02/03/2014 05:38 pm ET Updated Apr 05, 2014

Building Bears, Building Relationships

Most well intentioned parents struggle with today's consumer culture. Many brands and stores are aiming advertising right at our children. They know our kids have their own electronic devices and are online. In fact, I am continuously shocked to hear how many of my son's friends are on YouTube alone or have cell phones or post to Facebook by themselves. Our son is nine. So for a parent who wants their child to have a more meaningful experience of life and childhood, it often feels difficult to find heart connected activities, relationships and products. That's why, as a mom, I was so happy when Build a Bear Workshop recently decided to help give families a more loving and generous Valentine's Day.

This February, we can make Valentine's Day more than a kiss and a card or even a sweet treat. Step away from the flimsy Despicable Me Valentine's Day cards or the Valentine's Day pencil toppers. As parents, we can do better than to give our kids throw away tokens of love. Now through March 31, Build A Bear Workshop and the Make a Wish Foundation have teamed up to help families in need. This season when families head to Build a Bear stores for Valentine's day, the experience of creating their bear will be a little richer. If you have been to a Build A Bear store you know that one of the first steps to creating your lovable friend is the heart ceremony. During this time a sweet little heart is placed into the chest of the child's new friend. For the next two months in stores nationwide when children are asked to kiss the heart of their bear they will also be asked to make a wish for someone else, a child who needs a prayer and a warm thought sent their way. In a society that struggles to be empathetic, this is the kind of loving experience that many of our children need. It's an experience that lifts them out of pure consumerism and strives to teach about generosity of spirit.

According to most Americans, Valentine's day has grown rather platonic and when I caught up to the CEO of Build a Bear Workshop, Sharon John, she agreed. Valentine's Day is their biggest holiday, but not with boyfriends stuffing bears for unsuspecting girlfriends. Many of Build a Bear's clientele around Valentine's Day are families, fathers and daughters, mothers and kids and grandparents all looking to spread a little love. It seems Valentine's Day has become more about showing your closest friends and families that you care rather than sharing courtly love.

Maxine Clark, founder of Build a Bear Workshop, built the company on the principle that we, as humans, need relationships. We not only need the ones that we build through human interactions, but we also need the ones that we create in our imaginations. Interestingly enough, this feeling of imaginary friendship never ceases. Adults and children have continued to resonate throughout Build A Bear's tenure with the rewarding experience of building and then falling in love with their very own bear.

Clark had a vision for a company that would revive the kind of old fashioned fun that many kids had lost, as well as give back to the community. Clark believed that no matter the speed of the world around us, children and adults would benefit from a having a good old fashioned teddy bear, as well as the relationship that would bloom from the experience of creating this special friend.

Build a Bear Workshop and Make a Wish Foundation are offering families a truly teachable moment, a chance to reach beyond the bounds of candy, cards and chocolate. Through the "Million Hearts, Million Wishes, Million Ways to Help" effort, guests in Build a Bear Workshop stores will be able to take a photo of their special Make a Wish teddy upon completion. With parent permission these photos can be shared through Build a Bear social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. For every photo shared Build a Bear Workshop will donate $1 to the Make a Wish Foundation. Each photo posted can be tagged with #sharebabwwishes.

If you're a parent looking to help your kids dig a little deeper to find empathy and compassion, then take a trip over to the nearest Build a Bear Workshop store and spend a few minute building one of this sweet teddies. Your children and the lives of many other children will benefit from the tender time taken to create, build and share in a new relationship.