I'm a freelance writer and primary school teacher living in SE Melbourne. I love finding adventures for myself, my husband and our four kids to enjoy. Come along! Heart my articles, subscribe to the fun, follow along on www.facebook.com/WNMelbourne
Published February 18th 2014
For this price, I'm okay with clearing my own table
You think you know IKEA, but here are a few secrets for you: Did you know that kids' meals come with a free piece of fresh fruit? True! Did you know that you can request a hot chocolate packet at the till when you're "paying" for your hot drink (free with IKEA Family Card membership, which is also free)? True! This meal was $1.49:
For $6, I can feed 3 of my kids and myself (they don't give an age restriction on the kids' breakfast): eggs, a hashbrown medallion, sausage or bacon, a fresh piece of fruit, and a hot drink (includes espresso based drinks... recommended for grown-ups only).
Trading hours are posted as opening at 10:00am; the restaurant (only) actually opens at 9:30; so if you have early bird children like me, or you're done school drop-off, head straight to IKEA for a little nosh before the crowds arrive (it's actually not that crowded after 10 either on a weekday, trust me).
Free hot drinks with Family card deal is only available weekdays.
Utilise the "family station" near the centre of the seating area (Springvale IKEA); they provide disposable bibs, reusable plastic cups and utensils, microwave, junior chairs, and highchairs. Note that they don't seem to have napkins provided there. Ever. Grr.
Grab a spot near the gazebo at the centre of the seating area (Springvale IKEA); kids can play when they're done.
Mugs have recently shrunk! Grab two if you don't have the luxury of leaving your table (full of tantrumming toddlers) to get a free refill.
Toilets near the upper restaurant have a play area and nursing area, as well as a microwave, if you are nursing or feeding infants, this is an invaluable service; they're always clean and never smelly.
After you're done breakfast, go check the kids in to Småland. Småland is the play area near the main entrance; they provide free supervised childcare for ages 3-10, for one hour while you shop in IKEA. Children must be toilet trained. The play area includes a ball pit, TV Treehouse, play kitchen, drawing tables, and various other stations of, you guessed it, IKEA toys (Småland hours: Mondays to Fridays 10am - 5pm, Saturdays & Sundays 10am - 6pm).
If your kids are too young for Småland, stay upstairs near the restaurant to start your shopping circuit (Springvale); the kids' section has assembled toys and play equipment out that keeps my two-year-old twins amused for 30 minutes or more, if I let them. Sometimes I nurse my flat white a little longer, or don't need the extra shopping time.
Don't want to make lunch either? Pay for your inevitable flat-packed finds, pick the kids up at Smaland, and treat them to a $1 sausage or 50¢ ice cream cone. You can also get another free hot drink for yourself, but the downstairs machine only has regular coffee and hot water. By the way, the hot dogs and ice cream (and pizza and pies) are only available downstairs.
If the kids still have energy to burn, head to the other end of the Springvale Home Centre and go up one level; there is an indoor kids' play area with some neat features for little ones: a few separate "rooms", padded rollers, and obstacle course style play equipment. Older kids may find it a bit lacking (no real climbing options or slide).
If you still haven't had enough of IKEA, check out the free app for iPhone/iPad or Android.
I guess all that's left to decide is whether to keep the kitchen totally free of dishes today and stay for dinner too?