Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stuffed Animal + Reading = FUN!!

My son is in Pre-K and both my husband and I are "readers," so our son has grown up seeing us with books all the time. We've read books to him since he was an infant, and I can honestly say it's his favorite time of the day. He loves his books, and he's also a kid who loves stuffed animals, so we've found an awesome toy for him.  (And that doesn't drive us insane; I HATE those darn Kung Zhu hamsters!)

Hallmark's Cooper the Bear is an Interactive Story Buddy.  He currently has 3 story books out: Cooper's Big Bear Hug, Cooper's Rainy Day and Cooper's Bedtime.  The bear responds to certain sentences in the books as you read, and it's so cute. James already gets very "into" every story, but with Cooper, it's even more exciting for him.

It took us about a half-hour of fiddling with the on/off switch on Cooper's ear, but after that we had no problems. One of the phrases that triggers a response is "Cooper, I love you!" As such, my son now says it to the bear ALL the time. The bear responds back with "I love you too", and James just giggles and gets excited.  If he were a girl, I'd say that it tickles him pink, but he's not, so that would be weird.  And really, no child can ever hear "I love you!" too much, so it's his building self-esteem as well.

Regardless of the talking aspect, Cooper is a well-made, soft teddy bear. He does have a battery pack inside him, covered with his fur by Velcro, so I would only recommend this toy to children old enough to understand to leave it alone. The battery pack also has a master on/off button, so you can turn him off at bedtime, for example, to save the batteries. The toy takes 3 AA batteries.

I got the bear's 1st book for free by buying Cooper (a whopping $29.95) and the other 2 books are already out and cost $9.95 each. There's also an iPhone app, but I have no idea how that works. The 1st book, "Cooper's Big Bear Hug," is sweet and has a positive message. I'm sure the other titles are the same.

I think this toy is a good way to get kids interested in reading.  I give Cooper and his 1st book a full 5 stars. And like I said, if you buy the bear at a Hallmark store right now, the first book is free. With 2 more titles already out and the promise of more as the year progresses, I think this is a good investment.

There is also another Reading Buddy, Watson the Raccoon.  The same promotion is available right now for him as well: buy Watson and his 1st book is free.  Watson also has 2 other books, just like Cooper.

My only real complaint about Cooper (and Watson, who is very likely to end up in our house as well) is that you can only get them from going into a Hallmark store.  I applaud the idea of promoting local businesses and small business owners, but since we live way out "in the sticks," it requires a 40 minute drive to get to a Hallmark store.  Obviously not a trip we make every day, or week, or even a month!  I searched online for these reading buddies and their storybooks, but only a private seller on has them, and they're greatly overpriced.  (Cooper, for example, is $10 more, and without his free book, so really it's $20 more for the bear and a book.  Watson sells for $45.  This is unfortunately typical for Amazon's private sellers; at Christmas it's quite common for "hot" toys to be as much as $100 over the retail price.)

Why, in this day and age, does Hallmark not have an online store??  I really don't understand it.  They sell cards and invitations and such online, but to me, those are the things you can buy in Wal-Mart or the grocery store.  Anyway, I actually had a huge rant going about it but I can sum it up as this: Hallmark, PLEASE create an online store!
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