November ‘16
Equipping New Generation Children With 21st Century Skills

November ‘16
Kidzania
Kidzania


    


The first edutainment centre for children in Egypt has finally come: KidZania allows children to exercise their natural tendencies to role-play while preparing them to the real world with life-like tools and a realistic child-size environment. Here is KidZania’s team on how the project emerged and what the hype is all about.

How did the idea of KidZania come to life?

While working in the toy industry, Luis Javier Laresgoiti saw something very interesting that sparked his imagination. He encountered a small childcare centre that incorporated themed role-playing activities to entertain their young clients. Mr. Laresgoiti’s observation was the ember that sparked the idea to create a mini city for children to role-play in; this concept would provide the perfect type of activity for the children of Mexico City, which lacked an educational, fun, value-oriented and social entertainment centre. Mr. Laresgoiti’s and his three friends immediately invested in the idea, formed a company, made plans to meet with developers and explored design options with architects. At this point, Mr. Laresgoiti introduced the group to Xavier López Ancona, a friend from school and an executive at that time with GE Capital. Xavier’s background working with major corporations brought deep experience at running a company. To make the envisioned city a reality from both a structural and financial standpoint, Xavier identified conditions that would need to be met. The concept had to change from a day care center to an entertainment and educational center, it needed to be larger than anticipated and it had to be equally entertaining and educational, which is what was done exactly.


Why the theme of edutainment and role-playing in particular?

A fundamental principle behind KidZania’s ‘playing to be adults’ concept is the participatory game of ‘role-playing’. Role-playing is an embedded behaviour in children. They perform it naturally without previous learning or adult explanations. Unlike other activities that include directions, such as sports or video games, children only need to watch an adult doing something before beginning to imitate them. At KidZania, children ages 2 to 14 have the opportunity of having adult-like experiences while experiencing the role of firemen, construction workers, police officers, and fashion designers, among others. The toys children use to simulate role-play activities look relatively the same all over the world. At KidZania role-playing is a guided activity; a social scenario that follows a predetermined storyline under the supervision of a KidZania collaborator.


Will KidZania help children discover their full potential?

While KidZania is certainly about creating fun, the goal of its programming is also very much about empowering kids with a formational experience that builds up character and aids in educational growth. A significant characteristic of the KidZania concept is its ability to entertain children within an educational context that replicates the complexities of real life, which instills participants with important values such as honesty, selflessness and generosity. It is through KidZania’s realistically rendered city design and educationally motivated activities that children will develop psychosocial, psychomotor and socio-affective skills. From hands-on exposure to the world of work to the fundamentals of financial literacy, children develop one or several of the following six essentials skills for their future life: Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Motor skills and Self-knowledge.


How realistic is the Edutainment Park?

This unique way of viewing role-play inspires us to build entire cities with buildings, blocks, plazas and streets for children to mimic adults. The physical space in which every KidZania facility comes to life is a kid-size, fabricated replica of a typical city with a Hospital, Police Station, Fire Station, Supermarket, Beauty Salon, Radio Station, Theater, just to mention a few to take role playing to its maximum expression. The city plan is always arranged per three distinct city areas: the City Access is entry area to a KidZania facility, typically known as the Airport; City Center features a central plaza that hosts institutional buildings as well as the monument of the Eternal Spirit of KidZania; Lastly, the Suburbs area generally accommodates single story commercial establishments and residential buildings creating a sense of spaciousness.


Can special needs children benefit from this park?

One of the main goals of KidZania is to make sure that everyone – including visitors and collaborators with disabilities – has access to the city’s establishments. KidZania works continuously to develop accessible installations within the cities as part of the privilege of sharing the nation with every child. For instance a Motor, Visual, Hearing and Cognitive plan is been deployed at each KidZania.


How can an environment like KidZania’s help autistic children step out of their comfort zone?

In a city with no discrimination and no judgment, every child can enjoy a free city where they can express themselves, their needs as well as explore their capabilities. Allowing experts to join the special needs kids so they can fully follow, achieve and excel the same as any other kid. Furthermore, KidZania Cairo’s ‘Zupervisors’ are trained to handle autistic children in a way where they definitely can step out of their comfort zone and explore different aspects of their personalities.


How will this park help the new generation be prepared for their future?

Areas like collaboration, innovation, critical thinking and communication are now acknowledged as equally important as language and math. These topics may be referred to by names such as “21st century skills,” “life skills,” or “skills 2.0.” Schools are adding classes in areas like how to create video games or applied physics to both engage students’ interest as well as teach real world skills. KidZania’s focus on areas like financial literacy and the world of work is a natural complement to Life Skills curricula in schools and to the growing concern of parents who want their children to be prepared for success in the adult world.