When I found out that Tuesday was due to be an inset day at Freddie’s school, my first thought was “who the hell has an inset day one day after going back to school after the half term break?”. But that would be my cynical, working Mum side. The other part of me was crazy-excited to have some precious 1-2-1 time with my boy, something that doesn’t happen as often as i’d like these days.
I had heard of ‘Kidzania’, so thought having this day with Freddie would be a perfect time to go and visit, as at 3, Sasha is really a little too young to fully understand and appreciate the concept (although they do have an area for under 4s with other activities).
Which brings me to…What exactly IS Kidzania?
Well, it’s a HUGE (like, 75,000 sq ft huge) child-sized city located in Westfield London, where the children are most definitely in charge. If your child has ever dreamt of becoming a firefighter, radio presenter, pilot or engineer, then this is the place to be! Children aged 4-14 get a chance to try out more than 60 real life role play experiences in the miniature city, and each experience is designed to teach kids essential life skills, such as financial literacy, team work and independence. Freddie absolutely loves role play at home, and playing shops, doctors and schools are some of his favourite things to do, so I thought this would be right up his street!
On arrival each child is given 50 Kidzos. With this money, children can either spend it to have a go at an activity (e.g football academy, attend university, chocolate/smootie/burger making to name but a few), or they can earn money to spend in the aforementioned places (being a surgeon, firefighter, recycling plant worker, shopkeeper etc). Children are also allocated a security bracelet so they cannot leave Kidzania without an adult present (a great idea for those with older children who are able to go off by themselves for the best part of the 4 hour session), and also a map of the city.
As advised, I earmarked 4-6 different activities/role play experiences that I thought Freddie might like to have a go at, and then after a while once he got into the swing of things he started to choose what he would like to do. As a 4 year old, he’s definitely on the younger-end of the scale when it comes to enjoying Kidzania, and at first his understanding of the concept was limited, but once we’d had a go at a couple of things he soon got the hang of it.
Here are some of the role plays Freddie experienced:
Being a surgeon
On arrival into the city, once we’d checked in and left our belongings in the VERY useful lockers they have, I threw Freddie inadvertently in the deep end. He tried his hand at becoming a surgeon, and conducted a liver transplant on a life-sized doll called ‘Lucy’, getting dressed up in a full set of scrubs, and washing his hands as if he were carrying out a real operation. This was a skill which hopefully won’t prove useful, since we do like to drink a lot of wine in our house! He was a good sport, and gave it a go, but for a 4 year old it was perhaps a little overwhelming as a first ‘go’ at something, as everything is just so fantastically life-like. I have to say though that the ladies acting as the other ‘surgeons’ were great, and showed F what to do, along with explaining what certain organs were for. For being a surgeon, he earned some Kidzos to spend elsewhere in the city.
Now, this is one role play experience that was AMAZING, and something that really held Freddie’s attention, especially since he’s a real ‘vehicle man’, and loves the idea of anything that he can fly, drive or steer. Wearing the cutest little pilot’s outfit, he had a grown up acting as his co-pilot, teaching him how to fly and land a plane on a real flight simulator, complete with landing stick (is that the technical term?!) and working switches. F was in his element, and was so excited that he was able to actually ‘fly’ a plane!
With the help of 3 enthusiastic assistants, Freddie learnt where chocolate comes from, how it’s made, and got to have a go at making his own using molds, which we then picked up using a special voucher on leaving Kidzania. This activity was another big hit!
Burger making was something that we had planned on doing even before arriving at Kidzania, and it didn’t disappoint. For 20 Kidzos (so one of the more expensive ‘paying’ activities), your child gets to make their own burger and a sauce to go in it, before taking it away and eating it at the tables outside. Sponsored by Gourmet Burger Kitchen, adults can pay (with real cash!) for their own takeaway GBK burger and fries whilst the little darlings rustle up their own. A massive Win-Win in my books!
Post-burger, Freddie decided he wanted to a footballer for a while (a kid can dream, right?!), so was lucky enough to get a 1-2-1 training session with a coach in the Kidzania stadium. This is such a great space within Kidzania, and has tiered seating so parents can watch, as well as real working commentary mic and score board. After a while, a few other boys came to join in, and F rounded off his session with a mini-match. I had to drag him away from this experience, as we needed to go and earn some more Kidzos if we were do anything else!
As I mentioned previously, F is a huge vehicle man, so the chance to become a car engineer was greeted enthusiastically. A lovely girl engineer taught Freddie the differences between a petrol-run car, and an electric car, then he had to slot different car parts in to each car, before pretending to fill it up with petrol/charge up with electricity. Freddie was a bit little for some of the more complicated terminology, but the girl was very sweet and patient with him (she was my favourite staff member, and had a lovely calm, kind demeanor). I LOVE how the children wear tiny outfits whatever role they play!
Formula One Pit Stop Team Member
Working with a life-size Formula One Racing car, Freddie had to take off one of the wheels, and replace it with a new one using some special tools provided. This effort was then timed, and noted down on an electronic score board. A great role play experience for older, competitive children!
This was probably one of the best role-play experiences for a child of Freddie’s age, as ‘shops’ tends to be one of the most-played games within this age range, and they completely get the concept, and there’s not too much tricky language used. F absolutely adored collecting food up in his mini shopping trolley, scanning it through the checkout and using the till, before putting it all back in the right place again. More money earned!
Another huge hit, as smoothies are a bit of a treat at home, and Freddie couldn’t wait to have a go at making his own! I was impressed with how so many of the role play experiences incorporated so much learning, without the children really knowing it. Before he got hands-on with making his smoothie, the fab lady gave a him a mini geography lesson about where different fruits grow, and F got to handle some ‘mystery’ fruit and guess what it was through feel. He also learnt about pasteurisation (although this went totally over his head!), before helping make some packaging, and getting a proper smoothie to drink at the end.
After this experience our time was up (we stayed for 3 hours as we had to go and pick S up from preschool, so could have easily tried a few more experiences if we’d stayed for the 4 full hours), and we were both pretty sad to be leaving.
So, what did we think of Kidzania?
The concept of Kidzania, is absolutely FANTASTIC. As an adult watching through a child’s eyes, it was magical to see Freddie get so much out of it, and learn so much. I know he enjoyed himself, as a. he didn’t stop talking about it on the way home, and b. kept telling everyone else about it too. I all honesty, I feel that older children would get more out of it as they’d understand more of the explanations i.e. when Freddie carried out the liver transplant, he didn’t really ‘get’ what he was doing, aside from an operation. Older children would also be able to read and follow the map given on their own, as well as understand how to use the money with minimal adult help. I didn’t know until arriving that adults aren’t usually allowed into each experience with the child/children, so I think it would depend on how confident your 4 year old was being left for a short while (even though adults can always view through the glass). I was allowed due to taking photos for the purpose of this review, but I wonder how Freddie would have been if I wasn’t there.
The staff were mostly brilliant, and you could tell that the majority loved being there and working with children. The only teeny change I would possibly make, is that even though Kidzania is aimed at 4 year olds +, some of the explanations and terminology used could be a little complicated at times for the younger age group. It would be great if staff could be a bit more flexible and play to their audience and simplify things if necessary, rather than just working from the same script. Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything, and I know that I would have LOVED to come here as a 10 year old, and enjoy some away from my parents in a safe environment. It’s definitely a place to instill confidence in your child, they can get so much out of it and gain so much independence within those 4 hours.
At £29.50 for a child aged 4-14, and £16.50, it’s not cheap, but I think you get HUGE value for money, it’s definitely worth the cost.
Kidzania, we will 100% be back within a few years, and next time Sasha will be in tow!
A big thank you to Kidzania for having us, all words and opinions my own.