All you need to know about Kidzania London #review

My children ADORE Kidzania, the mini city which aims to give 4-14-year-olds the chance to experience up to 60 role play scenarios based on life in the real world.

From the moment you "check in" to the second you pass through immigration to leave, the whole set-up mimics life in a busy city with police officers dashing about, fire fighters tackling a large blaze and ambulance crews working with surgeons while news reporters and presenters on newspapers, radio and TV keep everyone updated.

Walking through the streets of Kidzania you glimpse hairdressers at work, hotel staff preparing a room for guests to check in to, animators creating Pokemon films, and pit stop crew members changing tyres on a F1 car.

Young "workers" create burgers, smoothies, ice-cream, chocolate bars and more while overhead, air conditioning teams crawl around checking the pipework. There is even a stadium where footballers train and a university where students work to earn extra money for each of the "jobs" they undertake in Kidzania.

Yes, the children are paid to work, in the city's currency, kidZos which they can spend on experiences or in the "kids only" department store. They are given 50 kidZos to start them off then it's up to them to decide how much and where to work to earn more. They can even open a bank account and deposit their kidZos, using their own atm card to withdraw money from the kidZos cash points around the city.

It is truly a unique concept - educational, inspirational and fantastic fun for the children who all seem wildly enthusiastic whether its working on the supermarket checkout or delivering parcels or performing in the city theatre.

I took my three youngest children aged 8, 10 and 11 and while the older two hurtled off we walked round with the less confident 8-year-old.

A note here. We felt very happy letting the children roam without us as security is taken very seriously in Kidzania and all children and adults wear security bracelets.  You can see the one Grumpy is wearing on his wrist in the picture below. He's wearing a hairnet too given to him on admission to wear for any activity involving a hat for hygiene purposes.

If you can't find your child - no worries. They can't get out without an alarm going off and you can find them by holding your bracelet up to one of the information screens dotted about which will show where they were last. Every time they do an activity they are checked in and out. It's very reassuring!

So we stopped for a drink  and spotted the older two who came over to breathlessly tell us all about their activities so far, two hours in to their 4 hour slot.

They had collected a spectacular number of Kidzos compared to our younger son who had spent quite a bit of time queuing- about 10-20 minutes for each activity which then takes between 10-20 minutes to do. (Bear in mind we went in half term so it was predictably very busy!)

I asked how they had managed to make so much money and they said something very interesting. They had worked out that fewer people wanted to do the less exciting "jobs"  like air conditioning maintenance  which as incidentally also quite well paid so had done that job over and over to earn the most money in the time available.

So they had worked out that sometimes work requires sacrifice (in their case more fun jobs) if money is the reward you desire.

I was quite proud that they obviously have inherited the strong work ethic that my husband and I have always aimed for and admired their determination to earn enough to earn the tat they coveted in the department store.

I say tat - it was nice tat. My son got a heat sensitive dinosaur necklace and my daughter "bought" pretty hair clips. They worked hard to earn enough kidZos for those - I am not sure how many hours you'd have to work to buy the games consoles for sale for thousands of kidZos!

My children would happily return time and time again and are already planning their strategy for their next visit.  Although adults pay to go in there is nothing for them to do apart from watch their children have fun, fill time eating or drinking or take a book and relax in the parents lounge.  I wish I could have done that but my youngest did not want us to leave him. We noticed lots of people had gone in groups so the adults chatted while the children played.

Each session is 4 hours so there's a good chance you will want refreshments during your visit. There are lots of choices of places to eat ranging from an adults-only cafe with free wifi and computers which overlooks Kidzania to a crepe van with some very tempting treats.

We bought two sodas and a large portion of skin on fries with a delicious garlic dip for just over £8 from the Gourmet Burger Company to eat while the children "worked. A burger meal would have been just under £10 each from there. Children can pay out 20 kidZos to make and eat their own burger (or you can pay sterling to buy them one made by adults!)

I've since discovered that if you add a meal deal when booking on line you can make significant savings on food and I would highly recommend doing that. A sandwich/drink/crisps meal deal for adults booked in advance costs just £4.40 (a saving of 42%) while a childrens meal for £3.95 includes a sandwich, vegetable crudités, a fruit smoothie and a packet of Pom-Bears.

You can also book a hot mea and a soft drink from the diner  for adults or children for just £6.50 with lots of choices including Thai Green Curry with rice, chicken burger with fries or pasta bolognese.

We left with the children absolutely buzzing about their time in Kidzania. I was quite envious as they had so much fun and there was nothing like it when I was their age. Then I discovered that Kidzania organises adult only evenings so if you've ever fancied trying out a different job or been jealous of how much fun your children have there check out the website for details of the next adults only event on December 15th!

I could write pages more about what else is on offer at Kidzania.  I've not even mentioned the aviation academy, the early years play area for younger siblings or how children can become a Kidzanian citizen with their own passport. For more information on these and about accessibility, educational visits, birthday parties or where else in the world you can visit Kidzania cities head to the website.

Are there any downsides? Well my husband thought it was a bit much charging admission for adults - children under 8 have to have an adult in Kidzania while over 8's just need to have one with them for admission.  I think he has a point but I suppose at least an adult admission charge keeps the number of people in the city down as you maybe tempted to go in groups if adults were free and it was already difficult to find places to sit in the main street.

To keep the costs lower again head to the ticket prices area of the website where there are number of special deals and advice on the cheapest times to visit. School holidays and weekends are of course the most expensive times to visit. Buying tickets online is always the cheapest option and allows you to take advantage of the meal deals I mentioned earlier too.

My downside - the place is LOUD. Nothing you can do about that - lots of kids having fun is going to be loud. Next time I will take headphones and load some soothing music on my phone.

I felt quite tired too by the end of the four hour session but to be honest I find taking our youngest with his social issues anywhere quite tiring and stressful.

I worried about how he would cope in Kidzania  as adults are not allowed to stand in queues with the children or go into the activity areas with them. I was never far from him though and at one point when he needed to leave an activity early I just raised my voice slightly to call to the supervising adult who was very helpful in getting him quickly to me and making sure he got his wages when we went back later.

My children say the only downside to Kidzania in their view is that if you open a bank account and leave money in it, the bank cards and your balance expires after six months if you don't revisit Kidzania. They think that should be extended to a year or ideally, forever. My money-savvy son also says he thinks you should get interest on your savings. He will do well in life I think!

On the whole it's an amazing place to visit. It's based in the Westfield shopping complex at Shepherds Bush which is easy to access by train or tube and has an enormous car park - check out the website for route advice during current road works.

Disclaimer: We visited Kidzania London free for the purpose of this review. Views and opinions remain honest and my own.