These DIY Toys May Give Build-A-Bear a Run for the Money

Child's Own
There's an unwritten rule in our house: no more stuffed animals. However, today's column explores two stuffed animal ideas for which I may be willing to make an exception.

I'd like to introduce you to Happy Toy Machine and Child's Own, two services that allow kids and parents to design and build their own stuffed animals online. You can work together to create a custom critter with a few clicks -- and the results are usually pretty darn cute.


Happy Toy Machine is a website that lets you select styles, colors, and embroidery for your custom monsters. The process is much like the traditional Build-A-Bear experience in that you choose arms, legs, heads, and bodies for your toy and then put him or her together on the screen.

Once you're done with your design, the Happy Toy Factory cuts the fabric, stuffs your doll, and sends it along in about a week. You can also build multiple dolls for entire classes of students or you can create a smaller doll as a party favor for a child's birthday.

Happy Toy Machine
The service builds all the toys in the U.S., and you can choose from multiple styles including robot, bear, puppy, and "surprise," a random toy made of all sorts of weird parts.

The toys cost $29.99 for a 10- to 15-inch-tall doll and $49 for the larger-sized dolls (20 to 26 inches). The dolls are completely customizable; there's no extra charge for body parts, embroidery, and decorations.

Child's Own allows for considerably more creativity. The company will make a nearly exact copy of your child's drawing in 3D plush. Does the drawing have hair? They'll add fluffy hair. Is the drawing wildly colored? They'll do their best to make it match.

Run by a single toymaker in Vancouver, Child's Own charges a fee per toy along with a $15 shipping charge in the U.S. Expect to pay about $100 for complex toys. You can email her for a quote and let her know how you want the toy to look. She can smooth out weird drawings or change the critter slightly to make it more realistic.

DIY toys could be great gifts that are a bit more creative and heartfelt than something from one of the big retail chains. That's not to say Junior won't eventually want video games and Legos, but giving him something he designed himself may be more satisfying than another Thomas playset.

Would you dare to make your own toy for your kid?

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