A birthday party at Build A Bear
My daughter, Scarlett, has done quite badly for birthday parties so far in her life. Not only is she the youngest of 3 who are quite close in age, but her birthday is in June just a few days after my son’s, who is our oldest and much more vocal about his birthday dreams. Last year they ‘shared’ a 3rd and 7th beach party which took place in 40-degree heat and involved 5 of her little friends cowering in a corner as 25 of his charged around in a feral stampede. ‘Their’ cake was a Minion one. I’m not entirely sure she knew what a Minion was.
Anyway, this year I was determined that it was going to be all about her. I was also determined not to spend the party dripping in sweat which, in June, seriously narrows your options. Thankfully Scarlett had only one, thankfully air-conditioned, wish and that was for a party at Build-A-Bear. If you’re not familiar with Build-A-Bear the idea is that children get to make their own soft toy from scratch, doing everything from choosing it’s ‘skin’, to stuffing it, inserting it’s heart, naming it and pledging to be its best friend for life. Oh, and potentially buying it a wardrobe to rival a Kardashian’s (seriously, they have roller skates!). As well as different bears there’s also a wide range of other popular characters including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and My Little Ponies.
When I nervously enquired about how much this was going to cost I was genuinely amazed to discover that they don’t charge an additional fee for the 1.5 hour long party. There is a minimum requirement of 6 children and you simply set the budget per child. Animal skins start from 65 dirhams and go up to 135. If you choose to include accessories then the sky’s the limit but the staff will only present party goers with options that are within budget.
When we showed up at the Dubai Mall store I was delighted to find that it was already decorated with balloons. Scarlett’s 12 friends arrived and it was straight down to business. We had 3 lovely ladies hosting the party and I honestly wish I knew what they had for breakfast because their energy was amazing! The children were engaged in, and entertained by, every stage of the making process. There were stories, songs, games and several parades around the shop. I can’t over-state the frenzy of excitement that results from telling a bunch of 4 year olds they can choose whichever animal they want (we decided they could have any skin but no accessories!). Scarlett chose a Captain America bear. Obviously.
Next came the heart ceremony during which Scarlett gave each of her friends 2 little pink hearts. The children were asked to take one, make a birthday wish for Scarlett and kiss the heart. Each one was then placed inside her bear. My husband and I did the same – cue lots of blinking and swallowing hard (and that was just him)! The children’s remaining heart went in to their own bear. It was the sweetest thing! The whole party was fabulous and the birthday girl loved every minute.
We could have brought the cake to Build-A-Bear but had decided to do all the food at The Rainforest Cafe although I hadn’t anticipated how stressful it would be to get 13 excited children and their newly stuffed animals through the Mall at 2.30pm on a Saturday. The phrase ‘herding cats’ springs to mind. Anyway, we managed it without losing anyone and the children’s eyes lit up as they stared up at the animals dotted around the restaurant. The Dubai Aquarium is also visible from inside which makes for some pretty spectacular viewing.
There was only mild terror when the rainforest ‘came to life’ for the first time during which thunder rolled and the animals all started moving. No one actually cried though so I’m calling that a win! I had grand plans to get everyone’s food requests in advance and order as we arrived but didn’t get round to it. In hindsight I would recommend doing this as it would have sped everything up a bit. Apparently 4 year olds are much more decisive bear choosers than diners!
The kids’ menu priced at 45dhs per child included a drink, the usual favourites of burgers, pizzas and pasta and a variety of sides including healthy options such as vegetables and fresh fruit. When it was time to do the cake (made by me as part of my birthday guilt campaign), the staff provided everything we needed and 8 of them emerged with drums to sing Happy Birthday to our little lady.
Summer birthdays can be tricky when you live in the desert but I can honestly say that a Build-A-Bear party is a great option. We only required food at The Rainforest Cafe, but they also provide a full party service priced at 149 per child. Scarlett had a magical day and I got to polish my Mummy halo for the first time in 4 years. Good times all round!