Anyone who knows me will know that I am a BIG fan of Ikea! Pretty much all our furniture (and everything else!) comes from Ikea. I’m sat here typing on my Ikea bed, with my Ikea mattress, which has Ikea storage boxes under, next to our Ikea bed-side tables, on which I have an Ikea glass, opposite me I have my Ikea fitted PAX wardrobes and my Ikea mirror and shelving unit, I can also see two rolls of Ikea wrapping paper, an Ikea bin and one of those Ikea lanterns that EVERYBODY has…and not to mention every possible combination of expedit/kallax and storage boxes possible that we have in the rest of the house… (you get the picture!)

Before Ted was born, we used to go visit Ikea (it’s a 30min drive from our house) every other weekend. In fact the night my water’s broke I waddled around Ikea buying bits and pieces for Christmas.

The main reason we go is because we ALL enjoy it! Shopping with children is difficult. Shopping with two children, one of whom has complex needs and gets overwhelmed in public is extremely difficult. However Ikea works for us all. There’s structure, things don’t change too much, the music isn’t too loud, other people aren’t too close, there are strategically placed food points (cafe in the middle and hotdog bar at the end) and the children’s play area is fantastic too!Toby and Teddy in IKEA together – probably about this time last year!

I had to think twice about writing this blog as I think the playarea in Ikea is one of the best kept secrets around here. I’ll let you in to our secret…Joel and I go to Ikea for some respite. Toby gets an hour in the playarea which allows us an hour to ourselves, to wander about, look at things we don’t particularly need, chat and catch up and even sometimes have breakfast – we still have Teddy but he’s easily entertained – it’s great and it’s free!

The playarea (called Småland) is Ofsted registered and is run by trained nursery staff. They offer an hour’s free play for children aged 3 and up (so one day Teddy can go too!) And in our experience they have been fantastic with children with additional needs. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and very accommodating. They lower their adult to child radios for Toby coming in so that it’s quieter and they can give him one-to-one support if he needs it. We also have a direct number to phone up before hand to let them know he is coming in so he doesn’t have to queue and so they have a space ready for him. So as we were in first thing this morning we rang up last night and he was the first child in this morning. They allow him to wear ear defenders and take a toy to chew and they just pager us on the lanyard that we’re given if there is a problem. And it’s free – now that is good customer service!

They also have a playground outside, food options that don’t change too much in the cafe (chips = happy Toby) there’s also no wandering up and down aisles looking for things – there’s one route that you follow round the whole shop (plus a few little shortcuts if you know it well enough) it’s also not too loud, bright or smelly all of which is really helpful if you have ASD!  Boys in the playground day – this was after Teddy fell head first out of the trolley next door in Aldi – all before 9:30am this morning (he’s fine Praise God!)

All in all a great place to go…even if you do even up spending a fortune on things you don’t really need just to get an hour’s ‘free’ respite!