Bangkok's Kidzania : A Microcosm of Sheer Fun
Bangkok can be a vast concrete jungle metropolis choked by stifling heat and millions of cars plying the streets, all in sum not especially a kid’s paradise. However, a new place (in addition to our other recommendations listed under Bangkok with the Kids) offers a great opportunity with unique activities for children in a world-class venue called Kidzania where children can, literally, live out their dreams.
As a parent you are probably well aware how fond kids are of role-playing. After all, you were young once, too. You’ve been there, done that. Perhaps you organized a few neighborhood kids with their bicycles and took on the role of traffic policeman. Or maybe you donned grandpa’s old paint coat, transformed into a veterinarian and started “operating” on the family cat.
We surely hope you didn’t set the garden shed on fire to test out your skills as a firefighter, though. In the end most of us embarked on careers that turned out completely different from what we wanted to become when we were still kids: policemen, farmers, nurses, doctors, pilots, postal carriers, rock stars, even astronauts.
Enter KidZania, Bangkok’s brand new kids’ paradise on the fifth floor of central Bangkok’s posh Paragon shopping mall. Spread out over a vast 10.000 square meters (almost 108.000 square feet) of floor space, KidZania is all about role-playing, but with an completely novel and exciting twist to it. Here it’s not just a simple matter of your kids slipping into semi-authentic costumes and acting out their dream professions. Instead, KidZania has recreated an entire city with streets and numerous buildings, all scaled down to accommodate the smaller physique of children.
Think of it as a modernized version of Munchkin Village straight out of Frank L. Baum’s beloved “The Wizard of Oz”. And buckle up, Dorothy, because it’s going to be a wild, wild ride! More than 65 different buildings and establishments line the mini roads, including a barber shop, auto repair shop, radio station, veterinary clinic, hospital, dentist, fire station, fashion boutique, pizza restaurant, chocolate factory (minus Willy Wonka!), photo studio, bottling plant, construction firm, gas station, acting academy, news agency, bank, hotel, car dealership, courier service, retail store, shopping mall, insurance company, police station, movie theater, football stadium and a pilot training center. The attention to detail is simply mindboggling, as all establishments are fitted out with every imaginable tool and gadget of the respective trade, reflecting real life in minutest detail. If your children cannot find their fantasy professions here, chances are they don’t exist.
Upon entering this micro cosmos, kids choose their favorite role and are fitted with appropriate, very realistic costumes. They also each receive 50 kidzos, KidZania’s very own “currency”, because according to the operator’s policy, experiencing KidZania is as much about having fun as it is about learning valuable life lessons in a playful manner. Those kidzos can be spent on products (how about a juicy hamburger at the town’s restaurant?), services, but also training lessons; for example, if your child has opted to act out the role of news photographer, they need to learn how to use a camera.
But spending alone will soon leave your kid deprived of much needed funds, and this is where the learning experience kicks in. Every chosen job will earn your child a certain wage, depending on its difficulty. They can climb the career ladder by mastering additional training, which increases their pay-check gradually. Each child also can open their own personal savings account at KidZania’s bank. This not only earns them interest, but they also can withdraw cash at ATM machines scattered all across town.
Now, if all of this sounds like a potentially strenuous and overly serious exercise, rest assured that “living it out” at KidZania focuses on having fun and playing with peers rather than putting your child through undue “adulthood stress”. Yet your child will learn in a natural way that one cannot buy goods, attend the pilot training course at KidZania’s high-tech flight simulator or fill up the electric car (KidZania’s streets are negotiated with battery-driven miniature vehicles!) at the gas station if there aren’t enough kidzos left in the bank account. To guide the children through their role-playing, KidZania employs well over 200 fully-trained (adult) supervisors. They ensure that the mini city’s population (KidZania can accommodate up to 2.000 kids at a time!) perform their tasks properly, manage their funds sensibly and develop social skills by interacting with their peers. To aid foreign children, all staff are bilingual in Thai and English.
Children safety also is a high priority at KidZania. Every new “citizen” receives a security ID bracelet upon entering. This prevents kids from leaving the premises without their parents or caretakers. But once inside the city, children can of course roam freely. While parents are permitted to accompany their offspring during their discovery tours of the urban maze of streets and buildings, they are not allowed to enter most of the facilities, except a few designated places like the theater and stadium. KidZania’s management is very adamant at enforcing this rule, because interference by the parents might not only impede the youngsters’ fun, but also their learning progress.
However, parents can still observe their kids going about their assigned tasks through large glass walls that penetrate the sides of practically all buildings. And who knows? You might actually learn a new thing or two while watching your child concocting a new epicurean delight as the hotel’s head chef, expertly laying a brick wall at the construction site or changing a car tire at the auto repair shop. Children often do things intuitively and aren’t as restrained by reason as many of us “smarter” adults.
KidZania Bangkok is open 7 days a week, but due to its enormou popularity prior reservations are very strongly recommended. Originally conceived in Mexico City some 14 years ago, KidZania now operates branches in Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Portugal. To date, the Bangkok outlet is not only KidZania’s newest and largest installation worldwide, but also represents the company’s so far biggest investment at roughly USD 28 million. The venture is suitable for children between 4 and 11 years of age. Read more about Kidzania on their Facebook page.
By Thomas Schmid – dukas
Thomas Schmid is based in Bangkok, which he's called home for over two decades.
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