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Date Night at IKEA? Really?

11ikea_600aThe recession is affecting how we do things in lots of ways and one of them appears to be date night. According to this New York Times piece, people are actually using the free childcare at nearby IKEA stores to pull off some time alone.

I thnk this is a little cheesy I mean, date night at IKEA? And the idea that some parents use it solely to take a break from their kids and buy nothing is really irritating. If I made the 45-minute drive to IKEA in order to shop but the Smaland was full with kids whose parents were just kicking back and enjoying the free Wi-Fi in the café, I’d be pretty irked at having to wait.

But I was surprised by the negativity from the commenters in the piece. It’s not like parents are using it as their sole source of daycare the store limits it to an hour or hour and half and parents aren’t allowed to leave the store. But anyone who’s tried to shop, especially for something boring like furniture, with small kids knows how wonderful it is to be able to drop them off somewhere and weigh the merits of this couch or that one in peace.

I would even argue that in this recession, where businesses really need to attract customers, more places should offer this service. I would gladly pay a few bucks to drop my kids off at a supervised play area at the grocery store or, dare I hope, shoe shopping, and would go to the places that offer  such a thing over the places that don’t. Even our fancy local fabric store has a play area for small kids, although it’s not supervised, which is still a huge improvement over the booorrrinng excursions I remember with my mom, paging through pattern books and being glared at by old ladies.

We’ve been able to maintain a halfway decent workout routine for a year now because our Y has free childcare, and yes, some days I go when I don’t feel like it because I need a break from my kiddos for a bit. Places that want to attract families would do well to do more of this. IKEA, after all, has a huge kids furniture and toy area, offers baby food in its café, and has family restrooms bigger than my living room complete with changing tables. It’s just a natural progression to let kids have a place to play safely while their parents shop. What do you think  — would you use this kind of thing, and would you ever use it for other than its intended purpose, like having a date night at the cafe?

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