Spreading Holiday Cheer... and Zhu Zhu Pets
Zhu Zhu Pets have invaded our playroom. One hundred and four of these mechanical hamsters arrived at our home a couple of weeks ago, and they've been blocking up the heating vents and hindering our cleaner's ability to do a good job ever since. What are they doing here, you ask? Did I mistakenly type in an extra zero when ordering holiday presents? Was this my compensation for being interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle about the Zhu Zhu Pets phenomenon? Have I decided to go into the toy store business? Or have I finally given in to my kids' desire to own a menagerie of Zhu Zhu Pets?
Actually, the answer is None of the Above; they were given to me by the manufacturer, Cepia LLC, to donate as part of their holiday charity drive, Random Acts of Zhu. When I was invited to join the program, I could barely contain my excitement. It's not every day one gets the chance to play Santa Claus or Oprah!
Besides, I already knew the perfect place to donate them: Haven Family House, a family shelter about ten minutes' drive from where we live. A friend of mine organizes birthday parties for the resident children every month; she recruits co-hosts to cover party costs (food, drinks, cake, paper goods and a touch of party decor) and takes donations of new or gently-used books as presents for kids celebrating their birthdays that month. I've volunteered as a face painter at one or two parties, and I've always gotten way more out of it than I've given. The families who stay at these shelters don't have much to call their own, and it's touching to see that something as simple as pizza, cake and a rainbow on their cheek can make them feel special. This time, instead of painting faces, I thought, why not hand out Zhu Zhu Pets?
My friend loved the idea, and put me down for a November/December birthday party with 30 guests. She has a heart of gold and the nurturing instincts of a mother hen, and boy did she combine the two when she made the stroke-of-genius suggestion that our own kids help out at the party. We recruited our 9 year-olds, our 6 year-olds and a couple of their friends to hand out the Zhu Zhu Pets and organize party activities.
I have to say, I'm really proud of our daughters for the way they took charge of this party and made it magical for the children at the shelter. Rather than handing the Zhu Zhu Pets out at the end of the party, the girls decided to make Zhu Zhu Pets the focus of the party. Instead of party games, our girls decided to share the activities that they enjoy doing with their own Zhu Zhu Pets: making cardboard houses for them, making little outfits for them, letting them loose in a hamster run and letting them run races. Our girls spent the entire weekend before the party preparing a variety of Zhu Zhu Pet stations: they collected cardboard boxes for houses, printed out pet adoption certificates, and created cardboard racetracks.
At the party, the girls opened up the boxes and laid all 30 Zhu Zhu Pets out so that the party guests could choose which one they wanted.
After each party guest chose her hamster, The Pea wrote out an "adoption certificate" with the child's name and the name of her new hamster pet (each Zhu Zhu Pet has a name out of the box but some kids wanted to christen their pets with different names).
We brought along some of our Zhu Zhu and Kung Zhu playsets and set it up in a corner so the party guests could let their new pets scamper through the hamster runs and do battle in the arena.
The paper racetrack was a big hit!
The party guests had a blast taping up cardboard beds, cutting out tissue blankets, decorating paper walls and creating a cardboard pet home -- just like our kids do. I guess it doesn't matter where a child comes from, what language he speaks, what car his parents drive or what place he calls home; give him a cardboard box and he'll find a way to play with it.
I had a great time at the party, and I'd like to think that 30 children did too. Actually, make that 38 children. Our kids and their friends couldn't stop talking about how much fun it was helping out and how nice it was to see how happy the party guests were. I can't think of a more enjoyable way to learn the important lesson that giving can be just as wonderful as receiving!
Click here for more photos of the party. Oh, and by the way, I've only given away 30 Zhu Zhu Pets so I've still got 74 to donate. If you want to make like Oprah, click here to help me decide where they should go!
Disclaimer: I received no form of compensation for this post or my participation in the Random Acts of Zhu program. With the exception of the Zhu Zhu Pet toys, all party expenses were incurred by me and my friend.