Miss M has not yet worked out the difference between supermarkets and other retailers. To her, any large shop, is a supermarket. She refers, for example, to ‘her’ supermarket, by which she means the one with ‘her’ trolley (a kids’ sized shopping cart). Her favourite, however, is the ‘big blue supermarket’, known to the rest of the world as IKEA. My child loves IKEA.
Is it wrong for me as a mother to suggest that we go to ‘the big blue supermarket’ as an outing during spring break? If you ask Miss M what she wants to do on a weekend, for example, she will inevitably say ‘go to the zoo’ or ‘go to the big blue supermarket’. Still, should I be encouraging this blatant consumerism?
Should I promote an outing that I will enjoy as much as she will? One that has free childcare and yummy ice coffees for tired mums? Should I feel guilty about fostering Miss M’s love of IKEA and encouraging her to enjoy the things that I enjoy? Is it right for me to hide behind the notion that in teaching Miss M to assemble furniture I am encouraging an independent future with lots of DIY? Why do my feelings of guilt linger, or is that just the lactose in the ice coffee?
Why does my child love IKEA?
From Miss M’s perspective, there are a lot of things to love about IKEA. I can definitely see the appeal. None of this will be a surprise to IKEA itself, and it is unlikely to surprise many parents either. Yet is my child’s love for IKEA enough to justify frequent visits?
1. She knows good things come from IKEA
Miss M loves her bedroom, especially when it is clean. She walks around and tells me just how “beautiful” everything is, especially those things that she helped pick out or make. Many of these came from IKEA. She has the Minnen bed, the Hemnes chest of drawers and the Strandmon armchair. Other things that she uses regularly also came from IKEA, such as pink drinking glasses and pink frames for her artwork. In her eyes, these things are beautiful, because they are pink, but especially because she helped pick them out.
2. She feels at home at IKEA
I don’t know if this is a reflection of our home or IKEA’s clever product placement and displays, but Miss M feels at home at IKEA. Admittedly, we have many things from IKEA and there is definitely something positive about familiarity. She likes to go around pointing out products and declaring “that’s my bed” or “that’s my kitchen” – even though it has been hacked, Miss M still recognises the Duktig play kitchen. The cocooning lagom* that IKEA sells has got Miss M hooked.
*There have been whole books written about lagom, which seems to be the new lifestyle buzz word. It is a Swedish word meaning roughly “not too little, not too much” and is a lifestyle that encourages balance and mindfulness in everything you do. It combines cosiness and comfort with practicality and sustainability. While IKEA could use a bit more lagom with their packaging, they have been promoting a lagom lifestyle for decades. There are even IKEA live lagom groups.
3. She views IKEA as source of craft supplies
We have visited IKEA numerous times to buy supplies for a joint project. It is particularly useful for colourful or large pieces of paper, felt-tip pens, beads for necklaces and sorting, glass jars, and containers for dog biscuit Christmas presents. They are also the source of the mini chest of drawers, which Miss M hacked (with a little assistance).
4. She likes the food
Miss M is a picky eater. Strangely, at IKEA, there is more than one thing she will eat. Today, she discussed for 5 minutes in the car on the way whether she wanted the Köttbullar and fries or the pasta. The Köttbullar won. At least the ice cream was certain.
5. She knows her Wauwau came from IKEA
…and can be easily replaced, if needed. One of the luckiest things that happened for us as parents was Miss M deciding that one of the IKEA dogs would be her lovey. She sleeps with him every night. He has gone on numerous trips with us and has actually been lost a couple of times. When we wanted another one for her afternoon naps at Kindergarten, we went to IKEA. When we accidentally left one in the car in Australia, we went to IKEA. When we forgot to take him on a trip to Berlin, we went to IKEA. It has been a lifesaver! Miss M knows that he came from IKEA and says hello to the other family members whenever we visit.
6. She appreciates the “kid” stuff
Toilet seats, lower sinks and fun taps in the bathrooms. Kids meals. Kids sized chairs and tables (some of which Mum might even buy). Touch screens with puzzles and memory, which Miss M has become quite adept at using. Last, but not least, Småland. Today she wanted to have lunch, play on the small playground (the circle of touchscreens in the restaurant), then play in “the big playground with the ball bath, drawing and the movies and the boys and girls toilets,” then have an ice cream. She got her wish.
For some children, Småland would be the biggest draw card for a trip to IKEA. It is actually still quite a recent addition to our IKEA itinerary. Children are not allowed in Småland until they are three and then when Miss M was old enough, our Småland was closed for cleaning or renovation work. As a result, it is only one of the things Miss M likes about IKEA.
7. She loves a list
Miss M loves shopping lists. When we go grocery shopping, she will beg to hold my phone and be in control of the list. Sometimes, she will even take her own (toy) phone, for the shopping list. At IKEA, Miss M will grab one of the pencils and a piece of note paper as soon as possible and walk around checking things off her list as we add them to the trolley – “Bottle, tick.” She will even add things to her list if she sees something she wants.
8. She views it as an outing
A visit to IKEA is an outing for Miss M, one that she prepares with her list, a discussion of what she wants to do when she is there, and a nap in the car on the way, even though she is a “big girl now” and “not really tired”. She chooses to go to IKEA and would happily stay the whole day if Mummy would let her.
Is it okay that my child loves IKEA?
I fear that IKEA has already won a patron for life, whether or not it is an appropriate outing for a child. I still feel a little guilty, but my child loves IKEA – even if she does not yet know what it is called.