FREE Småland Play Area at IKEA Gateshead

Thanks to our writer Alyssa for this post. Alyssa visited Småland IKEA Gateshead on 20 March 2023. The photos in this post have been taken and shared with permission from IKEA / staff. 

FREE Småland Play Area at IKEA Gateshead - ball pool and staff

We (myself, Phoebe (7), and Aurora (5) ) recently took a trip to Småland (the crèche at the entrance of the Ikea Gateshead store) and honestly I wish we’d discovered it sooner!

Småland IKEA Gateshead Key Points 

  • A FREE supervised creche/play area inside IKEA Gateshead 

  • No booking ahead - just turn up 

  • FREE 45 minute sessions (2 hours if you have a kitchen design booked)

  • Småland was newly refurbished in 2022 

  • Suitable for children aged 3-10 years old

  • Excellent security protocols in place 

  • A different theme each week 

  • 1:1 SEN care plan / risk assessment available 

  • parents/guardians must stay in store and will be provided with a pager 

  • A large mix of activities including ball pools, sensory areas, crafts, train sets, games, jigsaws and more 

  • Once they are at capacity they cannot accept anymore children and you may have to wait for a space (or if you visit later in the day and they are already full, they may not be able to accept additional children that day)

  • Open 10:30am - 6:30pm Mon-Sat (last admittance 5:45pm) and 10:30am - 4:30pm Sunday (last admittance 3:45pm) 

FREE Småland Play Area at IKEA Gateshead  - free crafts

Prior to our visit, I think I had the misconception that Småland was just for younger children; I was surprised to discover they provide care for children aged 3 - 10 years (you can visit until the day you turn 11). 

It would never have even crossed my mind to drop the kids off and actually enjoy my shopping experience, free from the usual stresses that come with any kid in a busy store.

Let me paint you a picture of how trips to the store went before we discovered this little gem -

I’d take the kids to the store so full of optimism, I love Ikea so the kids will do as well right?

How could you not when they’ve got Gifflar (cinnamon rolls), tiny cooking tongs, handheld graters, and my favorite department - the plant section (those cacti though!)... except I’d find myself constantly bribing them,  “if you don’t touch,  break or jump on anything you can get something in the kid's department” … then I’d begrudgingly agree to the £19 husky they picked out even though they touched a million things on the way, jumped out of a few wardrobes, almost tripping several people as they zigzag without a care in the world across the path.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to find the things I set out to get, completely missing items as I’m too busy apologizing to the people the kids are running in front of; one of them will inevitably need the loo the furthest possible distance from a loo and then claim they're dying of thirst.

I’m then too frazzled to go back, leaving the store with half my list thinking why didn’t I click and collect? It’s not quite as fun as wandering around picking up things you didn’t know you needed though. 

Småland IKEA Gateshead Review 

The girls had such a great time and the facilities there are so much better than I could have imagined. I don't think we’ll be able to go to Ikea without dropping them off, they're already asking when they can go back, and the fact that it's free during the current ‘Cossy livs’ is amazing! 

Newly refurbished after closing in 2020, the play area has finally reopened recently and looks absolutely fantastic.

Many of the staff who were made redundant (thanks Rona) are back and have formed a close-knit friendship among the 6 ladies working there.

It’s evident they enjoy working together as I observed the banter amongst them laughing at Liz having a spa vacation in the ball pool with Aurora.

When you get to the store Småland is just to the left of the entrance, you are greeted by an excitable member of staff and you are guided through the sign-in process and any concerns you may have.

FREE Småland Play Area at IKEA Gateshead  - signing in

I can be quite skeptical about leaving the kids places I'm not too familiar with, however it was reassuring to hear that all of the staff have childcare qualifications/paediatric first aid training.

If your child is nervous you are allowed to stay briefly with your child to help with the settling-in process (you will need to be signed in). 

I was really impressed with the evacuation policies in place. You'll notice in some of the photos the girls have a lanyard around their waists (they call it a security belt), this can then be attached to a master lanyard to prevent children from running off toward the busy car park should the need to evacuate arise.

This lanyard is also part of their backup plan for signing children out - should the electronic system go down. If the store needs to be evacuated there is a very clear meeting point in the center of the car park, you won't be able to miss it as everyone will be wearing a high vis jacket. 

FREE Småland Play Area at IKEA Gateshead  - crafts

The staff ratio is 1:8 children which is standard practice in many places like nurseries with children above the age of 3.  All children with SEN will have a ratio of 1:1 on their first visit to allow staff to complete a care plan and risk assessment if needed. 

The signing-in process is fairly easy, you create a profile and a 6-digit pin code. Only one person can be responsible for signing your child in and out, if you signed them in you must be the one to sign them out.

I was shown the signature match verification they have which gives an additional layer to your piece of mind.

You are also given a pager that will go off if you need to return, this has been found to be more effective than contacting your phone, which if you're anything like me, gets muted and forgotten about frequently - whoops! You are not allowed to leave the store while your child is in Småland.

While I was signing the girls in the staff were chatting to the girls about their interests, Paw patrol/ Frozen, etc which really helps build a rapport, this will definitely help kids who are anxious about being left without their grown-ups. 

Each week Småland has a new theme, this week is spring themed and the craft activities will be tailored toward the theme. Phoebe absolutely LOVED painting her rainbow with Larna, rest assured protective aprons are available to protect their clothes.

Phoebe and Larna played with the sensory den items together too; Seeing how quickly the staff build trusting relationships with the girls and seeing the nature of the interaction between them was really lovely; I can understand why they have regulars who know all of their names and you can see affirmations around the room from children who had been previously and also loved it.

They had so much patience with the girls, and seeing Vanessa teach Aurora how to use the Interactive whiteboard in such a calm and relaxed manner really made me smile.

The children are free to wander and choose where in the room they’d like to be, Aurora (my younger child with the energy only sea air can tire) immediately ran and cannonballed into the ball pit.

She was soon playing target practice with Liz and Sam. Activities are tailored to be age-appropriate and can be adapted to suit the needs and wants of the child.

They have a safety gate near the ball pool to limit its numbers to 8 children at a time in that area at one time and a max capacity of 16 children in the entire space.

The girls rotated between their areas and the construction zone, interactive whiteboard, story/ home corners, and the sensory den before dressing up with the staff.

They also have Train sets, Giant Polygons, Jenga/ snakes and ladders, jigsaws, and many more resources available so it's safe to say they will never be bored.

It's easy to see why the girls were devastated when they had to leave, this is such a high compliment to the staff as often children who aren't keen to go in then don’t want to leave which speaks for itself. Currently, you get a 45-minute slot (or 2 hours if you have a kitchen designing appointment).

The children have their own designated toilets (the tiny sinks are the cutest!) separate from the staff toilets.

No food or drinks are allowed to be taken into the Småland space to protect against allergies, however, should your child want a drink they have a filtered water system available. They also have a choke test tool which they have a strict policy on, anything that can fit inside the gap is not allowed in the area either. 

The opening hours of Småland are slightly different from the Ikea opening hours:

  • Monday - Saturday (10.30 am - 6.30) 

  (With the Last admittance at 5.45 pm) 

  • Sunday (10.30 am - 4.30 pm)

(Last admittance 3.45 pm)

I did a bit of a Q&A with the girls afterwards - 

What was your favorite part?

“THE BALL PITT” - “My new friends (the staff) we’re really funny” (Aurora) 

A bit of indecision from Phoebe:-  Dressing up With Larna and Sam, no, crafting, no, reading (she was really chuffed Liz and Sam listened to her reading). 

Would you go back again?

They both answered: -  “Can we go back right now?” 

Think we have a hit on our hands! My next visit to Ikea might look something like this:- 

I’ll take the kids to the store so full of optimism, (praying they have space at Småland). After finding they do have space, I'll drop them off with smiles all around and then I might turn and frolic off to grab a coffee before wandering in the direction of the plants - stress-free… well, almost - I can’t trust my other half around the cacti either apparently… if only there was a husband drop off ha!

Find out more about Småland here.

Upcoming IKEA events include: 

Other FREE ideas for things to do in Gateshead: 


No comments

Post a Comment

© North East Family Fun | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Designed by pipdig