One of these playgrounds was IKEA. I had to buy a few items for our home and for my laboratory, so I put Will in his umbrella pram and pushed him among the Saturday hordes of shoppers at our quite large local store. Despite its size, we repeatedly narrowly missed crashing into someone else. I have been a long-time IKEA shopper, having been introduced to my first in Burbank, California in the early '90s. I can tell you that there are definitely some universal IKEA shopper behaviours. Because it is so family-friendly, the place is always packed on the weekends with lots of kids. The children's playroom normally reaches capacity by late morning, so there are still many more running around the mock-up apartments (measured in square meters here, of course). Many customers walk through IKEA like it's a museum. The unidirectional pathway that meanders through all the showrooms was chock full yesterday of slow-moving adults gawking at the inventory as if they have never seen cheap, Scandinavian-designed, East Asian-made furniture before. To keep our trip under an hour, Will and I were darting around displays and taking every short cut that only an experienced IKEA shopper knows about. Of course, I also had to keep Will from grabbing every fragile item within reach as we zipped around. Finally, there was the inevitable long checkout line at the end of the whole thing. By then, the rest of the shoppers and I were balancing oddly shaped items that were falling out of our yellow plastic bags or balanced on those flat trolleys that only IKEA seems to know about. It was at this point that Will decided to throw a tantrum because he didn't like either the juice or the bread that I had brought for him.
During the rest of the weekend we visited three other playgrounds that were also more crowded than usual but more suitable for Will. At each I watched my little boy try to emulate the actions of older kids. These 5- and 6-year-olds seem to delight in climbing on the playground equipment in some unsafe way, and Will feels compelled to do the same. I look forward to the day when V. and I can rest comfortably while we watch him play. Today, however, I still need to stay close by as tries to jump off a swing in mid-flight or climbs a ladder that is too high. He also has the curious habit of inserting himself into some other person's parent-child interaction. For example, this afternoon another toddler was repeatedly jumping up to yell "Daddy!" to his father, so Will stood next to him and yelled "Daddy!" at the stranger too.
We then came home and played with his new IKEA wooden train set, available for $20 at your local store. Just please keep it moving when you go there, OK? There might just be a harried father pushing his toddler behind you.