Kidzania Review: A City run by Kids for Kids!
Kidzania opened in June this year at Westfield Shopping centre, Shepherds Bush London. It provides role play work experiences for children age 4-14 years.
Enterprising Child and Fundamentally Children went along with several families with children aged 6-13 to investigate and have produced a Kidzania Review for those interested in this new playground for Kids.
A Great Learning Opportunity
There’s no doubting that hands-on practical experience is the best way of trying something out and Kidzania provides that by the bucket load. The whole concept of being paid to complete particular work roles is also important, and being able to learn independently is a big plus for both children and parents. On more than one occasion we overheard children working out which activities to go to next based on how much they would ’earn’, so were really engaged with that concept.
We arrived at Kidzania at 1.45pm and it was pretty busy. We completed a ‘check-in’ process where every adult and child was given an electronic watch-style bracelet as part of the security system. These wristbands let you communicate with your child through the information stations. Each child was given a map and 50 kidZos – much like Monopoly money – kidZos being the currency the children are paid in for completing specific activities.
“Everyone (children and adults) was fitted with an RFID bracelet so they could never get lost or leave by accident”.
On first stepping into Kidzania city some parents and children, especially those who had not spent time on the website in preparation felt a little over-whelmed.
“What are we supposed to do?”
It took some parents a while to get used to this child-sized city with its low ceilings, artificial light, pop music pushed out on a loop system, and lots of children dashing around from one activity to another. The tour bus however was a popular way of learning your way around and the children participating as tour guides all seemed to really enjoy the experience.
None of the children in our group really wanted to join long queues but some of the activities were felt to be worth the wait. Parents found it difficult to judge whether to suggest joining a queue as it wasn’t clear whether an activity had just started or was about to end and we’d like to see clearer signing on this for both the parents and the children’s benefit.
“I didn’t like the queues and not knowing how long I would have to wait to do an activity.”
“I liked being a paramedic best and being on the team who found the bag when I was a police officer.”
Younger Children’s Feedback
The younger children in our party quickly discovered activities they wanted to try out. At the end of the 4 hour experience they had managed to complete Firefighting, Airline Pilot, Drummer, Policeman, Parademic, Power Plant worker, and being in the audience at a fashion show.
“I liked being part of the rescue team from the hotel fire”
The 9 year old who had already planned his visit from the website changed his mind on arrival, in part put off by the queues, but he was able to complete The Vault, Power Plant, Air Conditioning (twice!), Tour Guide, and visit The Bank.
“I enjoyed The Vault activity best because it felt like you were doing a proper job checking for counterfeit money and delivering money in the City”.
Older Children’s Feedback
The oldest children (12 and 13) quickly found that the activities and whole city was aimed at much younger children, from the level of the activities right through to what you can buy with the Kidzos.
“There’s no point earning KidZos, all the stuff in the shop is for little kids”
They tried a couple of activities (Cadbury’s and the Music Academy) but being geared to the younger audience they were rather more put off than inspired. The chocolate making involves pouring melted chocolate into a mould so for children who can bake independently this wasn’t very satisfying.
The queues put them off too so they didn’t try some of the activities that they may have enjoyed a bit more as after queuing for the Cadbury’s activity and it being aimed at so much younger children, they didn’t want to repeat that. Having liked the concept of being able to try real jobs, the 12 and 13 year olds left feeling disappointed at the offering for their age group and we would not recommend taking children older than primary age.
Early Years Area
Whilst older children were off enjoying the activities, our child development expert, Dr. Amanda Gummer explored the Early Years area. She found it to be a well-equipped area with toddlers engaged in fun, age-appropriate activities. Parent supervision is required at all times in the Early Years area. Dr Gummer felt that whilst young children were enjoying their activities, it doesn’t seem like somewhere that a toddler would be able to stay happily for the full 4 hours that their older siblings took to explore the rest of Kidzania.
Generally we found the staff very helpful at Kidzania. Many of the activity leaders were great – very interactive and fun, though a few others appeared somewhat disengaged and seemed to be going through the motions. In groups with a wide age ranges the activity leaders struggled to pitch the activity in a way that was engaging for the whole age range but then even the most skilled teacher may struggle to engage a 4 and a 14 year old in the same activity.
Would be even better if….
We were hoping that in such a wonderful environment, parents would be interacting with their children, talking to them about their activities, and gaining insight into areas that really interest them. In reality, the parents seemed alternatively quite stressed and bored which didn’t encourage interesting positive interactions between parents and children.
The parent’s lounge works well if you have children age 7+ who are confident to go off with their friends/siblings but most parents had at least one child under 7, or a child on their own who they accompanied to the activities. We think this is an area Kidzania could really improve on – making the experience more enjoyable for parents would help them to help their children get the most out of the day.
The electronic bracelets didn’t really work – the children thought they were a techy wristband similar to what you might have at a theme park, and when one of our party used it to send a message to her son, the child didn’t know it was sent as there is no alert system on their watch so it’s totally reliant on the child remembering to check in at an information point. Later on in the day the same parent used the information point to find out where their child was last seen. It indicated The Vault at 2:11pm but she had already been with him at the Power Plant at 3pm so it’s clear that the updating of this still needs some work and we would recommend that parents don’t rely on these as a way of keeping in touch with their children.
It was disappointing the real life skills learning wasn’t followed through in terms of the banking and spending opportunities. 75 kidZos are required before being able to open up a bank account. Our 9 year old was determined to open a bank account with a debit card, so worked hard to achieve that level. Once he’d been issued with his debit card he was perplexed as to why in the kidZos shop he then couldn’t use that card to pay for items just as you might in the ‘real’ world. There were very few items in the kidZos shop priced below 200 or even 300 kidZos, so we felt that the whole economy could be improved upon.
During a busy time such as when we visited, children will be hard pressed to complete 4 or 5 activities in the 4 hours allowed simply because of the queues, but people we spoke to who arrived earlier in the day said that they had had no problem getting into activities for the first couple of hours.
Great for primary aged children although parents may find it a little stressful especially if they have children under 7.
Top Tips for Parents:
Visit the website with your child beforehand to get an idea of the kind of activities offered and what they may enjoy.
Take a friend/other adult with you so you can split up and have a break in the parent’s lounge (children under 7 have to be accompanied by an adult at all times).
Ideally take 2 friends who are aged 7-10 who are happy to go to activities together this gives parents ultimate freedom to watch or go and have a break as children over 7 can be left at activities unsupervised, whereas children under 7 cannot.
DON’T take two children on your own if one of them is under 4, especially if the older one is not yet 7. The Early Years section is well equipped with lots of ELC activities but needs constant supervision.
Don’t rely on the electronic communication system – agree a time and place to meet your child in case you get split up.
There are lockers and a buggy park – £3 per locker or £5 for locker and buggy park.
Food and drink is usual attraction prices. Consider taking snacks and planning your visit around mealtimes so you’re not forced to eat inside Kidzania. If you do want to eat inside though, there are plenty of options.
Visit at the beginning of the day before it gets too crowded or be prepared to queue.
Tags: children's activities, day out with the kids, family day out, Play Advice, Review
This post was written by The Experts at Fundamentally Children