9 Tips for Surviving IKEA with a Toddler



1. Have a Plan

Unless you live just down the street, make a list of items you want before you go.  Specific names are useful, as are measurements. If you are buying picture frames know what size your pictures are and how many frames you’ll need.  The idea is to not waste any precious time and avoid a meltdown.  I find that if I’m staying in one place too long looking at the same two choices my little isn’t going to stay happy for very long.  The more we move, the less she complains.

2. Go During the Week

The absolute best time to go is during the week, right when they unlock the doors.  There are less people for you to worry about your kid running into, there is most likely not a wait to get your kid into Smaland (see number 4), and you can kinda let your child do whatever they want.  If you HAVE to go on a weekend, Sunday morning at opening is your best bet.  On our most recent trip we went on a Friday around 11 AM and there was only one spot left in the family lot.  Which leads me to…

3. Family Parking

Don’t you love when stores have special parking for people with kids?  This little section is right by the front doors and a little bit out of the way of the main thoroughfare so there aren’t people zooming through. Easy in, easy out.

4. Smaland

Ah, glorious Smaland!  My daughter is finally tall enough to be admitted into this indoor playground where they watch your kid while you bask in the glow of Swedish furniture.  They do have to be potty trained and you only get an hour but you’d have to be crazy not to take advantage if you can.  Also, IKEA Family cardholders get an extra 30 minutes of play time which bumps you up to 1:30.  There was a supposed 40 minute wait last time but it really ended up being about 20.  My almost three-year-old had a blast, played with other kids and watched a little bit of Toy Story while coloring.

5. Know where the bathrooms are

The bathrooms are kind of scarce (there are only two bathroom areas as far as I know) so it’s a good idea to be able to locate them quickly.  One is by the front when you first walk in, the other is by the cafe.  Both have family bathrooms with a changing table and FREE DIAPERS.  Yeah.  Also, grab a map when you first walk in, the place is huge and the map will show you the fastest route to the potty. When your kid reallllly has to go or reallllly needs to be changed this will come in handy. Trust.

6.  Let Your Kid Help

While we were waiting for Smaland to call us my daughter quite enjoyed pulling a little shopping trolley through the store.  She loved “helping” in this way.  They also have free paper measuring tapes that could be useful for older kids to help measure furniture to see if it’ll fit. Ask their opinion on colors, furniture, bedding.  Kids love being asked their opinion!  My daughter particularly enjoys testing out different beds.

7. Play in the Kids Section

It’s basically a playground.  They have that little slide, rocking moose, dolls, dollhouse furniture, even just playing pretend in the different rooms can be fun!  I always plan for extra time in the kids section. To ease them out of the kids section when you’re ready to move on, walk over to the cafe.

8. Have Lunch

We live in East Dallas so going to IKEA is kind of a drive.  This is why I always plan to get there about an hour before lunch so we can eat in the cafe.  I’m not gonna lie, the food is not really gourmet but we always get the roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and it’s pretty decent (and on Fridays it’s only $1.99 on special!).

They have kids options as well (chicken strips, mac and cheese, meatballs, spaghetti) and their lingonberry juice boxes are delicious. There is a kid section with little tables and a tv playing cartoons. There are adult height bars and stools surrounding the kid tables so you can keep an eye on your precious little and make sure they’re not drinking out of their neighbor’s juice box.

9. Have a last resort

Now, if you have a particularly spirited child or he or she missed their nap or your kid is just DONE, always have a last resort.  If you’re out of clever ideas to keep them occupied, always have a backup plan.  Coloring book, iPad, Netflix on your phone, just SOMETHING that will hold your darling child’s attention so you can check out and high-tail it back home, hopefully with a nap in the car.


What did you think of these tips?  Were they helpful?  Any tips you’d like to add?


  1. Love it! We spend way more time walking around Ikea than we’d like to admit – and these are super helpful! I also love to let my toddler grab a map for himself and tell him we are searching for a treasure and this is his treasure map!! He loves it. And by the time we get to the kids area – treasure!
    Also, the last resort tip is really important. To transition downstairs we always need some videos on my phone.

    Great tips!! 🙂

  2. GIRL! I never knew about the extra 30 minutes in Smaland!! That is soooo good to know! And I agree, I definitely need a better picture frame plan before I go, I always seem to stand there staring with a wide eyed blank stare at the choices while my kids totally block my brain’s ability to process possibilities on the spot. HIGH FIVE, great post!

  3. Maryam,
    I have bought several ikea products but have never been an ikea addict. It’s huge, I get lost & that means a too long shopping trip for my twin 3yr olds no matter how prepared I am! But I read your article & it reminded me of Smaland! My boys are finally potty trained & tall enough so we went & it was a stress free shopping trip for Mom & a fun time for my boys. Thanks for reminding me to try again!
    Kim in Philly


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