I’d heard a bit about Kidzania.
I knew it was about kids trying out grown up roles and learning the basics of earning and spending money (Kidzania has it’s own currency called Kidzos which forms a central part of the make-believe world).
Arlo ready to pay for his ice cream making experience with his Kidzos
What I wasn’t sure about, was how good an experience it would be for younger children. A lot of the activities seemed tailored more to children a little bit older than my five year old. Would he ‘get it’ enough to be able to gain something from the experience? And what about his two year old brother? Would there be anything on offer at Kidzania that would benefit him, or is it more a place where you leave the toddlers at home and do a one-on-one trip with your older child?
We went along to Kidzania last week to find out the answers to my questions – a five year old, a two year old, and two parents who didn’t know what to expect.
Kidzania London is located in Westfield (Shepherd’s Bush). It’s right inside the shopping centre located on the first floor between Marks and Spencers and Gap.
The entrance to Kidzania sets the tone for the rest of the experience, and really makes you feel like you are about to enter a different land. It’s, very convincingly, laid out like an airport check in, and for transport fans there is a huge model of a British Airways plane suspended overhead.
Every child (and grown up) gets an electronic bracelet at check in. It has a radio frequency antenna and an identification chip installed, and is scanned at the beginning of every role play activity. This means that the over 8s, who can go around Kidzania unaccompanied by an adult, still have their every move logged.
As we stepped into the main square, a fire engine whizzed by in front of us, complete with a team of mini firefighters sitting in the back, hard hats peeping out over the top of the truck. The roads and shopfronts had been designed with great attention to detail, and the christmas lights were up, which made it seem all the more cute.
Immediately, Kidzania was more than I had expected.
Although I could only convince Arlo to do the food-based activities (he takes after his father), there were so many cool experiences on offer.
Some of my favourites include the pit stop experience where children get to change a tyre on a race car, the fire fighter experience where children get to ride in a fire engine and hose down a burning hotel building, and the GBK experience where kids can make their own burger which can then be sent to the kitchen to be cooked along with the rest of the family’s order (A great option if you are visit overlaps a meal time).
I chuckled at the air conditioning experience when I saw it in the guide/map we were given, but actually, it was a tunnel system that the kids could climb through, and was a more exciting than it sounds on paper.
You had to be slightly older than our boys for this one, but I loved the idea of the courier company. It was brilliant seeing teams of children delivering boxes to all the different shops and getting them signed for.
The experiences the boys particularly enjoyed were the Cadbury’s chocolate factory (for Arlo as this was over 4s only), the kids-only supermarket – Rory had the time of his LIFE being in charge of the trolley, and the city tour bus, which we were all able to go for a ride on as a family.
This map lists the full range of activities and also tells you which ones are suitable for the different age groups.
Things to know about Kidzania with young children:
Do the city bus tour first, as the tour guide will point out the activities that are suitable for the age ranges of your children.
Under 3s are allowed to be customers at the supermarket, but only over 4s can work at the checkout.
Adults are not permitted to accompany children into the activity rooms, but they all have floor to ceiling glass windows so it is easy to keep an eye on your child and watch them having their fun.
Although most of the role play activities start from age 4, if you think your child might be apprehensive to go in alone, it might be best waiting a few more years. (There were several activities that we just couldn’t persuade Arlo to do at all).
There were a couple of sessions where Arlo went in with much older children and it did cross my mind that he might get left behind, skills-wise. But the instructors were all really good at catering for different age ranges, making sure to help Arlo with some of the more tricky tasks like pouring big mixing jugs, etc.
There are two 0-3yrs specific play zones, so no worries that younger siblings will feel left out on a visit to Kidzania. Although best to go with another adult rather than attempt a solo trip with two or more kids, so you can split up whilst your older child/children are doing the role plays.
Another great area for the under 3s is the Science Lab, which is basically just blowing bubbles, but hey, YOU try getting a two year old to leave.
So, what did we think?
We thought the ticket price for adults (£16.50) was a bit on the steep side considering you are there purely to accompany your children. But the price for children (around £30 for 4yrs+) seems about right for four hours of good quality fun and unique experiences. As an under 3, Rory’s ticket was £10, which again, seemed about right for the amount of activities available to him.
As far as kid-focused play places go, Kidzania was really quite relaxed. We visited on a weekend afternoon, but it wasn’t overly busy. Most activities were available to walk straight into, or wait a maximum of 10 minutes whilst the previous group finished up. It didn’t seem overrun with people. The lights were dimmed low, which my camera didn’t like, but it made a noticeable change from lurid fluorescent lighting. It wasn’t overly noisy either, and as a result, none of us left feeling frazzled with overstimulation.
Over 8s get the most out of Kidzania. I think it’s a great party destination for that age range and older. I would have absolutely lapped up something like that at that age, running around with my friends playing at grown up jobs. But contrary to my pre-visit assumption, there is also plenty for younger children to do and it’s well worth a visit with your 4yrs plus child, especially if they are the outgoing, up-for-anything type – they will absolutely love the role play opportunities at Kidzania.
Arlo was a bit nervous to fully embrace the Kidzania ethos, but that was definitely more to do with personality rather than the experiences being above his age range. I think perhaps another trip with some more adventurous friends would be all the encouragement he would need. As I have been editing these photos, he has just glanced over and said “Kidzania was really cool, wasn’t it?” so the uniqueness of the experience has definitely not been lost on him.
The whole place is really smartly designed, nothing about it feels kiddy at all, but more of a real grown up experience. The attention to detail was not far removed from the incredibly immersive design of Disney World. There really isn’t anything else like Kidzania in London, and that’s what makes it a special experience.
(If you are a grown up reading this and feeling left out, look out for Kidzania’s adults nights, where you can try out all the activities without the guilt of cutting into a queue of 8 year olds. There is one on this week.)
Our tickets were complimentary for the purpose of this review.