Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Childcare Expo 2014~ Olympia, Review


Tracey arriving at the Childcare Expo
The Childcare Expo, Olympia proved to be an extremely worthwhile event for my colleague Tracey & myself.  For those of you who are not in the know, my primary occupation is ‘Nursery Manager,‘ so it was great to attend a most productive day. The Childcare Expo has been running successfully in Coventry for the past four years and you can catch it there at the Ricoh Arena 26-27th September 2014.
Great display of educational toys by Eduzone
The Expo covered different aspects of nursery management and childcare from toys that are designed to promote skills across the whole spectrum of development, children's books and professional literature to childcare insurance and debt recovery. Tracey and I were happy to experience the joyful patter of sales people, as opposed to tiny feet, whilst the exhibitors talked us through the advantages and potential ways of using various toys or products. This proved so much more beneficial than reading a brief description in a catalogue and was enhanced by the touchy-/feely process which induced a ‘must have’ syndrome.
Hannah from Westco
Naturally I played ‘happy snapper’ all day to capture a range of information, bringing the expo to you. Take these simple beakers demonstrated by Hannah from WESCO- they actually have a groove system making them easy to hold and ideal for children who have passed the baby beaker stage but have difficulty gripping whilst drinking - very useful indeed.  Wesco  offer a great range or Early Years toys too and a clear ‘must have’ for toddlers were the wooden sequencing puzzles.
Example of Westco puzzle
One of our favourite suppliers of nursery furniture,Community Playthings had a very impressive stall with everything from divides to climbing frames. These quality items are very hard wearing and great value- our staff even visited the community to take a first- hand look  at production and to discuss requirements for a specific project. 
Community Playthings display of beautiful wooden toys
Never Never Land representative Stephen with Tracey and  top-selling Tugboat
Never Never Land    is an independent toy shop in Muswell Hill with traditional toys and big ideals. They are very keen to keep it natural therefore the majority of their toys are either wooden or made from recycled milk cartons. We were particularly impressed with the stacking riders as space is always at a premium in nurseries- pretty useful  at home too if you have twins!
Never Never Land stacking riders
Originally Never Never Land  catered for domestic customers and has since progressed to include commercial clients.The other aspect I particularly liked is the price transparency policy... what you see on the tag is what you pay. Never Never Land's owner explained that another factor contributing to their success is stocking lines that interest children when visiting the shop- what great business sense!
Liam and Josh eager to play Teddy Tennis with the kids!
One unexpected stand was Teddy Tennis. Nurseries are accustomed to dance, drama and music- tennis is an exciting new sport and with taster classes available a great sporting choice. Liam explained that you don’t need a huge outdoor space in which to manoeuvre, making this a real possibility for the children, who would love it.

Anne (left) with Caroline from Jace Traing- The Jancett Group
Several training and recruitment companies were present, amongst whom we found Jace Training, represented by Caroline and Anne. Caroline talked us through the services currently on offer and recent changes in the childcare sector. Besides apprenticeship,s they are able to provide training on a range of nursery related matters and deliver on-site training.out of hours by arrangement. Jace is very keen to discover the types of training that nurseries and childcare workers require and will do their best provide it,
Smart Technologies demonstratation
With more emphasis increasing in the area of Smart Technology, a Smart table has been invented with over 1000 applications to hand ( is that the right terminology?!!) Children can have fun individually or in groups to increase their teamworking abilities. There are many different types of programmes to assist children's learning; adults on the day were clearly captivated. This table is expensive however there is also an option to rent. Of course, there are no substitutes for pencils and paper but this is a great teaching aid in a modern world. My Smart Space
John Hopely brandishing Creative Steps Magazine
Newsagents are crammed with childcare magazines and nurseries purchase some standard professional publications, but the publication that caught my attention is Creative Steps. The content of this magazine is exceptional, containing projects to keep children busy on an individual or group basis. The most surprising point about Creative Steps is its origin- a family run business competing against the media giants.  John says that the ideas for most of the creative projects are simple and always tried and tested- often by John at home! All the old Blue Peter fans will love this, so buy a copy and give it a go!
TTS imaginary play time
The TTS Zone  was fun, being well presented with great information enhancing the display areas- very professional. The idea is to create a neutral environment rather than frequently used brightly coloured surrounds to enhance the children's feelings of natural warmth and security. This idea really works and they definitely have an inspired approach, winning the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. All of their products are engaging and we loved the super hero figures. Toys and play equipment are safe and versatile, how imaginative is the little wooden house above? Personally I think they’re onto a goldmine with their all-terrain bug: if marketed correctly I think he’ll weigh down Father Christmas’ sleigh! Might share the video of this wonder bug in action shortly- and a huge thank you to Jamie Ambler for the time spent discussing TTS products. TTS online shop
TTS neutral play environment
In addition to stalls there were inter-active workshops and seminars, taken by experts in the industry to update knowledge and childcare practice  based on the EYFS. This included many ways to inspire children. Mud play was a great feature and who would have thought of making an outdoor recipe- a bucket of mud, 2 scoops of grass, a small cup of water etc- great idea!
Happy Birthday Morton Michel- great cake!!
To round off, a huge congrats to sponsors of the event Morton Michel, childcare insurance services and more, who are celebrating 50 years in business. Tracey and I finished off with a huge slice of cake to celebrate this auspicious occasion- and a very successful exhibition. 

Jaz McKenzie


Apologies on behalf of Blogger for all links that have failed to highlight!!

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