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Sensory Ekka: Tips For Taking Your Child to the Ekka

Families Magazine has compiled some hints and tips to help you when taking your child with additional needs to the Ekka this year.

The Ekka can be a whirlwind of sights, sounds and stimulation. Add to that, waiting in long lines, animal smells and unpredictable crowds and it is not the first place that springs to mind if you are looking for fun outings for a child who may have sensory issues. So, to help, we have used our Ekka experts and found how to have the best Ekka experience possible when you are accommodating a person who may need a quieter environment and a slower pace. Here are the things you need to consider and our insider tips on how to enjoy the Ekka more … quietly.

Before you visit the Ekka

Any parent or carer of a sensory child knows that preparation is key. It doesn’t matter if you are taking a toddler to the Ekka or a teen, planning is key! We have listed some great ideas to plan your sensory Ekka trip.

Plan ahead with a social story

Ekka Social story

Social stories are great to help children understand, in advance, about an event or place. By running through the sights, sounds, crowds and expectations of the Ekka, you can help ease any anxiety about the day trip. We use the Social Story Creator & Library; it’s free and simple to use!

I would consider adding information about:

  • Sideshow alley
  • Showbag pavilion
  • Animal nursery
  • Woolworths pavilion – for all that yummy Ekka food
  • Night show – including fireworks
  • We will need to stand in line
  • We will need to wait our turn
  • It might be noisy at times
  • The animals can be smelly

You may also want to show your sensory kids some videos of the Ekka before you go. We have this great video that covers most of the highlights but you can also visit the Ekka channel and pick out some specific ones to show some of the things you may be considering visiting at the Ekka.

And of course, download the Ekka app that has a map and other useful information so you can find it quickly on your phone when you need it.

Plan WHEN to go

Though we cannot guarantee how crowded it will be each day of show, the Ekka suggest that their quieter days are traditionally the Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.

What to pack for the Ekka – consider the weather and noise

The Ekka is in August. If you live in Brisbane or nearby you will know that is winter. But we also get very warm days in August – as hot as 30 degrees. And we also get much cooler nights. Add to that the famous ‘Ekka winds’ and you will need to plan for every eventuality with the weather…. including rain.

Dress in layers. Take a backpack for everyone and make use of the lockers. We wrote a detailed article about taking Toddlers to the Ekka here and this covers planning ahead and packing.

During your visit

Arrive early. The Ekka opens at 9am. There are many entrance gates dotted around the show. Whilst there are usually queues at the entrance gate from around 8.30am, it is worth going early to get a quieter experience once inside. Personally I would park at either Cornerstone or Secure Parking or on the fields near the RBWH as these are the closest. But I tell you where all the Ekka parking options are in my article so you can make the best choice for you.

WHERE to go for some down-time

Ekka-parents-room
Ekka parents room

When you need a little down-time, I recommend grabbing an Ekka ice-cream and heading to one of these locations. I will be updating this section after my visit again this year, but previously I have found these parts of the Ekka to be a little quieter (and I will get photos to add in here to show you what it looks like too):

  • Stockmen’s Rest is quieter in the mornings and evenings, it is a shady area and located nearby a water station.
  • John Reid Pavilion is quieter in the mornings and afternoons. You can sit and rest and watch the judging of the animals.
  • The Courier-Mail Showbag Pavilion is quieter in the mornings.
  • The Woolworths Fresh Food Pavilion is quieter in the morning and afternoon unless it’s raining.
  • The Parent’s Room and the Prayer Room provides a quieter space for a short break during your visit.

There are individual accessibility restrooms located on both the upper and lower levels of the convention centre and there is one ambulant toilet within each bathroom location.

Keep Kids Safe Program

ekka police passports

Whether you have have kids with sensory needs or not, this is the best way to keep kids safe at the Ekka and we do it every year! When you first arrive make a bee-line for the Ekka Police Station marquee on Gregory Terrace. There you can collect a wristband for each child. We add our contact details on the band, so if the kids and I become separated, the police can reunite us ASAP. I urge you to read our ‘Keeping Kids Safe at the Ekka‘ article for a detailed guide on what to do.

Tips for being prepared:

  • Take a photo of your kids on the day, so you can share it with the police showing what they are wearing that day.
  • Show your kids where the Ekka police station is and teach them how to identify a police officer.
  • If your kids are a bit older, you can organise for them to meet you at the Ekka police station if they become lost.

First aid

There are three first aid stations operating daily from 8am to 11pm. These are run by St John Ambulance Queensland and can be found:

  • Under the John MacDonald stand
  • Near the Sushi Hub Canine Pavilion on Gregory Terrace
  • Near the Large Animal Pavilion

If you have an Ekka map, first aid stations are marked with a large red cross on a white background.

Information booths

An information booth can help with all other queries, includng locker locations for you to safely leave your bags and possessions. You can find them:

  • Outside the Woolworths Fresh Food Pavilion on Gregory Terrace
  • Near the Norco Shed
  • Near the Woodchop Arena in Sideshow Alley
  • In the Channel 7 Pavilion on the ground floor

Escape plan if it’s too much!

Even with all the best plans and intentions it might just become too overwhelming for some kids (and adults alike). And look, I am not going to lie, we live within walking distance and we take a break at lunch time to go home, decompress and go back mid afternoon for the last few rides, to pick up showbags and the night show.

So, if you need to escape too, don’t feel bad. The Ekka can be A LOT! My tips for getting out quickly:

  • Pay for parking – we show you the closest places to park here to help you get out quickly.
  • Have some food on hand to give the kids on the way out.
  • Celebrate the wins – you went, you achieved it and next time it will be less scary for them.

We love the Ekka!

The Ekka really is our favourite event in Brisbane every year, we just love it. It might be a sight and sound overload but with planning and preparation, a good packed bag and an escape plan if it all gets too much, we think you will love it too!

To help you plan further, we have these additional Ekka articles:

Photo of author

Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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