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4 Tips for Running a Toy Drive

The holiday season is upon us, and that means lots of presents, food, and parties to enjoy. Yet, while we will be spending our Christmas day in a warm house surrounded by family and presents, there are just as many who won’t. Struggling families want to give their children as joyful and happy a Christmas as possible, but they need our help to do it. Running a toy drive is just one way you can help the families in your neighborhood this holiday season. Here’s how you can get started:

Find a charity to work with

If you want to run a toy drive on your own, there’s certainly nothing stopping you. However, it’s often easier to partner with a local charity in order to help you organize your toy drive and distribute the donations. Good places to start would be your local YMCA, children’s programs, or your local police department.

Figure out the days, times and location

The most successful toy drives are typically five days, or one business week. This gives everyone in your community enough time to drop off their donations.

Publicize it

In order to get people to come and donate, you need to publicize your event. While you can print out flyers and hand them out, it’s often much easier (and cheaper) to publicize it on social media. Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram are all excellent avenues for you to promote your toy drive. You can create social media accounts just for your event (this can make it seem more professional, though you’ll start off with less followers), or you can publicize it on your own social media accounts. Be sure to get the help of your friends too to share your posts and spread the word!

Organize and plan everything

Your toy drive will likely get a bit chaotic, so make sure that everything is properly organized and planned ahead of time. Have donation bins to sort through all of the donations and have volunteers available for different jobs (collecting the donations, sorting through the donations, etc.).

Would you like to give a stuffable animal to a child in need? The Zoo Factory can help. Check out our inventory to see how you can start making a difference.

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Trader Joe’s Biggest Secret? Their Stuffed Animals

When you walk into a Trader Joe’s, you can find nearly anything that your heart desires. Chocolate? Check. Cheese? Check. Peanut butter? Check. What they don’t typically have are stuffed animals…most of the year.

Unbeknownst to most of us, from November to December, Trader Joe’s fills its shelves with hidden stuffed animals for kids to find.

This game of hide-and-seek was revealed on a Reddit thread by a former employee. The practice wasn’t confirmed, however, until TheKitchn spoke with Kendra Friend-Daniel, Trader Joe’s public relations director. “It’s a way to engage with kids in our store,” Friend-Daniel said. “If they locate the hidden stuffed toy, they just let a Crew Member know and they’ll receive a treat.”

The stuffed toys and treats may vary from store to store, but you can bet that the Trader Joe’s in your area will have a stuffed friend hidden behind the cans of cranberry.

And this isn’t just a fun activity; it can also be something to help parents survive holiday shopping themselves. We all know the feeling of dragging your kids with you to go food shopping. This is bad on most days, but especially so during the holidays where aisles are crammed with other stressed out parents and kids. But with Trader Joe’s stuffed animal hide-and-seek, food shopping is made fun for both you and your child this holiday season.

While we won’t be hiding our own stuffable animals in the shelves at Trader Joe’s, we at The Zoo Factory do have plenty of stuffable animals for your child to bring home this holiday season. Take a look through our inventory to get started today!

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How Stuffed Animals Help Kids with Autism

If you have a child with autism, then you know how difficult some days can be. Naturally, you want to find ways to make things easier on your child. As it turns out, stuffed animals can be one of these ways. While a stuffed animal is never a replacement for therapy or other doctor-prescribed treatments, they can help alleviate the typical symptoms associated with autism. Here’s how:

Stuffed animals are great comfort objects

Whether they’re four years old or forty, many people with autism are easily overwhelmed by the noise and chaos of everyday life. That’s why they often turn to comfort objects that can provide security and some sensory regulation. Stuffed animals can fulfill this role particularly well as they can be held, cuddled, and even weighted to provide children with a sense of calm.

They can teach play skills

Studies have shown that autistic children play differently than non-autistic children. They often lack specific play skills such as imitation skills or symbolic play (or pretend play) skills. Instead, they’ll engage in more solitary, repetitive play. Stuffed animals can be useful tools when teaching these valuable play skills through various therapeutic approaches.

They can help children practice social skills

Children with autism often struggle with social and communication skills. While they have the desire to interact with others, they usually don’t know how or get overwhelmed when they’re around new people. A stuffed animal, however, can help your child practice those much-needed social skills so that they’re more confident when dealing with other children.

A stuffed animal may not be the silver bullet, but it can certainly help your child get through each day a little easier. Here at The Zoo Factory we have plenty of stuffable animals that will be perfect for your child. Look through our inventory or contact us today.

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The Story Behind ‘The Teddy Bears’ Picnic’ Song

“If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down in the woods today, you’d better go in disguise
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
Because today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic…”

If you find yourself singing along to these lyrics, then you’re certainly not the only one. “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” has been a hit with all ages for over 100 years. First written in 1907, this song represents the love each generation has for our stuffed teddy bears.

“The Teddy Bear Two-step”

The very first teddy bear was made in 1902, and they soon took the nation by storm. They were so popular, in fact, that they became inspiration for books and, eventually, songs. In 1907, John W. Bratton, an American composer, wrote “The Teddy Bear Two-step.” This version had no lyrics, but it nevertheless gained traction among the American public. In fact, one of the first recordings of the song occurred in 1907 by the Black Diamond Band.

The Lyrics

It took nearly thirty years until lyrics were added to “The Teddy Bear Two-Step.” Written by Irish songwriter Jimmy Kennedy in 1932, this is the version that we know and love today. It was renamed “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic,” and it was first recorded by Henry Hall and His Orchestra, with the vocals done by Val Rosing. The song went on to be covered by several other famous singers including Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, and Anne Murray.

So, if you plan on going down to the woods today, make sure you bring along your friend teddy bear. Here at The Zoo Factory, we have plenty of teddy bears that are sure to enjoy their teddy bear picnic. Look through our inventory or contact us today for more information.

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Reading Buddies: How Stuffed Animals Can Help Your Child Read

Whether you’re a teacher or a parent, teaching children to read can be an arduous task. Some have difficulty with the material, others are bored by it. Nevertheless, it’s always important to encourage reading young, and a great way to do that is through a stuffed animal reading buddy. Here are some ways you can use your stuffed animals to encourage your children to read:

Reading aloud

Reading aloud is a great technique to improve fluency and reading skills. According to recent research, reading aloud makes words easier to remember and helps children focus better on the material in front of them. However, not everyone enjoys reading aloud in front of other people. That’s how a stuffed animal reading buddy can help. Not only will your child be able to practice by reading to their stuffed animal, but they also won’t feel any performance anxiety by reading to their stuffed friend.

Book hooks

Stuffed animals can help with technique, but they can also help with interest. A part of getting children to read books is getting them interested, and their stuffed animal can be the perfect way to hook them in. For instance, try to find books that feature the same animal as your child’s stuffed animal in order to get them interested in the subject.

Strategy mascots

A strategy mascot is a stuffed animal that represents a certain reading strategy to help children better remember it. For example, Stretch the Snake reminds students to stretch the word out in order to help them sound it out, and Eagle Eyes tells them to look at pictures to help them figure out words. While this technique was originally used with beanie babies, you can use it with any kind of stuffed animal.

Looking for a new reading buddy for your child? The Zoo Factory has you covered. We have stuffable animals of all shapes and sizes, so look through our inventory or contact us for more information.

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The Teddy Bear That Travels the World

We all dream of leaving our normal routines and traveling the world someday. Well, as it turns out, one adventurous teddy bear is doing just that. As the travel companion of travel writer Elaine Warner, Fuzzy has traveled from Spain to Norway to the Americas and back again. Read on to learn more:

Society of American Travel Writers

The Society of American Travel Writers is a networking organization for travel writers, journalists, photographers, and other content producers. It sponsors journalists like Warner to travel the world and write about interesting places and people. About 15 years ago, the SATW started a traveling teddy program where their travel journalists would bring teddy bears along with them. These teddy bears would be assigned to classrooms where they would write to students about where they’ve been.

Teddy’s Travels

Unfortunately, the program quickly dwindled. Travel journalists have to carry a lot of equipment with them, and it became difficult to constantly keep a teddy bear with them at all times. However, one teddy bear continued with his travels. Fuzzy, the teddy bear companion of Warner, continued to travel with her on her many trips. In the past 15 years, Fuzzy has been to the Grand Canyon, Madrid, Cornwall, and more. In 2008, Warner began a blog for Fuzzy called Teddy’s Travels where she documents what Fuzzy did at their most recent destination, even sharing some pictures of Fuzzy at famous places around the world.

A Learning Tool

Teddy’s Travels isn’t just a cute blog for people to follow, it has also become a learning tool for many classrooms around the country. “It’s very hand if you have five minutes between subjects or when it’s almost time for lunch or recess and you don’t want to start something new,” said Warner. “Teachers can take it as far as they want, or just use it for that. I once had a teacher who kept track of where the bear was going on a map in her classroom, and if the children were taking a trip themselves, she asked them to journal their stories.”

Looking for a travel companion of your own? Then check out some of the stuffable animals we have here at The Zoo Factory.

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The Benefits of Dress-Up Play

Halloween is coming up, so you know what that means—it’s time to take out our costumes and dress up as our favorite heroes and animals. And, as it turns out, playing dress-up can actually be extremely beneficial to our children. Here’s how:

See the world through other viewpoints

When children play dress-up, they learn valuable ways in which others contribute to our lives. Perhaps a child is playing the role of a mother and has a crying baby to nurture, or maybe they’re pretending to be a policeman and stopping “the bad guys.” This sense of imagination allows children to learn empathy through having to see alternative viewpoints and respond to them accordingly.

Building blocks for a diverse vocabulary

When children play through dress-up, they begin to explore terms, phrases and words that are often inclusive to the role they are playing. These strengths can develop through hearing certain words in books and transferring them into the role they’re playing where children will eventually use them in daily conversations.

Confidence building

For children, dressing up and having theatrical elements to their play can greatly impact their overall confidence. Self-expression is incredibly helpful when building self-confidence, and this is just another way we can allow children to develop that skill. What child doesn’t feel on top of the world while dressed up as their favorite super hero?

If your child loves playing dress up, consider purchasing some outfits for one of their Zoo Factory stuffed animals so that the two can play dress up together! Visit our website for a wide selection of outfits.

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5 Tips for Getting Your Children to Unplug from Technology

Every time you look over, it seems like your kid is burying their faces into another screen. Whether it be their cellphone, computer, video game, what-have-you, their entire lives seemed to be consumed by technology. This can be a serious problem, as several studies have proven that too much time staring at screens can have an adverse effect on our children’s health. So, if you find your child spends too much of their time with their computers, then here are some ways to get them to unplug:

Set some rules

First thing’s first—if you want your child to stop using screens, you’ll need to establish some ground rules. Namely, make sure there’s a time limit on how many hours they can spend in front of a screen. You should also consider taking screens out of the bedroom or putting your phones away when dinnertime comes around.

Set an example

Our children learn from our actions, so if you spend most of your time staring at your cellphone too, your child is hardly going to change their habits. Instead, try and set a good example by following those house screen rules just as your child has to.

Read

The more time your child spends staring at a book instead of a screen is time well-spent. The benefits of reading are endless, and a good book will ensure that your child doesn’t get bored and wander back to their electronics again.

Pick up a hobby or sport

A new hobby or sport is just the thing to get your kid active and engaged with the world. If you’re not sure where to start, try experimenting with different activities until your kid finds something that they enjoy.

Play some games

A lot of the time, when children are using electronics, they’re usually playing games. So, if you want to encourage them to step away from their video game for a bit, try to provide other sources of entertainment. Buy them a new set of toys or a new stuffed animal that they can use to play with their family members and friends.

Getting your child a new stuffed animal to play with is a great way to encourage them to put down their electronics for a little while. So, if you’re looking for a stuffable animal to give your child, then take a look at our selection here at The Zoo Factory.

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5 Tips for Getting Your Kid to Clean Their Room

“Go clean your room!”

It’s something you say at least once a week, but chances are the last thing your kid does is go and clean their room. Even if they do listen to you, it’s likely after a lot of moaning and groaning, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some ways you can get your kid to clean their room without all of the yelling and groaning that’s usually involved.

Make it a game

If you make cleaning fun, chances are your kids are more likely to do it. To do this, try turning it into a game. For example, you can play “Last Thing on the Floor” where your child has to pick everything up off the floor within a certain time frame. You could also do make-believe maid in order to spark their imagination.

Set an example

Your child is less likely to clean their own room if they notice that you don’t clean yours. Instead, try to set a good example by keeping things clean and tidy around the house.

Help them out

If your child is on the younger side, it’s best to try and help them clean their room until they get used to it. Show them the ropes, then let them take over a little bit more each time. Just make sure that you don’t find yourself being the only one working while your kid is goofing off.

Have bins for their toys

The majority of the time, the reasons your kid’s room is messy is because they don’t pick up after themselves after playtime. So, try to have a storage system for all of your child’s toys and stuffed animals. Then, try and encourage them to clean up after themselves every time playtime is over so that there isn’t an enormous mess by the end of the week.

Use incentives

We don’t like to bribe our kids to clean their rooms, but sometimes a little candy or money afterward doesn’t hurt. You could even offer a reward for cleaning their room for entire month in order to keep them going.

With these ideas in mind, it should no longer be a battle to get your child to clean their room each week. Plus, once a room is cleaned, there’s plenty more space to store a few more toys or stuffable animals. So, if you’re looking to add a stuffable animal to your child’s collection, take a look at the selection we have at The Zoo Factory today!

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All About Stuffed Animal Therapy

September is National Recovery Month, a time meant to educate Americans on substance use treatment and mental health services. That’s why we at The Zoo Factory wanted to celebrate National Recovery Month by spreading the word about the benefits of stuffed animal therapy to those in need.

What is stuffed animal therapy?

With pet therapy, dogs or other animals help people recover from and manage their mental illnesses. Stuffed animal therapy works in similar ways. The comfort brought by a stuffed animal can soothe people after a traumatic event and can provide companionship when they need it most.

It helps people cope with trauma

Stuffed animals are often given to young children after a traumatic event like a car crash or surgery. Why? Because cuddling with a stuffed animal can often calm children down. The texture of the stuffed animal is comforting, and just the feeling of having a friend close by will help kids who feel isolated after a traumatic event.

It provides companionship

Many mental health issues can stem from a feeling of loneliness. Stuffed animals, however, can be a constant companion to someone in need. Even if you have days where you’re struggling to get out of bed, seeing your stuffed animal beside you may be exactly what you need to step out and get ready or the day.

You’re given something to care for

Just as stuffed animals can act as our companions, they’re also something that we can care for day in and day out. By being responsible for something, you’re given a purpose to get up and do your daily routine each day.

Needless to say, stuffed animals can be a great source of comfort to the people who need it most. So, if you or someone you know is going through some hard times, consider getting them a stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory.