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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.

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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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5 Ways to Destress During National Wellness Month

Relax or Stress Signs

The month of August is considered National Wellness Month, a time for people to focus on self-care and learn new techniques to better manage their stress. In honor of National Wellness Month, then, we’ve put together a quick list of ways you can destress from your hectic lifestyle.

Exercise

Countless studies have proven how physical activity can boost your mode and help you unwind. This doesn’t mean you have to go out running if you hate running. Instead, find an activity that you enjoy—like walking or playing soccer—and stick with that.

Meditate

Just a few minutes of mindfulness each day can drastically change your mood and stress levels. Plus, meditation can be done anywhere, at practically any time, such as when you’re out for walk, when you’re sitting at your desk, when you’re waiting at the doctor’s office, and more.

Eat Well

Your diet impacts your mood. As much as we may love our ice cream sundaes, eating them everyday can have a serious impact on our health. However, by eating the right foods and taking in the right nutrients, you’ll have the energy to take on whatever life throws at you, including stress.

Go on vacation

Sometimes you need to completely unplug and get away from everything that stresses you out. While a multi-week getaway may not be possible for everyone, even just getting away from the office for a few days will help.

Cuddle with a pet or stuffed animal

Both animals and stuffed animals have been proven to help relieve and reduce stress, starting as early as childhood. There’s something about the comfort of cuddling with your pet or stuffed animals that automatically makes us feel calmer. While not everyone can have a pet, everyone can have a stuffed animal. So if you want to destress this month, consider getting a stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory!

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Ways to Relieve Stress on National Stress Awareness Day

girl resting under a tree with a teddy bear

We all know that life can be stressful. Balancing work or school, friends, family, and everything else is a daily chore; one which can sometimes feel overwhelming. But the key is learning to not let that stress control you. And that’s what National Stress Awareness Day, on April 16th, is all about: finding strategies to reduce that stress, and live a happier life.

Here are a few healthy habits to practice and ideas to reduce stress on National Stress Awareness Day.

Relieving Stress on National Stress Awareness Day

Keep a Journal

There are a number of benefits to keeping a daily journal of some sort—it’s great for time management, and helpful in strengthening your memory and your focus. But one benefit that often goes without mention is an alleviation of stress.  And it’s fun to keep a record of your experiences and memories, too!

Meditate

Meditation can come in many different forms, like yoga, sitting in silence, or leaving your phone in the other room while you concentrate. Whatever form it takes for you, a healthy meditation diet can do wonders to your stress levels. It lets you cleanse your mind of the day’s on-goings, and really focus on what’s in front of you.

Keep a Garden

This one is to all the folks who have any green space—be it a backyard, or park—close to them: get out there and garden! Planting flowers and taking care of a garden is one of the most proven strategies to reducing stress. Not only that, but it’s also great exercise. If you don’t have a backyard to plant in, get involved in your local community’s volunteer efforts.

Get a Stuffed Animal

To everyone here at The Zoo Factory, this one goes without saying. Having a stuffed animal by your side is a time-tested method of reducing stress, starting as early as childhood. Something about your favorite farm or jungle animal as a toy is just so comforting, and it’s no surprise that people of all ages love their stuffed animals.

At The Zoo Factory, we offer a wide selection of high-quality stuffed animals in all shapes and sizes for adults, and customized models and stuff-your-own-animal party packages for kids as well. So contact us today!

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Hosting a Valentine’s Day Teddy Bear Party

Teddy Bear with Hearts above it.

Each year as Valentine’s Day rolls around, we tend to think of the ones that mean the most to us. This includes not only our spouses and romantic others, but our best friends, our teammates, our coworkers, and even our parents. It’s a time to celebrate not only love, but the power of friendship and connection.

Here are some ideas on how you can share the sentiment of Valentine’s day with your friends, coworkers, and children this month.

Hosting a Valentine's Day Teddy Bear Party

Singles Night for the Ladies

Many people take the opportunity to center Valentine’s Day around good friends and family instead of romantic partners. The holiday isn’t just for the traditional and mushy candle lit dinner crowd, so make the season your own by hosting a singles party at your home, apartment, or an outside venue for the people who matter. Celebrate everyone’s uniqueness by opting for a more laid-back color palette in your party decor, like tangerine table cloths or turquoise hanging paper lanterns and encourage people to bring a gift to exchange, even if they don’t know each other, like a fun and trendy sloth stuffed animal or a painted wine glass. You never know, you might end up playing match maker by the end of the night!

Teddy Bear Party for Kids

Most children enjoy Valentine’s Day because they get to exchange the ever-famous valentine! A lot of time and creativity goes into the shopping for such a sweet sentiment, which is then distributed to classmates and best friends. A stuffed animal party, however, involves a little more interaction and allows your class or neighborhood to get more hands-on in the gift-making process. Set up bags around your classroom with each child’s name and let them drop goodies, stuffed animals, and hand-made cards into each one! The best gifts are the ones we make ourselves, so let your child’s creativity blossom!

Secret Admirer Gifts for the Office

You can feel the love in the air everywhere during the month of February, including at the office. Some people aren’t always into the gift-giving part of the season, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t brighten someone’s day by leaving them a special surprise at their desk. Is your boss going through a rough patch, or are you wishing to settle a work disagreement you had with a coworker not too long ago? When you give a gift anonymously, it takes the obligation off of the gift receiver and keeps them guessing with delight. Be sure to not leave anyone out, though; it only works if the whole office participates! That way, everybody receives a heartfelt morale boost.

Don’t forget: Beginning February 1st, you can claim 10% off all party kits and packages when you shop at The Zoo Factory for your Valentine’s Day party stash!

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Teddy Bears Bring Tears this Holiday Season

If you spend any amount of time on social media throughout the past week, you probably saw a lot of heart-warming stories.

One of our favorite “feel good” stories this holiday season involved, you guessed it: a teddy bear.

One story that took the world by storm last week was the story of Mariana and Sarahy Ramos, two little girls that received a teddy bear that brought them to tears minutes after pulling them out of their packaging. Their older sister recorded a video of them receiving the gift and shared it on Twitter, and the post went viral within minutes.  The video now has over 100,000 likes and 69,000 shares.

The Ramos girls lost their grandfather, Florencio Jimenez, last year under tragic. The girls Aunt Andrea purchased the two teddy bears for the girls as their Christmas gifts this year.

Both teddy bears contained an audio message that their aunt had pulled from a video recording of the girls grandfather before he passed.

The audio message inside of the bear was an inside joke that the girls had with their grandfather, following the sound of his laugh.

Their aunt wanted to give them something to remember their grandfather by and a cuddly teddy bear playing the the sound of his voice did the job.

When the young girls opened the gift on Christmas morning, they were immediately brought to tears Warning, you will be too after watching this clip.

The Zoo Factory also offers this feature, where you can record your own message to put inside of your bear of choice with a small recording device.

This is a perfect gift for a loved one for a birthday, a holiday, an anniversary, or just because.

Whether you are a young child saying “I love you” to your grandmother, or a grandmother saying “I love you” to a young child, it will be a priceless keepsake to your loved one.

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Hockey and Teddy Bears are the Perfect Pair

Hockey and Teddy Bears are the Perfect PairHockey is rough, aggressive, competitive, and strenuous sport. Teddy bears are soft warm, cozy, and sweet stuffed animals.

If you tried to list the similarities between hockey and teddy bears, you probably wouldn’t come up with much at all.

However, hockey and teddy bears have been making the perfect pair for decades.

Many minor and junior hockey teams in United States and Canada have made teddy bears a focus of their team during winter months.

Many hockey teams hold a “teddy bear toss” at one of their games during the holiday season.

Minor and junior hockey teams typically select one game where they encourage anyone attending to bring a teddy bear with them to the game. When the hockey game is finished, win or lose, the fans are encouraged to throw all of the teddy bears over the boards and onto the ice. The teddy bears are collected by the players and coaches and given to a good cause.

The teddy bears collected are donated to children at hospitals, local shelters, or charities in honor of the holiday season.

The teddy bear toss tradition has been going since the early nineties and it is still going throughout North America. Teams manage to collect hundreds to thousands of teddy bears during this event.

Below is a video of the Calgary Hitmen, a major junior ice hockey team out of Canada, receiving 17,601 teddy bears after a win at home.

The teddy bears collected during this even were able to be donate to 60 different local charities.

If you’re going to a teddy bear toss sometime soon, make sure you get your teddy bear from The Zoo Factory.

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Choosing the Perfect Stuffed Animal for Your Little One

The holiday season is quickly approaching and soon, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles will be searching for gifts for the children in their lives. In most cases, you can never go wrong with a stuffed animal. But how do you choose the right one for each of the special children on your list?

Classic Style

Think back to the childhood stuffed animal you shared all of your greatest adventures with. Chances are it was a classic teddy bear or another soft and snuggly animal like a rabbit or a dog. We recommend choosing a similar stuffed animal friend for your little one.

Sure, all of our children love the fun characters they watch on T.V., but it is unlikely that their adoration for this particular character will last. This is why a classic stuffed animal makes such a perfect gift. They will never go out of style, giving them the potential to remain your child’s best friend for years to come.

Neutral Color

Not sure what color stuffed animal your child will love most? Instead of choosing a bright color or wild pattern, opt for a neutral, natural color like brown or tan. This way, your child will be able to make their own choices with the stuffed animal, dressing then in fun costumes and clothing that match their own personal style.

Cuddly Soft

Another important factor when it comes to finding the perfect stuffed animal is how soft it is! Your child will want a stuffed animal friend that they can hug and snuggle when they need some extra support. And with a Zoo Factory stuffable animal, you will be able to choose exactly how much stuffing you use to create that cuddly feel!

As the holiday draw near and you start your shopping, head to The Zoo Factory to select the perfect stuffed animals (and outfits) from our online selection. We have everything you need to make this holiday season a special one for the children in your life.