Safe and Streetsmart Kids

Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia. The Star. March 4, 2012. (English). We often hear of parents wanting their children to be independent and streetsmart but who worry at the same time about letting their children out on the street alone.

Now, parents have a safe haven at KidZania Kuala Lumpur for their children to learn about the reality of life in a more controlled environment.

Chrisephine Chan Jo Inn has been amazed by what she has seen at KidZania. Not only have all the “establishments” been scaled down to child size, the vehicles and streets are also designed to resemble potential real-life scenarios in the replica city, she says.

Children entering a “prison cell” at KidZania.

But there is more to it than that.

At KidZania — the Land of Cool Kids — of Kuala Lumpur, Chrise-phine can drive a Honda and take up a job as a “doctor” at the KPJ Specialist Hospital.

“I can put on the white robe, play with the stethoscope and perform surgery on patients,” says Chrisephine.

The 10-year-old pupil says she also wants to look after “newborn babies” in the nursery, when she is “off duty”.

Like Chrisephine, Melody Chu Jing Yi also has set her heart on becoming a doctor wants to save people”.

It is no surprise that many children want to play “doctor and patient” as it is an all-time favourite game among school children. However, the closest they ever get to being near a doctor is when they seek medical treatment at a clinic.

With such a centre, school children can get a taste of various professions through role-play.

KidZania was founded in Mexico City in1996 by young entrepreneur Xavier Lopez who dreamt of creating a place where children could have fun and enjoy in an indoor family education and entertainment centre.

Targeted at children aged between four and 14, the family edutainment centre is where children can explore and take part in up to 90 role-play activities including registering for a bank account, earning interest and saving their money known as kidZos, in the bank.

“We don’t have to teach children how to role-play because it is a instinct that comes naturally for them,” says KidZania’s “Foreign Affairs Minister” Hernan Barbieri.

He also acts as chief Integration Officer responsible for the development and operations of the international business.

“If you give a child a fake mobile phone made of plastic, chances are they will throw it after playing with it for five minutes.

“The items and brands you see in KidZania give the entire city a sense of realism which will enrich the experience of those doing the activities,” adds Barbieri.

Children appreciate freedom and independence and should be allowed to express their creativity, he says.

He said that while they will not be told what to do while they are there, they will be given guidance whenever necessary.

When their money runs low, says Barbieri, children can earn some “kidZo” by taking up jobs in the “city”.

“We teach them about the value of money, work and self-esteem at Kidzania where we also promote peer socialisation in a team environment through different roles,” he adds.

KidZania’s Foundation Day which was graced by Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was held at its premises at the Curve NX in Mutiara Damasnara on Monday.

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