There are a number of themes you can choose including 'out of this world' (aliens, monsters and dinosaurs) farm animals (cows, horses, bunnies, ducks and lambs), jungle animals (lions, tigers, elephants and monkeys) and pampered pets (various cats and dogs). Alternatively, you can choose a colour theme with brown teddy bears, pink and purple toys (perfect for a hen's night, perhaps?), coloured bears or rainbow toys.
Each kit will contain at least three different types of animal from the theme. I chose the 'unique animal' theme for my daughter and received elephants, pandas and giraffes.
How does it work? When you book a Stufflers party you receive the empty animal skins, flat packed wagons for each child, birth certificates, 'love' and plenty of stuffing for all your animals. Included in the price is also the hire of a Stufflers stuffing machine, which you use at home to fill the toys.
Bookings are done centrally, but all parties are organised by your local franchisee, such as Angela from Stufflers Floreat. You need to collect your stuffing machine and goodies before the party, and return the machine afterwards, or everything can be delivered for a fee.
Is there any sewing involved? No. The toys are cleverly designed so there is a fabric tube into which the stuffing nozzle is inserted. When full, you simply pull the thread to tighten, and then zip up the back and snip the thread. Done.
After pass-the-parcel all the kids found their very own wagon and toy
Does someone come to run the party for me? Na, uh. This is strictly a DIY party. I would recommend having at least two adults during the party so that one manages the stuffing machine while the other helps with the 'love' and zipping and snipping.
I would also recommend planning the collection and drop-off of the machine for a time when you don't have too many kids in the car. The machine comes in two pieces and are theoretically able to be lifted by most people, but they're pretty bulky and pretty heavy.
If you have to lug the machine upstairs, I would reconsider, also if you are hugely pregnant, have back problems or generally don't like lifting things. Or just ask for it to be delivered.
What is this 'love' you keep talking about?'
The kit includes little bits of padded love, which the child inserts into their toy before it is zipped up. This is the bit where the child declares its undying love for their new toy or perhaps makes a wish, depending on what type of child they are.
What if there is no Stufflers franchise near me?
If you don't have a franchise near you, you can still order a hand-stuff party. Everything including the stuffing is posted to you and the kids can use chopsticks or wooden spoons to stuff the toys by hand. You might need a little extra adult supervision (and patience) for this one.
How much does it cost
For the basic 8 person party pack with no extras, it will cost $195. This is less than $25 per party guest and will entertain a roomful of kids for a couple of hours and save you the trouble of worrying about goody bags at the end. The toys are really good quality too, very cuddly and soft.
Larger parties are $275 for 12 guests and $370 for 18 guests.
You can also buy extras for your party, such as beating hearts or recordable voice chips (8 for $45, 12 for $65) and outfits so your new toys don't go home naked ($99 for 8 outfits). The outfits are actually really good value when you look at what you get for your $12.50. Check out the PJs options (again, how good would that be for a hen's party?).
How much work is actually involved? Can I really do 'stuff all'?
Ah, no. Actually, it depends on the age of the party guests. The wagons need to be assembled and I would suggest an adult does it before the party, unless the kids are older and capable of following the rather detailed instructions. They're not difficult to put together, but I wouldn't think kids less than 8 would be able to do it without a considerable amount of adult supervision.
An adult also needs to be in control of the stuffing machine, although all the kids will want a turn to put their foot on the pedal to make the stuffing come out.
The most minimal effort is to simply hand out animal skins at the beginning of the party, letting the kids choose one, or stick them in a pillow case and everyone pulls one out. Or, if you are a control freak like me, you can wrap them up and distribute them to guests via a rigged pass-the-parcel game. More effort, less fighting.
I also put the numbers 1-8 on bits of paper and had the kids pull one out of a hat at random, so they knew what order their toys would be stuffed. It only takes 3 or 4 minutes to stuff each toy, but for the kids who come last, it can feel like forever waiting for their new friend.
What else do I need to know?
The booking system is centralised and you get a party password so that you can email or print invites, and guests can RSVP online. The online RSVP is essential for kids getting a personalised birth certificate for their new toy, but the party host can do this on everyone's behalf.
You can print the birth certificates at home, or your party host can do it for you. When I collected my kit, Angela had already printed the birth certificates for my party.
The nozzle is the perfect height to poke pre-schoolers in the eye, so when you set the machine up, make sure you turn the nozzle towards the wall, or wrap the end in a towel.
It also blows warm air as the stuffing is pumped into the toy. It means that whoever is in charge of the stuffing machine can get quite hot, unless you are clever enough to turn the machine so it faces away from you.
What if I run out of stuffing?
What if I run out of patience?
You won't. The kids love the idea of making their own toy, and the fact they are hands on, get to write the birth certificate and name their toy is priceless. Put out some stickers and textas so kids can decorate their wagons while they wait.
Anything else I need to know?
After the party was finished and all the happy kids took their new toys home, I sat staring at the stuffing machine for a couple of days.
And I really wish I had bought my own toy to stuff.