Kids play at work

Seven-year-olds (from left) Goh Yu Di, Huang Jing Yi and Zhou Shu Mei role-playing as pilots at KidZania.
Seven-year-olds (from left) Goh Yu Di, Huang Jing Yi and Zhou Shu Mei role-playing as pilots at KidZania.ST PHOTOS: MARCUS TAN
Yu Di (above) also tried his hand at changing a dirty water filter as a water quality assurance specialist.
Yu Di (above) also tried his hand at changing a dirty water filter as a water quality assurance specialist.ST PHOTOS: MARCUS TAN

Three seven-year-olds test out the new edutainment centre KidZania, where they can take on 'adult' jobs

Three seven-year-olds raced against time as they tried out more jobs in three hours than many adults would in their entire lives.

At the new edutainment centre KidZania in Sentosa, Goh Yu Di, Huang Jing Yi and Zhou Shu Mei got a taste of working life by role-playing as pilots, firefighters, pizza chefs, paramedics and police officers.

After three hours, unexhausted by the demands of those intensive jobs, they clamoured for more, chorusing: "I wish we could spend the whole day here."

The trio, accompanied by Yu Di's mother, housewife Goh Yi Liang, 43, were invited for a review of KidZania. Built to resemble a city, the 7,600 sq m park has more than 50 establishments such as an airport and a fire station, all resized for children aged four to 17. It is the 23rd outpost of a global brand.

At every establishment, "zuper- visors"will tell the children about each occupation, as well as teach them to use KidZania's language (such as saying "Kai!" with the first two fingers of the right hand splayed over the heart, instead of "Hi", and "Zanks" instead of "thanks").

While Yu Di, Jing Yi and Shu Mei struggled to retain the information they learnt about each job they tried, they took delight in the hands-on sessions. For instance, at the fire station, they watched a video about the possible causes of fire and what to do in the case of one. But in the question-and-answer session that followed, they were not able to answer some of the questions.

  • BOOK IT / KIDZANIA SINGAPORE

  • WHERE: Palawan Kidz City, Sentosa, 31 Beach View, 01-01 

    WHEN: 10am to 5pm (Sunday to Thursday), 10am to 8pm (Friday and Saturday, school holiday and on the eve of and on public holiday) 

    ADMISSION: $58 for child aged four to 17; $35 for adult aged 18 to 59; $25 for toddler aged two to three and senior citizen aged 60 and above. Free for infants under two. Book tickets online at www.kidzania.com.sg for a 5 per cent discount

All that did not matter in the least. When the call came that a fire had broken out at a hotel, all the children piled excitedly into a red fire truck and were driven by a zupervisor, siren wailing, round the city to the affected hotel. There, they put out the "fire" by aiming jets of real water from fire hoses at the fake building facade.

Another unanimous hit with the trio was the aviation academy, which featured the full-winged fuselage of a Qatar Airways aircraft.

Dressed in pilot uniforms and caps, the children worked in pairs to operate a state-of-the-art flight simulator. They flicked on switches to start the engine, released the parking brake and controlled the side sticks for a take-off from the Singapore Changi Airport, before ending their flight at the Hamad International Airport in Doha.

Yu Di said he felt "like a bird" and wanted to play it all over again, while Jing Yi felt like she was in "a real aeroplane".

Shu Mei decided there and then that she wanted to be a pilot, saying: "The sky is so beautiful."

But when it came to some other establishments, the girls and Yu Di parted ways.

Jing Yi and Shu Mei joined the queue of largely girls to make pizza, while Yu Di explored the city with his mother.

Despite having to wear oversized face masks, hair nets and a chef's cap, the girls enjoyed making their pizza, especially when they got to eat it too.

Meanwhile, Yu Di tried his hand at being a paramedic, relishing his ride in the ambulance and helping to dress the superficial burn of a patient, played by another young visitor.

Then he seemed to have found his calling: a cop. Role-playing as a police investigation officer, he helped gather evidence for a crime and subsequently said he wanted to be a police officer when he grows up.

Giving their role-playing games a lashing of reality, children at KidZania have to handle money in the form of kidZos, the official currency of KidZania.

Each child is given 20 kidZos (paper cash) and a debit card containing 30 kidZos, and they may open a savings account at the bank.

In exchange for the experience of making pizza, they have to fork out 10 kidZos each, while working as a pilot and firefighter earns them 10 and eight kidZos respectively.

Money is earned when children perform tasks and it is spent when they are training to learn a skill, such as making pizza, or in the case of Jing Yi and Shu Mei, splurge on something like a make-up session.

If there was one real-world lesson that Yu Di, Jing Yi and Shu Mei took away from it all, it was that they had to earn enough kidZos before they could spend it.

Children under eight years old must be accompanied by a paying adult at all times in the city. Adults can role-play alongside their children in some activities - for instance, they can be passengers while their children role-play as cabin crew.

Adults may hang out for free at the parents' lounge.

At the entrance, each child had a bracelet snapped around his wrist. This would set off an alarm if they tried to leave the premises unaccompanied.

Aside from the fun of it all, did Yu Di, Jing Yi and Shu Mei learn anything useful from the trip?

The children thought so.

Yu Di and Shu Mei said they now know how to fly an airplane and Jing Yi said she knows how to make a pizza.

Madam Goh found it an educational experience for the children.

She said: "While the children may not be able to absorb some information due to their age, it's good that they are exposed to the various occupations in a fun way."

However, she found the price on the high side for the Singapore outlet and plans to wait a year or two before she takes Yu Di back.

She added: "When he's older, he can better appreciate other occupations such as being a reporter and a deejay."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2016, with the headline 'Kids play at work'. Print Edition | Subscribe