KidZania: the mini-city where children are in charge

KidZania: the mini-city where children are in charge
Preparation for the real world … the Tokyo KidZania / © Kiyoshi Ota/Getty

Is KidZania just a chance for kids to have some role-playing fun while their parents shop – or a way for big business to get its claws into them early? Stuart Jeffries reports

‘It’s a game-changer,” says Joel Cadbury, the chocolate heir and former owner of the Groucho Club. This may be something of an understatement. Cadbury is the chairman of KidZania, a £20m mini-city currently being built above the Marks & Spencer in west London’s vast Westfield shopping mall. KidZania will be two-thirds the scale of reality and will consist of a 75,000sq ft role-playing theme park for kids aged four to 14. It will include airport, A&E, police station, sports stadium, theatre, shops, university, bank, sushi and pizza concessions. It will even have its own newspaper, passports and currency. Most strikingly, it will also feature a sort of holding pen for parents.

It’s certainly a game-changer for children’s entertainment, but it may also be one for education. Instead of tranquilising kids with video games, or suckering them with rollercoasters in the traditional theme-park manner, KidZania will recreate workplaces such as operating theatres, plane cockpits, radio stations and banks. []