Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were little? I wanted to be a vet. These days, I often forget to feed the cats. My four year old wants to be Lava Girl so I was rather intrigued to be taking her and her sister to Kidzania. What would they make of having the chance to be a paramedic, journalist, bell ringer, chef, model and actor, to name but a few…?
I had no idea what to expect from Kidzania. All I knew was that it was a place where your kids can act out certain jobs.
It’s located very handily in Westfield, on the first floor by M&S. The Westfield by Shepherd’s Bush, that is. DON’T make the mistake I once made, ahem, and buy tickets and then go to Westfield Stratford and basically ruin your child’s life because you have no time to get to the actual Westfield.
Once there, Kidzania is its own little kid-sized world. It has roads, shops, a bank, an A&E, a fire station and lots, lots more. Seeing the look on your children’s faces when they see it for the first time is something to behold.
Because a first time visit can be somewhat overwhelming if, like me, you have NO idea what you’re doing (there. Or, in life. Or in general. Haha), I’ve prepared this handy little guide to give you the lowdown and a few little shortcuts to help you get the most out of your four hour visit.
Some handy tips
- Kidzania is notoriously busy. Unless you go on a hot day or when everyone else is out of the country on their August summer holiday. We literally didn’t queue for anything, which apparently is unheard of.
- You’ll be given an electronic tag and so will your child(ren) when you arrive. These connect you to each other so no child can leave without you or with anyone else. (Damn. Just when I was hoping to exchange mine for better behaved models. This also means there’s no nipping off to Prada or any of the other shops in the glorious shopping mecca that is Westfield. Sorry. But, good news! Once your child hits 8, you can send them in on their own. Woohoo!) You all get ‘scanned’ when you arrive and then your child gets scanned at the beginning and end of every experience. Four hours later, their slot ends and they won’t be able to do any more.
- Kids get given 50 KidZo banknotes each when they arrive. They can spend these on experiences such as making chocolate (which they then take away to eat) and also earn them on other jobs such as being a paramedic. So make sure your child has a purse (preferably one that can go across the body). You don’t want to be accused of ‘stealing’ their money or, worse, mixing it up with a sibling’s. Argghhhhh!
- Some experiences are as long as 20 minutes and adults aren’t allowed to take part. AT ALL. This means you have some actual, child-free time. So, take a magazine or your kindle. Or go with a friend and their kids and you’ll have some precious time to catch up. There’s also a Parent’s Lounge (adults only) with computers, reclining airline style pods AND a coffee bar.
- If you have a shy child without siblings, I recommend going with one of their friends and another parent. My girls quite liked having the security of one another when trying new things. (And usually they spend their lives bickering, so this was something of a novel experience. Never to be repeated, I’m sure.)
- If you do go on a hot day, take a cardigan or jumper. It’s air-conditioned in there and can get chilly (if you’re dressed for the beach, as I was).
- Try and time it (queue permitting) so your kids do the Gourmet Burger Kitchen experience around lunchtime. The burger they make will then double up as their lunch whilst you’ll get the 15 minutes when they’re in there, to eat your own burger from the neighbouring GBK restaurant IN PEACE. Frugal? Strategic? Me?
- You can’t take your own food in but I did see a few younger kids eating packed lunches. I’ll just leave that with you…
- There’s drinking water outside the toilets so you can refill any bottles you take. Working is thirsty work!
- There are (limited) things to do for children under 4. I left the toddler at home (with grandparents, not unsupervised), because, well he’s a bit of a pain and it was too good an opportunity to walk around without someone hanging off my leg.
- At the end of your slot, if your kids have any KidZos left, they can spend them in the Kidzania Department Store. But be warned, there is VERY little worth having under 150 kidzoos. You’re also not allowed in the gift shop with them, so you’ll spend an excruciating half hour repeating, ‘No, you can’t have that. Because you haven’t got enough, that’s why…’ Even my gift shop obsessed daughter struggled, eventually opting to open a Kidzania bank account with her money, which will earn interest until the next time we go. Funny how she doesn’t have as much trouble spending MY money.
- There is an ACTUAL gift shop by the exit. That takes Mummy’s currency. Obviously. You’ve been warned…
- You can occasionally get discounted tickets or offers online or through travel companies, so always check before you book.
- A visit to Kidzania is FUN but tiring for little legs (and big legs, come to that). I couldn’t face the tube journey back to Charing Cross with two kids in tow, so I took advantage of my first free trip with Uber and an opportunity to rest those weary legs. You can get your free trip here by downloading the app and using this code amyr10011ue (new customers only, up to £10).