Kidzania Mania (Business Mirror (Philippines))

THE game changer in children’s entertainment, as I like to call it, is finally here. KidZania Manila is the ultimate role-playing environment where kids, ages 4 to 14, get to experience real-world scenarios in a simulated city setting.

Everything about this sprawling city, built to a child’s scale and designed to offer kids the opportunity to experience the world of work through role play, is meticulously attentive to detail. These details are intended to project authenticity-from the activities, to uniforms and costumes, to work gear and tools, even the city interiors.

Mexico-headquartered KidZania was founded in 1997 and opened its first park in 1999. Today there are 20 KidZania minicities in 17 countries around the world. It is the first of its kind in the Philippines. Each city is built to mimic its local community, featuring brands and establishments that will be familiar to the guests. Role-play at KidZania provides a fun and authentic educational experience that helps kids understand the world. The company’s goal is to promote change, inspire global leadership, and build strong community awareness among the future leaders and citizens of each city.

Getting around KidZania

Upon entering, you will notice a slick check-in desk provided by Cebu Pacific, exactly like a real airport counter, and the first thing you will hear is Kai, which means hello in KidZania. Here, you can purchase your tickets and, in exchange, you will receive boarding passes, 50 Kidzos (the currency used in the city of KidZania), a map and an electronic tag that is affixed to every child’s and companion’s arm.

Your first stop should be the PaZZport Office. Here, kids can sign up to become naturalized KidZanian citizens and get more benefits, rather than just being a regular tourist. Each PaZZport costs P250, and is valid until the child turns 15 years old. Being a Kidzanian entitles kids to discounts at select exhibits, they earn more Kidzos per activity, and they also receive stamps on their PaZZport for completing one activity per day. So, don’t forget to bring your PaZZport every time you visit!

Because KidZania Manila is a play city built to scale for children, it is complete with paved streets, a transport system and a functioning economy. You can be better informed about where to go, what to do and how to help your child plan his/her activities, by visiting the Employment Office and/or the Information Center to learn more about each exhibit.

Educational courses can be taken at Centro Escolar University, the Art and Design Academy and Natural Disasters Training Center, etc., to boost learning and earning power. This teaches children the importance of an education.

Just like in real life, supply and demand of jobs means that more popular occupations are harder to get into, hence the long lines. Job availability ranges from police officer to urban farmer to factory worker to recording artist. There are 100 immersive role-play activities to choose from and they partnered with over 40 companies to provide children with reality-based activities. Thanks to the assistance of our industry partners, the exhibits were made possible and are very true-to-life, says Denise Peralta, KidZania industry partner manager, and the person responsible for why so many children are able to enjoy KidZania Manila today.

How do Kidzos work?

As mentioned earlier, Kidzos is the currency used in the KidZania exhibits. In some activities, you will spend Kidzos and in some you will earn them. For instance, if you serve in the jury at the Courthouse, you will earn Kidzos for rendering services. But if you go to A-1 Driving School, where you can earn a driver’s license, you will spend Kidzos. However, you can earn the Kidzos back if you work in the Pit Crew Training Center, the Shell gas station and Honda car dealership.

These activities were created to make the kids understand the value of money. By engaging in these activities, they will learn to strategize and plan their visit based on a budget. If they need 15 Kidzos to go to aviation school at the Cebu Pacific training center, they can render work at the hospital, laundromat, even the fire station-where they can train about fire safety, ride a fire truck and actually put out a fire in a burning hotel. This is the best way to teach our children how to save or spend. The opportunities and scenarios presented to them are what they would actually encounter and apply in the real world.

At the end of each visit, I encourage you to have your child open a bank account at KidZania’s very own bank (sponsored by Bank of the Philippine Islands) so they can deposit their Kidzos and receive a personalized automated teller machine card in exchange. They can use this ATM card to withdraw Kidzos during their next visit, and this will ensure that their money does not get lost or misplaced.

Kids Rule

More than just a family entertainment center, KidZania Manila creates a kid-centric experience where kids are in charge. This is a world where kids rule, because the goal is to teach them how to be independent. However, safety is paramount to how the attraction is promoted to parents as a secure and educational space for their children, so KidZania has implemented strict security policies, created waiting areas for parents, and there are activities where adult companions are welcome! This combination of education, safety and a child-centered approach is clearly a winning one.

Good news to those families with children younger than 4 years old-the RightZkeepers’ House and Kindergarten exhibits welcome infants and toddlers.

The bottom line

Some people will argue that KidZania prepares children for adult lives whose purpose is driven by consumer subjectivity that it is lacking in diversity, such as entrepreneurial activities, and exposure to economic factors, such as unemployment, debt and inequality. However, this is not what KidZania is about.

KidZania simply offers an opportunity for young people to start to understand the way in which the economy works in society. Unlike theme parks or other places that provide entertainment for children, KidZania provides a truly extraordinary opportunity for kids to play adult roles with real equipment in a gloriously detailed miniature city. The children who get to experience the activities are obviously enjoying the chance to be participants in an adult world with which they are deeply familiar, but from which they are largely excluded.

My personal takeaway is this: KidZania shows our children that they can do anything, that anything is possible, that being an actor, a chef and a hospital volunteer all at the same time can be done. It’s a very fancy, realistic and educational way of playing pretend. My children are now certified KidZanians, and we will be going back every chance we get. Zanks and Z-U soon, Team KidZania Manila!