Review: Why families should check in to KidZania at Westfield, London
- Credit: Archant
As a journalist, I was rather pleased to see the long line of wannabe reporters outside the Metro-sponsored newsroom at London’s Kidzania.
The interactive newsroom and the chance to cover a breaking news story was obviously enticing to the pre-teen guests exploring this make-believe city.
Kidzania takes role play to the next dimension and allows children to get stuck in to a plethora of career options from the traditional police officers and firefighters to animators and even air conditioning engineers.
Parents take a back seat on this day out, and are encouraged to leave their children to roam.
Each element of Kidzania is sponsored by a well-known brand from the Big Yellow Self Storage lockers to the British Airways check-in desk at arrival, making it feel like a real place.
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The BA check-in process is reassuringly authentic, and security is as tight as you would expect from a real airport.
As you arrive your tickets are scanned and each member of the party identified. Kids are given security bracelets which mean they cannot leave the building again unless they are accompanied by the adults they checked in with, and the adult bands prevent you accidentally taking any extras home with you.
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The idea is genius and means those with children over eight can head off to browse the shops at Westfield while their off spring explore, and those staying on site don’t need to panic if the youngsters in their care go off in different directions
Needing little encouragement to take some time out, we did just that and headed for the Garden Shed where we logged onto the free (and surprisingly reliable) wifi and caught up on some life admin while our girls (aged between nine and 11) went off in search well-paid jobs.
The coffee was decent, there were charger sockets for our tech and my husband even indulged himself with a pay-as-you-feel massage. Why not?
The trio quickly worked out that window cleaning and selling houses were the fastest ways to earn Kidzos (the Kidzania currency) and within an hour of arriving they had enough to open their very own bank accounts and apply for bank cards, something they were immensely proud of.
Once they had earned their Kidzos, they could spend them on some of the other experiences on offer at Kidzania including a sight seeing tour, climbing and face painting, but our three were shrewd and preferred to earn than spend. Maybe a lesson they will carry over into the real world?
One of the highlights for us adults was seeing the converted golf buggies going round, one laden with firefighters on the way to a blaze, another carrying patients needing transporting to hospital and a third offering tours of this busy mini-city.
These were obviously popular attractions with the little workers too as there were lengthy queues, some up to 40 minutes during our visit.
Without us steering the girls they did spend a fair time deliberating over where to start and whether to split up or stay together, but this is all part of the experience and taught them that the quicker they make decisions, the more they get to do.
The girls managed around five or six experiences each and they were buzzing as we left, full of excitement about the new skills they had learned and the freedom they had experienced.
And there is plenty more to discover, so much so that they have all asked for a return visit before we were even home.
Entry to Kidzania costs £39 on the day for children aged between four and 14, and from £18 if you book online in advance.
Adults must accompany children under the age of eight, and adult entry costs £18 on the day and from £15 in advance.