Life skills taught at Kidzania

By on May 27, 2010

kidzaniaAll parents have hopes for their children’s future. You can see the glint in Mum’s eye as she watches her little girl don a stethoscope and white coat. Who wouldn’t love to see their child grow up to be a doctor? You can see the pride in Dad’s eyes as, after months of subterfuge half-in-jest-coaching, his little boy utters his first full sentence, “Allez les bleus”. Indeed, his prodigy will surely one day play football for France.

And so when my five-year-old son donned the dark-green uniform of Mos Burger at Kidzania last week, it was more with bemusement and shock than pride that I watched.  I had promised myself I would be restrained and neither try to coach nor influence where he should eventually try to “get a job” at this city built for kids. But he and his little “partner-in-dissent”  Souta, headed straight to Mos Burger for the simple reason that “it looked kinda like McDonalds”, a hitherto forbidden destination for them both.

Well, the apple of my eye flipped those burgers like a king. He munched down the fries prepared by his buddy Souta and they both had the biggest smiles on their faces by the end of their shift, that all I could do was applaud the genius behind this creation. Welcome to KIDZANIA, where in thirty short minutes, a mother’s nightmare can come true!

What is Kidzania?

cosmo_blackcat_2Kidzania was invented by Mexican entrepreneur Lois Javier Laresgoiti. His concept of blending entertainment with education, EDUTAINMENT, started in 1999 in Mexico City and came to Lalaport, Toyosu, Japan in 2006, and has been a roaring success ever since. The idea is that children from ages 3-15 can come and role-play in a miniature city and be paid for the profession that they choose. Basically children come and can work in “shifts” either from 9am to 3pm or 4pm to 9pm. They are given 50 kidzos (the kid currency of Kidzania) upon entering, which they can use for amenities around the “town”. If they run out of kidzos, they will have to work to earn some more cash. What work they choose to do is 99% of the fun here.

Feeling philanthropic? Be a nurse! Love those well-clad Tokyo doggies? Be a vet! Have a secret love of sugary donuts? Be a donut-making-guy! Painter? Pilot? Engineer? Kidzania has it all. Some professions are more popular than others – the fireman queue, for example, is heaving with little boys while the queue for the more behind-the-scenes careers such as “TV cameraman” are less packed. With more than 80 professions to choose from, most kids end up doing jobs they had never even heard of before visiting.  My friend and I watched on as our lads became bakers, toy-store operators, package delivery “men” and one of the funniest moments of the day, they even dressed up in glad rags and strutted their stuff on the catwalk as male models.

cosmo_firemanThe real beauty of Kidzania is that every worker is paid for their toils. The eight-year-old fireman who just put out that very real fire, in his miniature-sized fireman suit, with the very real foam and water, will be paid 8 kidzos. The ten-year-old doctor who just “scrubbed in” for the appendectomy (on a dummy) will also be paid 8 kidzos. And the pizza delivery boy, who just cooked and boxed and delivered your 12 inch margherita with extra cheese, will also be paid 8 kidzos. Socialism at its purest.

What is really interesting is how the workers spend their hard-earned cash. Some of the children return to the hall of mums with stories and cash in hand. Others have stories and omiyages to beat the band, the gift-store being very strategically, realistically, and temptingly positioned just before the exit. What is sure is, at the end of this special day out, all the kids will have learned something about the value of work, earning money, and the concept of banking.

By the end of their “shift” at Kidzania, our kids had learned to make French fries, to flip a burger like a pro, how to use a bank for savings and apparently how to manipulate their mums into bringing them back to this Eductainement ville. When I asked my son about his “work-day” and his “earnings” and if he had bought anything, he giggled and told me he had put it all in the Kidzania bank, which meant we’d just HAVE to come back and play another day. And so the lesson for mums it seems is, never to underestimate the ingenuity of a five-year-old and his burger-flipping buddy.

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About Dana Killalea