I’m not sure who enjoyed our day out at Kidzania the most, the eldest or I? I have been wanting to take him since last summer, when some fellow Mumsnet editors in London visited. The boy turned six last week and this was his birthday treat.
We set off nice and early from Shoreham and he was equally excited about the train journey as to the destination. On the train we looked on the Kidzania website to plan our day.
What is Kidzania?
Kidzania is a 75,000 sq.ft. child-size city within Westfield Shopping Mall in Shepherds Bush where kids are in charge! There are more than 60 real life role-play activities in the bank, on stage or fighting crime on the streets as a police officer! Each role-play experience is crafted to teach kids essential life skills including financial literacy, team work and independence.
Designed to empower kids, KidZania gives them the confidence to challenge themselves and inspire them to explore the world of opportunities. Kids from 4-14 can get involved and experience what its like for us in the real world (well they think that they can)!
Planning for the visit
When booking, you will get a four hour time slot. With 60 activities to choose from I am very glad that I followed a friends tip to select our top 5/6 activities because once you enter Kidzania it can appear to be overwhelming and we would have wasted precious time in there deciding what to do had be not been organised. J chose his top 7/8 activities and I explained that we may or may not have time to do them all depending on queues and so on (managing expectations is so important with a 6 year old).
What was it like?
On arrival there was a giant British Airways plane front heading out of the top of Kidzania. Training to become a pilot was our number one activity and J started to get really excited. The entry is like an airport experience, we went through check in (where we were given electronic tags, a map of the city, plus 50 Kidzoes to spend (kids currency), then through airport security before entering the city.
When we got in, the staff told us which of J’s chosen activities we should head to first (they were pilot, police and firefighting) as they are very popular. Parents were held back behind a cordon whilst the children went in to be fitted into the uniforms. Each activity the children had to either pay for or earned a salary, they were also scanned in and out with their electronic tag (which ran out after the four hours). J looked so bloomin cute in his uniform that I bought the awesome professional photo at the end of the day (£12 for one, but you could purchase more at a discount, some activities you could not get into to take photos and there was a pro photographer at each one with their camera, giving you the option at the end to buy them). I don’t know what he got up to in there as he is a boy of few words when overwhelmed but he came out smiling (I only saw this at the end).
Our next stop was the firefighting station. J selected a uniform, was kitted up, watched a short film about how to save people in fires before the bell rang and the Kidzania firefighters headed out to the “hotel” where there was a cat trapped in a fire. They jumped on board the fire engine and headed round the city (following the ambulance may I add, full of mini doctors and medics) to the hotel.
The (mini) police were already cordoning off the scene (J was to do this later) and the firefighters jumped out of their fire engine and began shooting their water hoses up to the building. There was a big explosion, everyone ducked and then more water was fired. The medics came to assist us spectators who were “caught in the fire and suffering from injuries”, I had cling film wrapped around my arm to “heal my burn” and was told to “go home and put it under cold water for 20 minutes” by a kid who looked about 7!
Next up for this now mega excited 6 year old was climbing. J is very keen on outdoor sports of all kinds and really wanted to do this activity. He did struggle a little with it but thankfully was not bothered and we headed off to police department. In the police department, rather than paying for your activity you earned a salary of 8 kidzoes, J couldn’t believe it. When he headed to the next activity of football in the stadium he had to pay 8 kiddies (“but I only just got this Mum”). Even at this age the paying and earning system in Kidzania teaches children about the value of money in the real world. How fast it can be to earn money and then spend it.
There was a supermarket for children to work in, or they could pay to learn how to work in a burger bar, a coffee shop, they could make Mini Milk ice cream with Walls, a chocolate bar with Cadburys, a wrap, an innocent smoothie in a special machine shop, the options were endless. J chose to work as an air conditioning engineer (how random is that), it is now his new career choice after he spent 10 minutes crawling through air vents (that were created a little like soft play tunnels, although as I wasn’t allowed in I have no idea what he actually did). He earnt a salary there as well and was over the moon.
I can see ourselves (and the younger two) going back there over and over again as a big treat day in London. The experience is quite like no other concept I have ever seen for children. As a parent I enjoyed it alot, all the parents around me were the same, snapping photos when they could, plus sitting down in the surrounding cafe areas (or parents only room) for the activities where parents could not go in. I love the fact that when the kids are 8 you can leave them there and go shopping in Westfield for 4 hours too!
My top tips would be to sit down and plan a little before you go with your child, book an early slot to avoid crowds, head to your top two activities as soon as you get there and take a good camera not just your phone as its fairly dark in there.
I noticed that Grey are opening up a mini advertising agency in Kidzania, I used to work at an agency in a previous life, there is no doubt that ideas will be coming out of there and onto our screens very soon!
Kidzania – To check it out for yourselves and to book your tickets go to http://london.kidzania.com/en-uk/. Kidzania are currently running an Easter egg hunt across the city to win a family ticket for a subsequent visit.