Today, we had the opportunity to visit the Childcare Expo Midlands, in Coventry. My goodness, it was fantastic! If you’ve never been before, you are definitely missing out. However, read on for a little taste of the event.

Twinkl Inspiration Zone

We’re never attended an education show before, so we didn’t know what to expect. To be honest, the main draw was visiting the Twinkl Inspiration Zone because I am a huge Twinkl fan. My kids were given a couple of Twinkl thermos mugs, which they couldn’t wait to use as soon as they got home. There were some Enkl by Twinkl creations that interested my son. (I’ve been avoiding the Enkl range up till now but it looks like I shall be assisting with a paper hedgehog in the near future.) My children made sensory bottles, and did junk modelling with cardboard boxes. (My daughter made a postbox. I’m not entirely sure what my son made but it had lots of sparkly gems.) As for me, it was lovely to meet some of the Twinkl staff face to face. I’m going to count this as a bucket list activity!

Crafting with Twinkl, at the Childcare Expo!

Making sensory bottles, in the Twinkl Inspiration Zone.

Apps & Furniture

The British Red Cross were demonstrating their free first aid app. My daughter had a go on their iPad, and also acquired a couple of free pens. (A big theme of the day was my daughter acquiring freebies from kind exhibitors.) I’m going to mention the app to our Scout group because it looks like a great teaching resource for all ages.

Community Playthings had the most wonderful wooden toys and furniture. My son loved the wooden blocks, and the toy kitchen. I loved the child-sized armchair. It was still a reasonably good size for my daughter but I felt a bit sad that I wasn’t aware of this manufacturer when my children were much younger. If you have very young kids, I would suggest you take a peek at their furniture while you can still get many years of use from it. (Incidentally, one of the Community Playthings staff told me she has 11 children and had homeschooled 3 of them! Total kudos to her.)

Educational Toys Galore

TTS had several stands, with a wide range of equipment. We were fascinated by the instant snow – my daughter said it reminded her of kinetic sand. Soft, fluffy, and strangely satisfying to handle; I’m very tempted to buy some fake snow as I pessimistically predict that the real snow will let us down again in winter. The Rugged Racers remote control cars were also a big hit. I’m not entirely sure I’d want to buy them, now that we’re back home. We’ve had a lot of RC cars, over the years, and they never seem to last. However, these Rugged Racers seemed rather sturdy so I’ll think about it.

TTS Rugged Racers RC toy cars.

Playing with Rugged Racers remote control cars.

Our Equipment Favourites

The Crazy Scrambler, from KOMPAN’s springers range, was quite attractive. Looking at the recommended age range, I guess I’m lucky my kids are petite! On the other hand, it proves that their playground equipment is very robust. The online catalogue suggests that KOMPAN isn’t really geared up for domestic use, unless you’re keen to add a lot of cement to your back yard. (If you’re looking for homeschool outdoor play equipment that has zero installation requirements, I’d recommend the Step2 Naturally Playful* range. I’m afraid it’s plastic but the colours are very muted and blend beautifully with your garden. Plus, you just set it down wherever you want it; no surface prep required.)

Hope Education had all sorts of cool equipment and resources. My son absolutely adored the chunky wooden vegetable cutting set. It was quite hard to persuade him to leave this stand, and I used the time to chat to one of the Hope Education staff. (She told me that one of her friends is homeschooling in Manchester. Home education is such a growing and thriving movement in the UK; it’s amazing how many people either home educate or know a homeschooler.)

Demo play area at Childcare Expo.

Chunky wooden vegetable cutting set.

Other Exhibitor Highlights

There were many other exhibitors; I don’t have time to mention them all. However, a quick mention goes to Kidslingo; they run Spanish and French classes for 0-11 years old, in a range of education settings. (They also gave us a free cupcake!) I briefly stopped by the Genius Club stand, and bought 4 abridged children’s classics with added SPAG questions for each chapter. These books look beautifully presented, and I hope my kids will enjoy reading them. Final shoutout goes to MBK Training. I could have sworn they were something to do with STEM but my kids were distracted and I couldn’t read the signage properly. (However, a nice young fellow gave my kids a couple of bug viewers. I’ve failed to work out how to open them – or if they open – but they look interesting and kept my love bugs quiet for a few precious moments.)

Childcare Expo Experience

The Childcare Expo was super fun, and I really recommend attending – particularly if you’ve never been to one of these events before, or you have young children in your family. One of the TTS staff told me about the Education Show, which is apparently much larger and covers a wider age range than the Childcare Expo. Homeschoolers with older kids may want to hold out for the Education Show, although there is definitely a lot you can get out of the Expo experience even with upper primary children.

Top tips: bring a rucksack, some portable snacks, a bottle of water, and a lot of patience. It takes longer than you’d think to go around the whole exhibition, particularly if bringing children who get distracted by the very engaging educational toys.

The Childcare Expo Midlands 2016 runs from Friday 30 September to Saturday 1 October, at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. By car: Junction 3 M6. By train: Coventry Arena train station.