IKEA doesn’t always conjour the fondest of memories for most couples. Its taken you fifteen minutes to find a car parking space. You’re stuck in their one way system and you really need the toilet. There are trolleys and yellow tarpaulin bags everywhere, you’ve nearly slipped on one of those tiny pencils twice, and you’re not even sure what you came for anymore. You leave with a cabinet that is 50/50 going to fit in car, two rubber ice trays and a plant that will be dead by Thursday. Could this Swedish bank holiday nightmare really be a great place to take a baby? We visited IKEA Bristol with Ivor’s friends Daisy and Evelyn to find out.
The most important thing when choosing a place to take a baby let’s face it, is the cafe, so let’s start there. Before you even enter the cafe there are signs welcoming you to breastfeed anywhere in the store. IKEA also has private spaces for you to nurse if you prefer too. If you are bottle feeding there are bottle warmers available for you to use, as well as microwave for heating food. The highchairs are the fantastic IKEA Antilop chairs, which are kept immaculate by staff, even on a busy day. If you prefer to use your own travel chair, the tables are compatible with a bolt-on chair like the Phil & Ted’s Lobster, and most booster seats will work well. However IKEA’s chairs have quite a large space between the seat and the back rest, so a younger child might have trouble using the cloth style travel baby seats.
Food at IKEA is extremely affordable, with most meals coming in under £5, often around the £3.50 mark. Even better than that coffee is only £1.50 (with refills), and only 50p with an IKEA family card. Kids meals are around £1.50 so a real bargain. If you’re taking a baby, not only do you get a free baby food pouch with every adult meal purchased, but you also get cups, bowls, cutlery and bibs provided!!! There is also a play area for older children and parents can keep a close eye by sitting on the bar style seating around it.
Tip: Get an IKEA Family card, not only does it give you discounts on IKEA goods, you get free insurance for breakages on the way home, and reduces the price of a coffee to 50p. It costs nothing to sign up.
Changing facilities are provided in private cubicles, and they were very clean and tidy. My only comment is that there is not enough of them for the number of visitors to the store, so even when the shop isn’t too busy, you might find you have a bit of a wait for a free cubicle. If you’re going at the weekend, pack your portable changing mat so you can do on the floor of the main toilets if necessary. The changing table is at a good height and has a safety strap so you can pee without having to put your baby down on the toilet floor. The hand dryers while efficient, are extremely loud, and Ivor got extremely upset when I accidentally set it off so beware…
The cafe is so large and well equipped that it’s a good place to bring a baby for lunch even if you have no shopping to do…but with such a great baby and child range, we of course took a wander around the store. Trust me, it’s a far more enjoyable experience when you’re not there to actually buy anything in particular!
Babies seem to love the trip around IKEA. It must be something to do with the ever changing scenery, but all three of them were perfectly behaved all the way around. Ivor didn’t even get stroppy when his buggy was stationary.
Tip: Use your buggy clips to hang a bag from your stroller for hands free shopping
Once we got to the toy section they all had a great time! There are so many soft toys to amuse them, and IKEA do a fantastic range of wooden toys that are much more aesthetically pleasing than the gaudy plastic versions you get elsewhere. We were all particularly impressed with the IKEA play kitchen, which I think Evelyn will definitely own in a few years time.
We all picked up some waterproof bibs, that start at as little as £2 for two. I also got some beaker cups for £2.50. it’s really is a great place to stock up on weaning essentials.
The range of baby and child furniture is also vast, with everything from cots, bunk beds, wardrobes and toy storage. We are fans of the STUVA bedroom furniture range which is affordable, modern and customisable.
In total we spent almost four hours at IKEA, and spent £25 in total (including food and everything I bought in the kids section). In terms of a day out it’s excellent value for money. As your kids get older, you can even benefit from the soft play area that available for those 3 and over meaning you can have your coffee in peace!
We will definitely be heading back IKEA in the future… And whilst Evelyn and Ivor had to make do with thier bibs and a dinosaur hand puppet this time, Daisy did a little better and went home with a brand new POÄNG chair.