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Are Stuffed Animals Safe for Dogs?

Much like ourselves, our dogs love stuffed animals, but are they safe for them to play with? In general, yes, stuffed animals are perfectly safe and there is little threat to letting our dogs play around with them. However, as with anything, there are a few extra precautions that you need to take in order to keep your four-legged friends safe.

Beware of plastic

Some stuffed animals carry plastic parts, and if your dog accidentally ingests these, it could cause them serious harm. Buttons are typically made of plastic, so you’ll want to remove these as soon as possible. Eyes and noses can also be made of plastic, but not always. If you’re planning on giving your dog a stuffed animal, then, you should get one where the eyes and nose are made out of a thread instead.

Get a toy that’s slightly larger than your dog’s mouth

Your dog will be carrying that stuffed animal around in its mouth quite a bit. If a stuffed animal is too small, then the entire thing may end up in your dog’s mouth, making it harder for them to play with it. It will also cause your dog’s saliva to get all over the toy, resulting in a build up of bacteria. A dog’s toy should be just slightly larger than their mouth. This will allow them to grip it well without it falling into their mouth.

Check to see when repairs are needed

This stuffed animal will be put through the ringer. It will be chewed on, played with, and who knows what else. Without maintenance, the stuffed animal could be ripped open, causing your dog to accidentally ingest the filling. To prevent this, inspect the toy every now and then for any wear and tear, fixing any problem areas as soon as possible.

Here at The Zoo Factory, we offer stuffable animals that are safe for dogs and humans alike. Look through our inventory or contact us today to learn more.

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The Benefits of Pretend Play

As our children play with their dolls, stuffed animals, or even their Legos, imaginary worlds start to form. Dolls are given names and occupations; stuffed animals take on personalities of their own; and Legos create castles and magical worlds for their toys to inhabit. This form of pretend play is fun on its own, but it is also crucial to our children’s development in several ways.

Creativity and critical thinking skills

The power of imagination is truly something to behold. With pretend play, our children’s imagination can run wild, and this can help foster creativity and critical thinking skills. It helps your child learn how to think “outside of the box,” a key skill that will help them for years to come.

Language skills

The English language is tough; even us adults mess it up sometimes! That’s why it’s best to get in as much practice as possible at a young age. With pretend play, your children are given the opportunity to practice their language skills in front of a non-judgmental audience (namely, their dolls and stuffed animals). By role playing as different characters, they can practice words and phrases they’re starting to learn about in the real world.

Social skills

In addition to practicing their language skills, children can also practice their social skills. Especially for children who are shy around strangers, pretend play gives them an opportunity to play with other children and have conversations. Plus, by giving their dolls or stuffed animals a life of their own, they can learn to be more empathetic towards others.

The benefits of pretend play cannot be overstated. Not only does it make your child more creative and communicative, but also more empathetic towards their peers. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory to get started!

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3 Essential Tips for Traveling with a Stuffed Animal

If you and the family are heading out on your next trip, then don’t be surprised if your little ones start wanting to bring their favorite stuffed animal along. A stuffed animal traveling companion is always a great thing to have, but you’ll want to take care of it so that your child’s stuffed animal returns home safe and sound.

Make sure they’re in good condition

Traveling can really take its toll, both on humans and on stuffed animals. Before you head off on your trip, you’ll want to check the condition of your child’s stuffed animal. If it’s seen better days, then you should plan on fixing it up a few days before you leave.

Have a separate bag for your stuffed animal

We’ve all heard the story of a child losing their favorite stuffed animal at the airport. Don’t let your child or their stuffed animal be one of them. While your child may want to hold onto their stuffed animal at all times, it’s often better if you keep them in a bag while you’re moving about. This will prevent your child from dropping it or accidentally leaving it in an airport bathroom. If you’re flying, you can keep the stuffed animal in a carry-on bag or check bag, but it may be better to keep it in a carry on in case your child wants to play with it while they’re on the plane.

Bring along some clothes for your stuffed animal

A fun part of your child bringing their stuffed animal along for the trip is having that stuffed animal participate in the activities. To do this, bring along some clothes fitted for your stuffed animal so that they can look the part. For example, if you’re heading to a beach resort, grab a swimsuit for the stuffed animal to wear by the water.

Looking for a traveling companion for your next family vacation? Then take a look at the stuffable animals and outfits we at The Zoo Factory have today!

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Babysitting Tips for Beginners

Did you just land your first job as a babysitter? Congratulations! While the idea of getting a job (and a paycheck) can be exciting, there are some things that you should be aware of before you walk through the door.

Ask plenty of questions

When it comes to babysitting, the old adage rings true: there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Kids can be a little quirky and understanding their habits will leave you better prepared once you’re home alone with them. Even if you don’t think of everything you want to ask on the spot, you should have the parents’ phone numbers on hand so that you can text them when the need arises.

Reinforce the house rules

It’s tempting to be the “cool” babysitter who lets the kids stay up past their bedtime, but this is also a surefire way for something to go wrong. There are house rules for a reason, so be sure to stick to them as much as possible. The parents will be grateful, and the kids will soon respect you.

Have an open line of communication with the parents

If something bad happens, don’t try to hide it from the parents. It’s best to speak with them frequently and honestly about any issues that pop up. After all, parents know their children better than you do, so they’ll know the right ways to tackle a certain situation.

Stay organized with a planner

Whether it’s for one night or several days, you should keep track of everything you have to do and when. Kids perform better under structured environments, and as the babysitter, it’s your job to take care of everything as planned. To do this, keep a planner with you containing such things as nap times, school schedules, food preferences, and more.

Bring along some entertainment

While kids will have their own games to play with, it’s not a bad idea to bring some of your own to add to the fun. Board games, video games, movies, and even your own stuffed animals are all great things to spend the time with. Plus, it’ll be fun for you too!

Looking for some stuffed animals to bring to your next babysitting job? Then look through our inventory here at The Zoo Factory to get started!

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Are Attachments to Stuffed Animals Healthy?

Do you have a child that, wherever they go, always seems to be carrying around their favorite stuffed animal? While the image is certainly cute, it may leave you wondering if this level of attachment is healthy for your child. The short answer is, yes, it’s perfectly healthy, but if you want to learn more, then read on to see how stuffed animals truly affect our children.

Children are less shy

Stuffed animals are seen as comfort objects, and studies have proven that comfort objects and “imaginary companions” can actually make children feel less shy and more focused. There are two reasons for this. Stuffed animals, acting as comfort objects, can make children feel braver in potentially stressful environments. It’s why firefighters and police officers often give children stuffed animals after a traumatic incident. Children can also practice their social skills on stuffed animals, reading them stories and playing with them just as they would with other children.

They can even help adults

Maybe your child is all grown up, and while they don’t carry their stuffed animal wherever they go, they still keep it by their bed at night. Some people believe this is abnormal, and that adults who still have stuffed animals should “grow up.” However, having a stuffed animal by your side can be helpful, easing anxiety, stress, and loneliness. Not to mention that about 40% of American adults still sleep with their stuffed animal, so you’re not alone.

Emotional attachments to our stuffed animals are perfectly healthy, no matter your age. So, whether you’re looking for a stuffed animal for yourself or for someone special in your life, take a look through our inventory here at The Zoo Factory to get started!

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Kids’ Birthday Party Ideas

Whether it’s their first birthday or they’re turning the big 1-0, your kid’s birthday party will be something they always look forward to. You don’t want to disappoint, but you’re also not sure where to start. It can be a lot of pressure, that’s why we’ve gathered some of our favorite birthday party ideas to get you on the right track.

Obstacle Course Party

If it’s warm out and you’ve got a big backyard, then why not take advantage of it? An obstacle course party involves you filling your backyard with (you guessed it) obstacle courses for your child and their friends to challenge. Put the kids into teams or have them compete one-on-one to see who can complete it the fastest.

Dance Party

If it’s too cold for an obstacle course party (or too much work) then you can go for something simple like a dance party. Clear out one of your larger rooms and then get a playlist together. To add to the excitement, play some games where kids freeze when the music stops, or they have to keep balloons in the air while the music plays.

Scavenger Hunt

If you’d like the feel of an obstacle course party but don’t want your party outside, then opt for a scavenger hunt! Hide items around your house, or even around a public place like a mall (just make sure the kids behave themselves). You can have the kids keep what they find, or you can have a special challenge for the birthday boy or girl where they have to find one of their gifts on their own.

Carnival Party

Everyone loves the carnival, so why not have one in your own backyard? With balloons, games, and plenty of food, it’ll feel just like the real thing. You can have typical carnival games like balloon pop or gone fishing, or you can get original by incorporating some of the ideas found above.

Once you have the theme of your party settled, it’s time to get the presents. As you’re deciding on the right present for your child, consider getting them a stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory. Look through our inventory or contact us today to get started!

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The Best Stuffed Toys from the ’90s

Children these days don’t know what they missed out on during the last two decades of the 20th century. The 1980s had Cabbage Patch Kids and Care Bears. The 1990s had their own trends. Many of these popular ‘90s toys have tried to make a comeback in the past few decades, but it will never be the same as their original debut. Today, The Zoo Factory is taking a trip back in time and covering all of the best-stuffed toys from the ’90s.

The Secret Keepins Pups

These plush puppies with tiny tummy compartments served as your most trusted friend during the ’90s. Their promise, “keeping secrets safe for little girls,” remained true by having the ability to lock all your prized possessions and keeping them safe from others. One of the best parts, the wearable charms on their stomachs, snapped off and became the key to opening the secret hiding place.

Beanie Babies

Beanie Babies were an iconic plush toy in the ’90s. If you grew up during this time, you most likely had a closet full of these stuffed animals. From bears to iguanas, there were plenty of animals to welcome into your plush family. These collectibles were personalized with their names, and they were a staple piece in every child’s toy chest. Today, some Beanie Babies are resold for thousands of dollars!

Tickle Me Elmo

Almost everyone knows of Elmo, the furry red monster, most commonly known for his premier on Sesame Street. In 1996, Tickle Me Elmo was the must-have toy of the year. Elmo danced, laughed, and talked if you tickled it in the right spot. At one point, consumers would do nearly anything to get their hands on the most popular toy of the year.

Yum Yums

These multicolored animals smelled like sweet treats. The lineup consisted of Peppymint Kitty, Jumpin’ Jellybean Bunny, Chuckle Chip Bear, and Lucky Lemon Lion. They even released a 1990’s TV special: The Day Things Went Sour. The Yum Yums franchise is still commonly found in Japan.

Today, some of the most popular ‘90s toys are either no longer around or they’re very hard to find. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean your children can’t enjoy a stuffed toy of their own. From mystical creatures to aquatic animals from under the sea, we at The Zoo Factory know that you’ll have no problem finding the perfect animal to bring home. Check out our large selection here.

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45,000 Stuffed Animals Tossed onto the Ice at Hershey Bears Game

“It’s raining stuffed animals in chocolate town!”

These were the words one commentator cheered as 45,000 stuffed animals fell onto the ice at Giant Center, home of the Hershey Bears (the AHL affiliate to the Washington Capitals). In fact, it was a total of 45,650 toys, shattering last year’s record of 34,798.

The Bears took on the Hartford Wolf Pack. What turned out to be an already thrilling game became even more so as the annual Teddy Bear Toss went underway. Just after the Bear’s scored their first goal, the deluge of stuffed animals began. It delayed the game for 40 minutes, and players took their time diving into piles and batting them with their sticks.

Teddy Bear Tosses have become a tradition for many hockey teams across the United States and Canada, but the Bears’ record-shattering tosses are perhaps the most well-known. All of the stuffed animals collected from the Bears’ Teddy Bear Toss are donated to 40 local charities, including schools, food banks, churches, lions clubs, as well as the Milton Hershey School, Children’s Miracle Network, and the American Cancer Society. The team also pairs with CommunityAid, a local nonprofit that donates 25 cents per stuffed animal (up to $15,000) for the Children’s Miracle Network.

As for the game, the Bears won it in overtime, 4-3, making both the children, and their fans, happy this holiday season.

Nothing brings smiles during the holiday season quite like a teddy bear, and the Teddy Bear Toss continues to impress with displays of generosity each year. If you’d like to donate or gift a teddy bear this Christmas, then take a look at our inventory here at The Zoo Factory.

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4 Fun Ideas for a Family Gift Exchange

We may not always admit it, but exchanging gifts is probably our favorite part about Christmas. No matter your age, there’s always that rush of excitement as you’re opening presents Christmas morning. But why stick to the usual gift opening routine? Instead, consider doing a family gift exchange to add a little bit more fun to your Christmas morning. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Secret Santa

Secret Santa is a great way to add a little mystery and intrigue to Christmas. Fill a bowl with names and have each person draw a name. Whoever’s name they draw they have to get a present for, but here’s the catch—they can’t tell the person they’re getting a gift for. Instead, the person must guess who their Secret Santa was after opening their gift. You can even provide clues for people to mull over if they’re having trouble guessing.

White Elephant

If Secret Santa provides intrigue, then White Elephant provides competition. With a White Elephant exchange, each person brings a wrapped gift and adds it to a common pool. People then draw numbers to determine what order they can go. When it’s your turn, you get to choose to either pick an unwrapped gift or steal a previous player’s gift. If your gift gets stolen, then you have the option to steal another person’s gift. The game ends when someone declines to steal a gift.

Grab Bag

With White Elephant, you compete for your gifts. With grab bag, you leave it up to chance. The rules for grab bag are pretty simple. Place all of your gifts in a bag and then take turns grabbing gifts out of the bag. But no peeking allowed!

Musical Gifts

This gift exchange is similar to musical chairs, except it will be the presents moving with the music rather than yourself. Sit in a circle and put on some music. Then start passing a gift along. When the music stops, the gift that is in your hands stays with you.

If you’re doing a family gift exchange this Christmas, then you’ll want to make sure that you bring the perfect gift. So, why not bring a stuffable animal? Here at The Zoo Factory, we have plenty of stuffable animals for you to choose from. Look through our inventory or contact us for more information.

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Where to Donate Your Stuffed Animals for the Holidays

Last week we talked about how you can help children and families in need by organizing a toy drive in your community. There are many of us, however, who don’t have the time to start our own toy drives but still want to help the struggling families in our area. Thankfully, you can do just that by donating some of your families’ stuffed animals. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some places that are always looking for donations, especially during the holiday season.

Charities

The most obvious place to start is your local charity. You’ll likely have a Salvation Army or Goodwill location in your neighborhood that will be accepting old toys and stuffed animals. They will then take your stuffed animals and give them directly to a less fortunate child or sell them at their thrift store. As an added bonus, you can also deduct the items you donate on your taxes.

Hospitals and doctors’ offices

While charities are usually people’s first choice, your local hospitals and doctors’ offices will also be accepting donations during the holidays. Many of these facilities use these stuffed animals to help their young patients during recovery. Just be sure to check with your local hospital or doctors’ office beforehand, as some don’t accept older items due to the risk of illness.

Police and fire departments

In addition to your local hospitals and doctors’ offices, you should also check out your local police and fire departments. Police officers and firefighters often carry stuffed animals with them to comfort traumatized children, so they’re always looking for donations from local families. Call your police or fire departments to see when and where you can donate.

We at The Zoo Factory want to make sure every child has a happy holiday this year. So, if you would like to learn more about how you can use stuffed animals to help local children in need, then give us a call today at 866-993-3325.