IKEA

Location:  6000 IKEA Way, Merriam, KS 66202  (I35 & Johnson Drive–the big blue & yellow store is hard to miss.)

Cost:  FREE!

Web Site: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/store/merriam

Overview:

I admit it:  I’m an IKEA lover.  Efrit and I have been fans since Dr. V took us to the Baltimore IKEA way back before Peanut was even a twinkle, and I’ve been praying for an IKEA to open up somewhere in a reasonable driving range ever since.   Recently, my prayers were answered, and IKEA opened a store super-close to my house.

This past Friday, we decided to check out our new store, and discovered even more beautiful things about IKEA:

Sprout and Peanut sit at one of the child-sized tables in the IKEA cafeteria.

Sprout and Peanut sit at one of the child-sized tables in the IKEA cafeteria.

We started out our evening by visiting the IKEA cafeteria.  In the family area of the cafeteria, there are child-sized tables and chairs that were the perfect size for Sprout and Peanut.  Peanut was super-excited to be sitting at a table that fit him!

We also found that the cafeteria has carts that are designed to hold three trays each, so a child can help push the food to your table (I don’t recommend this if you have beverages on the tray), or, more importantly, help put things on the trays and take them off again.  Peanut and Sprout were both big fans of this, since they were able to help out.  I’m a fan of the tray carts from a logistical perspective:  one of our first issues at school this year was figuring out how on earth one carries a tray in the cafeteria while also using a cane.  The carts solve this problem nicely.

Efrit sits in the Family Bathroom.

Efrit sits in the Family Bathroom.

We discovered, to our delight, that IKEA understands that parents and children have to use the potty–together.  Seriously, this was a highlight of our trip.  First, we discovered that a “Family Bathroom” at IKEA is really a “Family Bathroom.”  It’s not just bigger–it’s actually designed for multiple people of multiple ages.  There were toys attached to the wall for little people to amuse themselves at, a seat tucked against the wall for babies that are too little to stand (this solves that parenting problem of using the facilities yourself while holding an infant–the chair gives you someplace to put them other than the floor), a chair to sit in or nurse in, stools to help kids reach the facilities, and even a diaper kit dispenser.

Even the “regular” bathrooms had kids in mind:  there was a sink that was sized so kids could reach it easily to wash their hands all by themselves.  This was huge for my kids:  they love being independent, and the store made that possible for them by simply having a sink installed at an appropriate height.

One of the kids' "play stations" scattered throughout the store.

One of the kids’ “play stations” scattered throughout the store.

As we explored the store, we found that there were child “play spots” anywhere an adult might sit to wait:  if there are computers, for instance, for adults to look up merchandise on, there will be a child-station nearby.

Smaland's rules and regulations

Smaland’s rules and regulations

Peanut’s favorite part of the store, however–and a part that has had him asking daily if we can go back to IKEA–is Smaland.  Smaland is a children’s play area where you can drop off your child for free babysitting while you browse the store.  Parents are given a beeper and a claim ticket, and children are allowed to run around in a kids-only play area with IKEA coworker supervision; non-IKEA-employed adults aren’t allowed to enter Smaland.

Peanut reports that the following activities are available in Smaland:

  • Fir trees that you can run around and hold on to.  When you let go, the trees spin the opposite direction of the direction you ran in.
  • A ball pit.  (This was closed when we were there.)
  • A giant shoe to climb in.  It has “a little slide in it.  You can side down inside the shoe, and slide on the top.”
  • A place to color–it looked like a giant tree trunk with little stumps set around it (I could see this from the door).
  • Movies.  The movie screen is set in a cloud, and you watch the movies from a raised area that has beanbags and soft things to sit and lay on.

Evaluation:

Admittedly, the main reason to go to IKEA is to go shopping.  It is also, however, a great place to do some at-home O&M and get your child to experience a wide variety of spaces in one convenient location.  IKEA does mock-ups of living spaces using their products, so your child can feel the difference of different types of flooring (wood, tile, etc.) and navigate a variety of living spaces.  There are escalators and elevators, and a great deal of ground to navigate, so it’s a good place to work on cane skills.

As an adult shopper, IKEA may be more difficult.  On the bright side, everything is very hands-on:  you can touch and manipulate anything you want, and you are encouraged to do so.  On the down side, the market at the bottom is enormous and somewhat confusing, and the furniture pick-up area is not navigable without a sighted guide to read the item numbers and help you navigate the warehouse.  We didn’t actually purchase anything this trip–the checkout was woefully understaffed–but I question how easy the items would be to put together without significant adaptive aids.  (I don’t have any IKEA instructions handy, so I can’t say how easy they are to read or follow–but I would want to check the instructions with my adaptive aids before I bought anything.)

Tips and Tricks:

  • For the love of little blue bunnies, do not go on the weekend.  Don’t go on a Friday night, either.  It’s a madhouse.  (In a few months, this may not be the case–but 8 days post-opening, it was insane.)
  • If you’re going on an O&M outing, go during the day on a weekday when the crowds are less so you can really move around and explore.  If you’re wanting to develop crowd skills, the weekends would be a good choice.
  • Sign up for IKEA Family.  It’s free, and you get all sorts of benefits:  an extra 30 minutes of time for your kids in Smaland, free coffee/tea in the cafeteria, and discounts.
  • If you’ve pre-signed-up for IKEA Family (or if you’re just signing up in-store), go upstairs to get your card.  There’s a kiosk to the left in the children’s area, and the line there is much, much shorter.
  • Depending on your vision, consider taking a sighted friend.  The bottom of the store is challenging to navigate (it was overwhelming for me, but we were there with large crowds and two tired kiddos), and if you find something you want to buy (IKEA is notorious for having tons of things you didn’t know you needed), the friend can be helpful for navigating the warehouse quickly and easily.
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