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CES 2010: How kids play today… in the real and virtual world

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The line between the way children play in the real world and connect in the virtual world is becoming more and more blurred: this is according to the Build-A-Bear Workshop which extends its social interaction from the physical store through to the virtual world.

Build-A-Bear Workshop, the interactive entertainment retailer of customised stuffed animals, announced new data that supports an evolution in how kids play and connect in their real and virtual worlds.

With over 200 virtual worlds for kids in existence or in development today, Build-A-Bearville is one of the only virtual worlds for kids integrated with actual retail store locations in the United States. Build-A-Bearville, launched in December 2007, enhances the experience of Build-A-Bear Workshop, extending the social engagement that begins in the store with the creation of each new furry friend.

‚Because of the unique perspective with our real world stores and the extension into our virtual world we see firsthand, how kids blend the way they play. This new generation of kids is changing the boundaries of play between traditional and virtual types of interaction,‚ said Dave Finnegan, Build-A-Bear Workshop chief information and logistics bear.

Finnegan is a featured panellist and presenter at the 2010 Kids@Play children’s technology program at the Consumer Electronics Show.

An example of how soft touch and high tech experiences can result in total brand engagement is demonstrated by recent survey results from Build-A-Bear Workshop:

Finnegan discussed this topic as part of his presentation on the Build-A-Bear Workshop virtual world, Build-A-Bearville.

‚The interactivity of the in-store Build-A-Bear Workshop experience is the foundation for our Guest engagement with Build-A-Bearville,‚ said Maxine Clark, Build-A-Bear Workshop founder and chief executive bear. ‚Today’s kids want to combine their experiences and the friendships they develop in the real world with those in the virtual world. This process is seamless for them and a part of their everyday lives. Our aim is to provide positive real and virtual world experiences to reflect children’s imaginations and natural interest in learning, sharing and having fun.‚

Since opening its first store in 1997, the company has had a tradition of encouraging child and parent input to help guide the business. The first Cub Advisory Board, started in l997, was comprised of children ages five through 18, who offered their suggestions on products, services and programs. This group evolved to its present online form, and incorporated the Jr. CyBearGuide program, which allows qualified, safety trained members to answer questions, and give online tours for buildabearville.com. The Build-A-Bearville Parent Advisory Panel was formed in 2008 to give input on products, services, in store and online programs and features. The online safety program is an example of this collaboration, developed in conjunction with parents, teachers, children and industry experts with ‚how to‚ information and tips for playing safe online. In 2008, Build-A-Bearville received the I-Parenting Award and in 2009 Build-A-Bearville earned the WiredKids Best of the Web – Award sponsored by WiredSafety.org and was honoured with the 2009 Socially Safe Seal and Socially Safe Kids Seal from SociallySafe.org.

Build-A-Bear Workshop believes in the teddy bear philosophy of being good people and good bears by emphasising programs that mirror community service in both its real and virtual worlds. A recent example is the Toys for Tots partnership which triggered over 100,000 toys given to the U.S. Marines to distribute to children across the country this past holiday. The company gives guests a voice in supporting the causes that are important to them and through its corporate donations and foundation grant programs has given more than $25 million to children’s health and wellness, animals, literacy and other important causes.

With new games and expanded content added frequently, Build-A-Bearville adds value by providing a variety of fun, educational and engaging content for kids and making the experience in both the real and virtual space better than ever. Whether it’s The Chloe Show, featuring exclusive interviews with favourite celebrities, interacting with other kids in one of the mini games or quests, or attending special events, the ‚world’ is continuously changing with creative, fresh and original experiences to stay relevant to kids.

‚Children and their parents have helped us develop a space that combines fun, learning and community service. We are in a new world of play for kids and we want Build-A-Bearville to be one of their top choices,‚ said Finnegan. ‚We are committed to partner with parents, technology experts and other leading industry organisations to provide great value and high quality experience while making the space a safe and fun virtual extension of kids’ real world experience.‚

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