Play it big

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. New Straits Times. February 9, 2012. (English). At KidZania, you can land your dream job and get your first taste of the adult world. 

Ever looked at famous actors and wanted to be one? Ever feel the urge to drive a car legally? Ever felt inspired to be a doctor? Ever admired the firemen who put out fires? Perhaps, all your dreams and ambitions are about to come true during the March holidays with the opening of Kidzania in CurveNX, Petaling Jaya.

KidZania, founded in 1999 by Xavier Lopez Ancona, is an indoor educational and entertainment park with a different approach for kids – giving them an opportunity to role play real adult jobs. The etymology of KidZania is as follows: kid is self-explanatory, zany means cool, and ania meaning land. As an indoor educational facility, I’m thinking you would feel it is boring. But trust me, KidZania is the downright opposite of boring. It is a simulation of the real world, where teens and kids get to choose from more than 90 occupations.

This is how the park works: a boarding pass of RM55 for kids – RM35 for adults – has to be purchased for the flight to KidZania. This explains the protruding airplane model at the building of CurveNX. As the visitors ‘board’ for KidZania, all kids are made to put on a safety bracelet. This bracelet prevents children from exiting the theme park without their accompanying adult, who should be wearing a similar bracelet, unique to each other, provided at the entrance.

There are no pretentious things in the park, everything is true to life. And what’s more, everybody gets paid for their work! Wages are paid in KidZo, the currency of KidZania.

Visitors are first given a cheque of 50 kidZos, and an automatic teller machine (ATM) card. Mind you, this ATM card works for real, unlike the dummy machines we purchase from toy stores that only make sounds.

As the guests arrive at KidZania, they have the option to pick whichever occupation they desire. They undergo a training course first, which can take between 20 to 40 minutes depending on the difficulty level of each occupation, to learn their job. All training courses are supervised by 350 Zupervisors in the park.

Once they don a uniform, they start their job.

Adam Abu Shahlizan, 6, who has been to KidZania in Jakarta said, “Everything is so real in KidZania. I tried being a construction worker and a spy. I built houses with bricks and it was the best teamwork I ever experienced.”

He was excited as he revealed his memories of visiting the KidZania. When KidZania opens in Kuala Lumpur, he said, he wants to be a fireman.

Luqman, Adam’s elder brother, also shared his experience of being a fire-worker and a surgeon. He said: “I flushed out fire with real water, and as a surgeon, operated and extracted kidneys of dummies. It was great that I got to do things I can’t do in real life. It all became real in KidZania.”

You get to choose whether to withdraw your money or keep it in the account to earn interest. If you withdraw the money, you can go to a beauty salon and get a relaxing treatment, or head to the game room to play cool arcade games.

There are also other forms of entertainment.

niexterMehthaa Vaiishnavi, 11, went to Kidzania two years ago, yet the memories remain fresh in her mind. “I have tried being a cab caller, a weathergirl, and a newscaster!”

When asked what her favorite job was, Mehthaa gushed excitedly: “Being a newscaster! It was fun and there were real video recording. The next thing I know, my face is plastered on the television screen!”

But in real life Mehthaa wants to be a veterinarian and is focusing on her ambition.

Najwa Zaid Alsagof, 10, tried being a policewoman and a chef when she went to KidZania. She got the chance to wear a chef’s clothes and hat, and made chocolates with the assistance of the Zupervisors. She also tried dancing and went through a training session before showing her skills on a real stage. “I also want to try being a spy, because it seems so cool! KidZania does help in my career choice.”

Najwa too cannot wait for KidZania to open in Kuala Lumpur. “Go, or you’ll never know how awesome it is!”

When it’s time to go home, teenagers and kids can choose to access the ATM machine, and store their cash with an interest rate. The money will be saved and can be accessed the next time they visit KidZania. This promotes the value of saving money among kids at a young age.

First opened in Mexico, KidZania is now all around the world in cities such as Mexico City, Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul, Lisbon and Dubai.

KidZania is open from 10 am to 5 pm on weekdays. On weekends, public holidays, and school holidays, the park is open from 10 am to 3 pm and 4 pm to 9 pm. KidZania is for children between the age of 4 and 14, however, those older are also welcome.

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