This half-term I took my 4-year-old to Kidzania London. This unique attraction at Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush is a whole city entirely run by kids. It has shops, food outlets, emergency services, and more. The aim is that kids get to try out real-life jobs in a fun, hands-on way.
How it works
Kidzania has around 60 different role-playing experiences, set out in the format of a sort of miniature city. Upon entry, kids are given 50 “KidZos”, which is fake money. Some of the roleplaying experiences cost KidZos to play, and other experiences earn KidZos.
Each of the experiences is completely kids-only. Parents cannot even go inside the rooms where the children do the different activities – they have to watch through the window! Or, if your children are 7+ years old, you can leave them to do it on their own, and either relax in Kidzania’s parents’ lounge, or go shopping in Westfield. Kids wear RFID bracelets and the whole place is secured so older children are safe enjoying it on their own.
Each admission to Kidzania is for 4 hours, and their website expects you to do around 4-6 roleplaying activities in that time. We actually managed to wedge in 7 activities despite a bit of queueing, so I was very happy with that.
The best way to explain exactly what it’s like is to write a little bit about each activity my son did. This of course will only offer a taste of what’s on offer.
We made a beeline for this because my son was rather keen on the notion of being an airline pilot. He went into the room himself with a group of other kids and they dressed him up in a cute little pilot uniform.
Inside the room I could see (through the parent viewing window), that they had a fully simulated plane cockpit. My son thought it was the coolest thing ever.
My son has a thing about recycling – not entirely sure why – but I thought he would enjoy learning about paper recycling. He went into the room on his own and the teacher there showed him how they mash up old paper, soak it and then form it into new sheets of paper. He got a piece of handmade paper to take home.
Ice cream factory
This was sponsored by Wall’s and the kids got to make a mini milk. They had miniature versions of the machines in the factory and my boy seemed to enjoy it. He got given a badge to take home.
Same concept as the ice cream, but with smoothies, sponsored by Innocent. This one had a good layout and I could see everything that my son got involved in. He really enjoyed trying some of the fruit and then making a machine work, which spat out a smoothie drink box that he got to keep and drink.
Fire & Rescue unit
This was the absolute highlight. We had to queue for a while – and if I went again I would go to this first thing to beat the crowd – but it was so worth it. First, the kids watch a video about fire safety and what firefighters do. They get to wear cute little firefighter uniforms.
Then, they ride a miniature fire engine across the city to where there is a model hotel “on fire”. They have toy fire hoses that squirt real water and they all get to help put out the fire. The whole scene was really cool because the city also has Ambulance and Police experiences. So all of the emergency services turn up to play different roles and help with the fire at the hotel.
City tour bus
Not really as hands-on as the rest of things. You basically just ride a miniature tour bus (much like the fire engine) around the whole city. You know, on a tour! But my son obviously loved it because BUSES.
I already mentioned about his love of recycling. The textile version of it looked really fun because the kids got to use tablets to sort the clothes for recycling as if they were working in the factory. They also sorted some real clothes by hand and learned all sorts of things about the process. He was given one of those rubber wristbands to take home – which is one of his favourite ever things – he has a growing collection of them from wherever we go!
What I liked about it
I think Kidzania is a very fun place for kids. I saw children of all ages there, really getting involved and loving the feeling that they were in charge and doing “grownup” tasks. It had a great Disneyworld sort of atmosphere that made you feel as if you were immersed in an alternative world. However, the kids were all learning about real-world professions and getting an insight into how the world works generally. I think this was immensely beneficial for my 4yo, as he is just on the cusp of having a deeper understanding of the world and things like this steer him in the right direction.
The notion of spending and earning money is useful – although my son was a little too young to care about that bit. I looked after the money for him and if I hadn’t, it would have been lost for sure! However, I think the roleplaying itself and putting kids in control was even more useful than the training of tiny capitalists. Learning and trying out new skills filled my son with confidence. It was also helpful for me as a parent to step back and let him get on with it. I was prevented from hovering and helping him when he didn’t really need help (as I’m sometimes wont to do).
Without exception, all of the staff there that ran the different sessions were amazing. The staff are all DBS checked, but beyond that, I don’t know what their training was. But these people managed groups of 6 to 8 children of varying ages almost effortlessly, and with great fun and humour. My son is known to challenge authority figures but he behaved beautifully for these people.
It was also lovely that some of the experiences gave a small token, like the wristband or the badge. Very nice to get souvenirs that don’t cost extra!
Some points for consideration
The child admission is £32 during school holidays, and £29.50 off-peak. I think that this is fairly good value, especially if you have an older child who you can leave to go around on their own. That amounts to fairly cheap babysitting! Also, that sort of price is in the usual range for any theme park or attraction in the London area, and Kidzania is definitely as much fun for kids as any of them.
However, I’m less keen on the £16.50 adult admission price. Kidzania has a parents’ lounge where you can go and drink coffee and use the wifi. If I could have done this, I wouldn’t have minded the admission price. But as I had a child under 7, I had to follow him around everywhere. It was pretty hard work standing outside all of the venues while my son enjoyed himself. I think there should be a cheaper price for the parents of under-7s.
On the upside, this place would be perfect for catching up with a mum friend. You could bring your kids and chatter away without interruption while the kids do their activities!
Another thing to consider is the food situation. The website says that you can’t bring your own food, but this wasn’t policed. There were many people blatantly picnicking, and in the end I envied them. The only food outlets were a coffee shop, a crepe trolley, a “diner” and a GBK fast food counter.
We didn’t go to the diner because the seating inside looked odd. Children were sitting down at little bars and there seemed to be no place for the adults to sit. I wanted to sit down and enjoy lunch with my son, so we chose GBK, which had more tables (but not enough, I should note).
Unfortunately, the GBK burger was one of the worst I’ve ever had! It featured 2 dry overcooked patties, presented wrapped in paper with no plate or basket – only a tray – to put it on. And it was very expensive. I paid £21 for two burgers (one child-sized), one fries and two drinks.
I would urge Kidzania to assess their food outlet options and also to “legalise” picnicking. If you are planning to visit, perhaps you’d like to avoid visiting at a time when you would need lunch – I certainly can’t tell you to break the anti-picnic rules.
I think Kidzania is definitely worth a visit if you are looking for a unique, immersive and educational attraction for your kids. It’s great for ages 4 and up – and even better for ages 7+ because the kids can go round and let their parents relax.
The Kidzo money that they earn is also good anytime. So if you don’t earn enough on your first visit to buy anything at the Kidzo store, you can save it up and use it next time.
Disclosure: I received 2 admission tickets in return for this review, but I retain editorial honesty.