. Instead, involve them in the process by letting them choose what items they’re willing to give to their baby brother or sister. As you’re doing so, inspect each piece to make sure that they’re in good shape. If they’re not, you can either throw them away or donate them. 

Then let your youngest pick out what they want 

Once your eldest has picked out a collection of old toys or clothes that they’re willing to give away, let your youngest come in and decide what they want from the pile. If they start groaning at the idea of wearing old clothing or playing with old toys, try to personalize the older items. For instance, you can get new pins to put onto an old backpack, or a new outfit to put onto an old doll. If there is anything that your child doesn’t want, don’t force it on them. It will simply stay tucked away in their closet, never to be used. Instead, donate the unwanted items to families in need. 

Still get new items once in a while 

Most children won’t complain too much about receiving hand-me-downs, but they will start complaining if that’s all that they receive. A child still needs toys and clothing that are their own, and no matter what you do, a hand-me-down will always be seen as their older sibling’s property. So, be sure to give your youngest some new toys or clothing that is just their own every now and then to remind them that they’re just as special to you as their older siblings. 

One new thing that you can give your youngest child (or your eldest!) is a stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory. Look through our inventory to get started! 

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4 Tips for Spring Cleaning with Kids

4 Tips for Spring Cleaning with Kids

Spring isn’t just the time to trade out your sweaters for your t-shirts; it’s also a chance to clean out your home. Spring cleaning can seem overwhelming when you’re doing it just for yourself, but even more so when you have your kids involved. They may not want to get rid of that toy truck (even though they haven’t touched it in a year), or they may not want to help out at all. That’s why we’ve put together these spring cleaning tips for parents: 

Start small 

Don’t think that you can clean out your house all in one day. Instead, start small. Tackle one room each day and make your child’s task simple (such as separating the toys that they do want from the toys that they don’t want by placing them into buckets).  

Give your child’s toys a good home 

Your kids may resist giving up any of their toys, even if they haven’t touched a majority of those toys in months. To avoid this, find organizations where you could donate the toys to. This will emphasize that the toys are going to a good home to children in need instead of the garbage bin. 

Find some storage space 

There may be some items that you and your child will want to keep but may not have room for. Things such as artwork, their first blankie, or other types of sentimental items can be stored away in bins so that you can still hang onto them, but they’re not taking up as much space.  

Make it fun 

Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a tiring chore, it can be fun if you set your mind to it. Put on some music, or make it a competition to see how many toys you and your child can find and donate in a day. You can also encourage them by giving them a prize at the end of it, such as ice cream, a trip to the zoo, or even a new toy. Tell them that if they get rid of their old toys, they’ll have more room for new ones.  

If you’ve cleaned out your house and find that you have a little bit more room, then a stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory can be a great reward. Look through our website to get started!