Yesterday we had an awesome day out to the Kidzania centre in London, and while I was concerned about many aspects following reviews online we actually had an amazing time! Here is everything I wish I knew beforehand… even just to cure some of my worries!
Make sure to do the research on how to find Kidzania within Westfields, it isn’t signposted too well but there were staff around to help point us the right way. While I’d looked at the Westfields map online, being in the centre looked very different! The entrance is beside some lifts, you’re greeted in a rather small entrance that leads to escalators, after taking four of these you’re at arrivals.
The Brownies and adults are given security tags, and the Brownies are given Kidzo money and hair nets (which some will proceed to put on straight away! But they’re for the food activities and I believe they put them on before putting on helmets for the climbing and air conditioning.)
As we go into the centre we’re greeted by a staff member who explains to the Brownies how the system works, how to check how long an activity will take and whether they have to pay Kidzos to take part, or of they get paid!
The only disappointment here is that the time it takes to get your security tags is included in the 4 hours. We walked into the Kidzania town itself at 11am (our booked time slot) but were told as we started checking in at 10.45am we would finish at 2.45pm.
Setting up a base:
We decided to set up base in the Town Square, an area with tables and chairs designed for resting and eating. The Brownies dumped their bags on and under our table and as leaders we took turns staying at the table and going around the centre and seeing what the girls were up to. This meant the Brownies always knew where to find an adult, it was placed very close to the toilets, and often the Brownies would pass by anyway between, or during, their jobs.
A major disappoint for us was that the security tags did not work. For a start, no one even mentioned this aspect of the Kidzania experience to us, I was only aware of this from a colleague who had previously taken her daughter. At the Job Information stand, right next to where you first walk in, there is a screen. Press the green ‘tracker’ icon and then scan your wristband and you should be able to see on the map where all the young members of your group have last scanned in (those running each activity scan the kids in and out). Great for leaders and for the girls to be able to find each other, but none of our tags worked. We were told it was because we were a large group and to go to the airport to fix it. A fellow leader discussed this with a manager for a little while, it didn’t get sorted which was a shame (if it had included getting all the girls together to scan their wrists again it wouldn’t have been worth the loss of time).
As of when we went in Summer 2017, youth groups and schools are allowed to take packed lunches into the centre. This was great as organising 16 kids buying lunch would’ve been a nightmare! We kept their lunches at our base and the girls came and sat with us the eat their lunch when they were hungry between activities. This worked so much better than trying to collect up all 16, and meant there was more space for other families.
There was so much to do! We gave our Brownies parents the list of jobs to read through before the day, and again to the girls on the journey up, so they could decide what their preferences were.
There really was activities to please everyone and our girls did such a variety. Reading reviews online I was concerned about queuing, being a sunny, hot day may have worked in our favour as the queues weren’t very bad at all. Many were just waiting for the previous group to finish and were next in. But some activities seem to have a constant queue, such as the firefighters and the chocolate factory.
Some activities were a little disappointing. A few younger ones were excited about the Smoothie Making Lab – but as ‘fruitologists’ their job seemed to be about identifying fruits rather than actually making smoothies – they did have some to taste though.
The air conditioning unit was tunnelling with tasks to do along the way, like counting up broken light bulbs.
Many were dashing around as couriers making deliveries, some were looking around for units to measure up to sell as estate agents, and some were looking after new born babies in the special care unit. Some were fashion designers and using a select number of clothes had to design an outfit for a client based on ‘tomboy’ or ‘girly girl’. Some became vets, although I was told the staff were a little unenthusiastic which made the session feel boring, I think the right staff really does make the activities as some others were fantastic.
One Brownie became a reporter and wrote an article on the dance studio, she selected the images to use and then her report was printed in front of her, hot of the press!
After a couple of the little ones went to university and got their Kidzania degree, the Brownies soon realised they would get paid more money in some jobs if they had one too! After achieving their degree they receive a little photo card which was a nice souvenir in itself.
They also figured out to make the most money they needed to become window cleaners. (I imagine this is because Kidzania actually benefits from the kids keeping their windows clean!)
By the end of the session the goal most Brownies had was to open their bank account. They need 75 Kidzos before they can make a deposit and receive their bank card, they’re given 50 on arrival to the centre and each activity earns 5-12 Kidzos. But watch them after they receive their bank cards, after queuing 15 minutes to deposit their Kidzos they’re straight at the ATMs trying to withdraw it all back out!
The only activity I was frustrated with was the Cadbury’s chocolate factory. One of our littlest Brownies queued by herself for so long for this, as she stood at the front of the queue we watched as the group before finished and left, and then another 10 minutes as the staff leisurely set up for the next group. When they’re finally let in (and you pay for this one, you don’t get paid) and they have their aprons on and wash their hands, then the official photographer came in to take a photo of each child holding a giant chocolate bar. It took so long to do anything. I’m not sure what actually happens during the activity, but when they finish they’re given a token, about A6 in size with the picture of a chocolate bar on it to hand in when they leave to receive some chocolate so we were a little disappointed when our girls who took part were given a ‘Heroes’ dairy milk! I didn’t understand why this couldn’t have just been given at the end of the activity rather than getting their hopes up!
We let the Brownies decide if they wanted to stay paired up or go it alone, though we did this thinking we could keep track of them but it actually worked out fine. Some stayed in groups the whole time, others had their own aspirations so split up for a bit, but they knew where to find a leader if they wanted to pair up with a group again.
Spending those hard earned Kidzos!:
Don’t expect to get much for your money. I tried to explain to some that this is the value of money and you have to work lots of times to buy the things you want. There is a shop, kids only, that sells pencils for 40 Kidzos, rulers for 45 Kidzos, necklaces for 120 Kidzos. But at the end of a session, if you hadn’t spent anything elsewhere, you’re likely to have about 85 Kidzos at most. The Brownies who had money didn’t even want to spend it on a pencil or a ruler, I wish I had advised them sooner to think about spending it on actual activities instead. It costs Kidzos to have your face painted or attempt the climbing wall. I believe there was a drum workshop too but I never saw it. Most of ours came home with bundles of Kidzo notes, so at least they can return with it in the future!
About 20 minutes before our time was up we started directing girls to the shop if they wanted to spend their money. This worked as a bit of a wind down time. We queued to have our security tags taken off and it was “bye bye” Kidzania!
Great day! Very pleased that the queuing wasn’t an issue, we had a few moans but I think this was part of the lesson they learned during the session. If I’d had the option I would’ve gone for a longer session, 4 hours goes so quickly, but actually being there the girls were starting to wind down after that amount of time anyway. The security tags were a disappointment but it didn’t ruin the day, it would’ve been nice to know where they were. Also, handing out maps would be a good idea too. There were signposts but I never looked at them so doubt ten year olds would! I never saw where the pilot and cabin crew activities were, or the music workshop. The stadium, engineering and animation studio were out of the way too so many of the kids may not notice them. But overall we had a fantastic day, we had great feedback from the girls including “this is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life” – you can’t beat that!