Sarah had hardly been able to sleep since I first broke the news that we were going to KidZania Kuala Lumpur. But what is it? KidZania is an indoor theme park of sorts--but one with a very unique and educational concept. It functions as its own mini-city with its own currency and work economy--kids get to take part in jobs and services all over the city, managing their own bank accounts and participating in the adult routines of life.
*Our family was given complimentary tickets in exchange for a personal review of KidZania Kuala Lumpur. All opinions are my own.
She was full of plans of which jobs she wanted to try--ahead of time, she scoured the website and made a list of the jobs she was most interested in! Turns out, when it comes to your first time at KidZania, it's smart to plan ahead and have some idea of what you want to do when you arrive, because there are so many choices (according to their information, there are over 90 professions represented within the city) that it can be a bit confusing and distracting. Don't worry too much about being confused, though, as soon as we walked in, we were welcomed by a very friendly employee who explained a little bit about the system and asked Sarah which job she wanted to do first, and walked her to her desired job site.
The girls came slightly unprepared for the day, as neither one of them had pockets or purses to keep their money in. They each received $50 KidZos upon entrance to the park, and earned more or paid more throughout the day. Parents are encouraged to let their kids be as independent as possible and manage their own finances during the day...but without pockets or purses, they had to let me hold onto their money, and they just got money from me whenever they needed it.
The very first job that the girls tried out was at the Fipper store. I loved that KidZania Kuala Lumpur utilizes real brand names that are well-known in Malaysia, because these brands are very relatable. Both MaryGrace and Sarah have their own pair of Fippers, so the experience of putting together a pair by hand made a big impact on them. Sarah came out saying, "Do you know how HARD it is to make Fippers?"
Right after that, they headed straight to the Salon, where they would try their hand at being beauticians. I like to think that this career choice was in honor of me. Their 'boss' at this shop trained them on how to do a facial on their little clients, who were a group of preschool-aged girls who showed up at the shop right at the same time MG and Sarah did. I'll admit, as a cosmetologist, I was commenting on how they weren't taught the safety and health standards that cosmetologists have to abide by. The cape was touching the client's neck! Neither a neck protector nor a towel draping being used? The same blush brush being used on one client to the next without being sanitized?
Then I have to remind myself that this is just play. It is not a real salon. I tend to appreciate maximum realism, but then again, it's probably perfectly fine that they aren't trying to stress kids out by making them memorize lists of hygienic procedures when they are only going to be a beautician for 20 minutes. And I will say, overall, throughout the park I did notice that a good amount of attention was paid to cleanliness and safety. Whenever costumes required hats or headgear, the kids had to wear hairnets first. They had to wear gloves when preparing food. Everyone in the park wears electronic wristbands so that parents don't have to worry about losing their kids. We felt very secure.
Doesn't she look like a natural in her smock?
At the Jeweler's, the girls each got to make a pair of earrings, they thought that was pretty fun, and since it was only the two of them in their class, they got out quickly.
At the Brother Sewing machine store, they got to use embroidery and cutting machines to make these. When I saw all those lovely sewing machines in neat rows, I really wished I could have gone into this store! Parents aren't allowed into any of the stores, which, honestly, I believe is a very good rule, otherwise, you'd have the parents right on top of the children, snapping countless photos, and most probably just trying to do the jobs for the kids. KidZania encourages kids to practice independence in the context of a safe environment, and I think that's really awesome.
Both girls decided they wanted to join the Acting Class and participate in the play. They drew randomly to determine roles, Sarah getting a 'bad guy" roles, while MaryGrace got Agent Bakar, a comedic-relief style role that didn't really fit her personality...but it was very amusing for me and Dad to watch her try. I'm a class clown by nature, MaryGrace, not so much.
Sarah was totally in her element, but Dad and I were really proud of MaryGrace for performing her role anyways, even though it was well outside her comfort zone!
Dad, being a car guy, thought the driving complex was really cool, and was impressed by the complicated system involved in getting a driver's license. Kids had to pass an eye exam, buy car insurance, and then pass driving school in order to be allowed to get their license. Pretty realistic, huh? Boy, I'm glad I never have to go through the rigmarole of getting my driver's license for the first time ever again!
When they got hungry, they worked at the Ayam Brand shop where they got to make their own mini pizzas (and afterward, eat them!). Going into this day, I wasn't sure if the activities at KidZania would really be suitable for MaryGrace. Most of the information I'd read on the part focused on the experiences of younger kids, in the 4-7 age range, so I wasn't sure what it would be like for a 9 and 14 year old. Especially with MaryGrace being particularly tall, I wasn't sure how well she'd fit in with the rest of the kids and if she's be able to wear the work uniforms that are used at every shop. Actually, there were a LOT of young teens at the park the day we went, it looked like several school groups from local high schools, and nearly every work location had uniforms in sizes that fit MaryGrace, so I was really happy that they were prepared for bigger kids and didn't only focus their activities on the youngest ones. MaryGrace still has a very childlike sense of wonder and interest, and was very engaged in all the different job activities, she didn't find it boring at all!
To encourage patience and learning skills applicable to real life, kids are required to wait in queues marked with tape until they can join the next job batch at each location. The number of taped-off boxes indicated how many kids can join the job at one time (as does the information sign on the wall of each shop). KidZania makes it very clear that parents are not allowed to wait in place of the kids and that kids have to line up themselves and wait until they are allowed to come in and start their shift. I think this is a very good system, showing kids the value of patience and encouraging them to show maturity while waiting for something they really want to do. Unfortunately, as always, there are parents who ignore such rules. There was one job MaryGrace wanted to do, so she walked up to the line for it and stood in an empty square, when a mom standing in the walkway told her, "This square is taken already. You have to move to a different square." That mom's kid was running around, being squirrelly like any normal kid. MaryGrace meekly moved to a different (also empty) square. When the job boss came out to hand out the lanyards to all the kids that were getting into the next batch, she had six lanyards and there were only a total of six kids in the general vicinity, so I knew everybody was getting in, whether they were standing on a square patiently like MaryGrace, or not, but this mom wasn't happy merely that her son got a lanyard, no, she insisted very loudly to the staff member that he must get the lanyard that said #1 because he was the first.
So...no matter where you go...there will always be parents who are a little odd. Big sister felt a little protective when this stranger is telling my baby sister to get out of a square that she's standing in and move to a different square...but it's okay. MaryGrace is so sweet and humble that it didn't even phase her. And the staff throughout KidZania were so upbeat and so good at managing kids that it definitely takes away the sour taste of one mom making sure that the world knows her son is more important than my MaryGrace. :) I advocate patience, and perhaps keeping your distance from parents who seem to be taking the experience a little too seriously.
Dad spent a good chunk of the day in the Parents' Lounge, which was really nice and cushy. There were comfy chairs, lots of books and magazines, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl was playing on the tv! It's like they knew I was coming! I never stayed there for long, though. I was too busy living vicariously through my growing-up-too-fast baby sisters, and wishing places like this had existed when I was a kid. As Dad said, "KidZania makes you realize how cool adult life is! Like, we ought to be excited about going to an office and working because--see how excited these kids are about it?!!"
Later in the day, the girls started splitting up since they had a few different jobs they wanted to try. In honor of big brother Angel, they both got jobs at the Hospital, but Sarah worked in the nursery while MaryGrace assisted at a surgery. This was another funny one regarding hygiene. Dad and I were watching MaryGrace scrub up at the sinks and done her scrubs and gloves, when we saw her drop one on the floor, pick it back up, and put it on. Yet another moment when you're glad this isn't the real world.
"I don't think that man's ever been to medical school." - Name that Movie!
One of the jobs Sarah had been most excited about from her very first research into KidZania was than of being a fashion model on the runway. She's said that she wants to have a career as a fashion designer for as long as I can remember, and this job definitely caught her eye! She just made it into the last fashion show of the day, and Dad and I cheered in the audience as we watched our little model strike a pose.
Time was running out and it was down to the last few jobs of the day! MaryGrace tried out being a Crime Scene Investigator. Later, she said that she was most proud of herself for doing this job, because it required talking to different people around the city, which was big step outside of her comfort zone, but she was glad she did it.
Sarah got to go up in a work lift to do some window washing! I've done house painting from a lift/boom before, all attached to it with a safety harness and everything, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever, so I was really excited for Sarah to get to try it! She had a lot of fun!
Here's the jail cell at KidZania. I'm pretty sure it's just for show, but it definitely amused me that they had one. Remember kids--don't land yourselves in jail!
At the end of the day, the girls spend their remaining cash on temporary tattoos and bid KidZania KL a reluctant goodbye just as they were shutting down. They went hard all day long and I think they'll be itching to go back again one of these days!
We had a great time at KidZania Kuala Lumpur, and highly recommend it to other families, even if you think your kids are little older than most--if they're interested, why not check it out? KidZania has locations in a number of countries around the world--we're glad there's one in Malaysia!
Have you ever been anywhere like this? Why do you think working at 'real jobs' as a kid is so much more fun than working at them as an adult? If you could try any job in the world temporarily, what job would you pick? I'd pick...movie actress, Broadway actress, journalist, seamstress, carpenter, fashion designer, model, oh no...looks like I'm going to need my very own KidZania. Can anyone make one of these for 25-year-olds?