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Days Out: KidZania, London


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It bills itself as an indoor city run by kids.

And from the moment you step inside the door, you know KidZania really is a place where children are in control.

The huge 75,000 sq ft attraction, based within the Westfield shopping complex in West London, is an experience like no other.

Kids can try their hand at working in a hospital (6308238)
Kids can try their hand at working in a hospital (6308238)

For the uninitiated, KidZania offers children aged between four and 14 the opportunity to role-play a variety of real-life jobs, all set in a bustling, beautifully-designed city landscape.

There are dozens to choose from, ranging from perennial favourites like police officers or firefighters through to radio DJs, journalists and dentists.

With so many activities to choose from, KidZania definitely rewards advance planning.

Much like visiting a theme park, it pays to spend some time looking at the website before your visit to identify the attractions your children most want to try out.

Each visit lasts four hours, so kids can expect to take part in between six and eight role-plays per trip.

Some of the most spectacular-looking sets inevitably attract the most interest, with the TV studio where kids get to read the news and the aircraft simulator proving a big draw.

But some of the more obscure, or dare we say less-glamorous jobs, are among the most enjoyable.

Kids can help tackle a hotel fire (6308287)
Kids can help tackle a hotel fire (6308287)

You might not think working as an air conditioning engineer sounds that exciting, until you realise that means scaling ladders and clambering through a network of pipes in the ceiling.

And we never thought we would see the day when our son voluntarily tidied a room, but he threw himself into the role of hotel cleaner with real gusto.

Our two children are aged six and eight, and if felt like they were the perfect age to get the most out of Kidzania.

Our daughter’s first stop was the fire station, where she travelled through the city on a replica appliance before helping put out a blaze at a hotel.

She also got to experience life as a police officer, an engineer, a chef and - despite her journalist parents trying to dissuade her - a newspaper reporter.

She emerged from the latter proudly clutching the front page of the edition of Metro she had helped to create.

Our son loved being a cricket star (6308312)
Our son loved being a cricket star (6308312)

Our son, meanwhile, loved the cricket stadium so much he went twice, in between being a spaceship pilot, courier and a policeman.

There is also a strong educational aspect to KidZania, with most roles paying a ‘salary’ at the end of each activity.

The currency, known as kidZos, can be spent in a shop at the end of the visit or children can open their own bank account and save money up if they plan repeat visits.

This is not an attraction aimed at adults. If your children are confident enough, they could happily look after themselves and we saw many grown-ups sending emails or reading while their kids played.

There are, however, a variety of restaurants and coffee shops where you can while away the time whilst your youngsters get on with it.

Our children loved it and were badgering for a return visit before they had even finished their first one. Even packing the activities in, there was so much we didn’t get to do and we know we will be back soon.

FACTFILE

KidZania is located within the Westfield shopping complex, next to Shepherd’s Bush tube station on the Central Line.

Opening times range from 9.30am to 11am through to 3pm up to 8pm depending on the day of week and time of year.

Tickets start from £15 for adults and £18 for children aged between four and 14 if booked in advance.

Full details are on the Kidzania website.

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