It’s adoption day at the Pet Portrait Studio! (the story behind the toy)

Woof! Meow! Yippee! Introducing the Pet Portrait Studio magnetic building and storytelling set!

Get the poop scoop on this pawriffic set (BTW – this post was written by Laurie Peterson, the Founder of Build & Imagine and the inventor of our StoryWalls playset line. Any dog poop related humor is entirely attributable to her.)


Pet Portrait Studio Theme

Ethan and Anna are talented artists who have big hearts and a love for animals. They’ve invited the local shelter pets over to their art studio to help them prepare for adoption day by presenting each pet with a special portrait. Dress the pets in silly costumes and arrange for wacky scenes for Ethan and Anna to capture with their cameras and paintbrush. Then throw an adoption fair outside the studio.

What it includes

The Pet Portrait Studio includes 10 illustrated magnetic panels to build an artist studio, 4 wooden dress-up pets, two wooden dress-up artist dolls, and more than 40 magnetic costumes and props that stick to the dolls and one side of each panel wall (marked with a star). Watch a demo video.



The Pet Portrait Studio won a Parents’ Choice Gold award, and was selected for Amazon’s Hot Holiday Toy List. Shop for Pet Portrait Studio on Amazon.


Why we created this set

PlayinPets_195_webg with kids is an important part of our design process. We noticed that kids LOVED the pets that came as magnetic accessories in our original 3 playsets. My favorite example was a 4 year old girl I met at a Learning Express in-store demo day. She took the kitty from Malia’s Beach House, built a structure, and then announced, “uh oh, here comes naughty kitty!” Of course naughty kitty would cause mayhem everywhere she went and we kept rebuilding and storytelling to keep up with her path of destruction. Mom’s cheeks turned bright red as she reported that they DID have a naughty kitty at home.

Since kids were having so much fun with the pet magnets, I thought we should give them pets as wooden characters they can dress up and incorporate as a substantial part of their imaginative play! Thus, the wooden dress-up pets came to life. But then there was the matter of what setting to present them in.

What inspired the shelter pet / art studio themePet Portrait Studio Main

When Parents’ Choice awarded the Pet Portrait Studio with their prestigious gold award, they guessed as to why we created this theme: “Pets can’t take selfies.That may be why the newest Build & Imagine Storywall kit is a Pet Portrait Studio.” Read full review here.

Their hypothesis certainly made me giggle, but isn’t exactly on point.

Once we knew we wanted to include wooden dress-up pets, a few ideas quickly came to mind. Pet shops and parlors would be fun but didn’t feel socially responsible. A vet would be a good idea but Thea from our Marine Rescue Center takes care of this. So I decided we should do something more unexpected.

Laurie's dog Bruiser (on left) and his best friend Jack. Both were pound puppies,

Laurie’s dog Bruiser (on left) and his best friend Jack. Both were pound puppies,

I am passionate about helping rescue dogs. I’ve adopted 4 shelter dogs in my life. And think it’s important for kids to learn kindness to animals and the value of helping their community.

Art has also been an important part of my life. My mom is a painter and I got my college degree in art. In fact, after my dog Joomi died, my mom painted a wonderful portrait by which I remember him.

So I thought, let’s combine several things I care about: art and rescue pets! And let’s do it in a way that invites both girls and boys to build a scene rich with imaginative play possibilities: rescuing pets, bathing/feeding/walking pets, choosing costumes and props, painting, shooting and developing photographs, adopting pets, and raising money for charity.

Along the way, kids can extend their language learning through storytelling, and develop foundation STEM skills as they build scenes for their stories. Perhaps they will practice a few howls, growls, meows, and slithering snake sounds too.

Shop for Pet Portrait Studio on Amazon.



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