When Mikaela’s Ninong Jun asked what would be a good present for the kids last Christmas, I suggested an ‘experience gift’ instead of the usual toys/ clothes/ books. He chose to buy tickets at Kidzania Manila, a kids’ entertainment facility based on role play, and we set the date for our visit.
We had to be in BGC at 9AM, so I made sure that my little owls turned in early the night before. It can be challenging to put two kids to bed early, wake them up and then get them both ready early in the morning, so I wanted to give them a heads up. I showed them the Kidzania website and let them decide on which establishments they wanted to visit. I also oriented them a bit about the general rules, which were a bit different from the other amusement centers that they were used to.
They have a real-world setup where each kid is given a check upon entry for 50 Kidzos (Kidzania currency), which they would have to encash at the bank (BPI). Kids can then use their money to avail of services at the salon, department store, driving lessons, etc. They also earn cash for working at places like the gas station (Shell), bottling plant (Coca Cola), fire station, etc. If they run out of money, Mom and Dad can’t bail them out by buying extra money — they will have to find work to earn some more. Pretty neat, huh? 😉
When we discussed the earning and spending part, Mikaela had this thoughtful look and then a flash of realization. She said, “Is that why you work every day?” and I said “Yes, work is what I do to earn money, which we use to pay for things that we want or need.” She nodded carefully and said, “Okay, I promise not to distract you anymore when you work.” Riiiiiight…let’s see if she can keep that promise. 😛 They were in bed at 9PM but couldn’t fall asleep right away because of their excitement. :))
We went there with Jun and his twin nieces Caitlin and Ashley. The twins have been there thrice before, but we adults were blown away when we first walked in. The place was AMAZING! The photos in the website were nice, but they don’t quite capture the actual experience of being there.
The check-in area is built like an airport terminal and there’s a passport issuing counter where kids can acquire passports to enjoy extra perks for an additional fee.
Kidzania’s corporate partners provide the activities for the kids and services for the adults, with excellently planned layouts of each space. For example, there was a pizza making activity for the kids sponsored by Yellow Cab Pizza on one end of their space, an oven in the center, and an extension on the other end that functions as a small store for the hungry parents waiting outside.
Another house rule is that parents are not allowed to fall in line for their kids or go inside the establishments. That’s a plus for me, even though we had to keep reminding the girls to stay in line and had to keep telling them how many more minutes they had to wait — it’s a good exercise to teach them (and us!) about patience. One time, Katie was in line for the next shift at the operating room but then she left the queue because she had to poop :)) Oh well, surgery cancelled due to a personal emergency. :))
One of the highlights of our visit was when they girls wanted to be doctors. The hospital setup was sponsored by St. Luke’s Medical Center and seeing the operating room setup gave me and Karlo the ultimate feels. :)) There were 3 options for medical training, they can either go to the ER, OR or NICU. I asked each girl what kind of doctor they wanted to be, the one that rides an ambulance, operates on people, or takes care of tiny babies. They kept changing their minds and changing lines (much like us during internship when trying to decide which specialty to pursue, haha!) but Mikaela finally settled for the OR because it’s Daddy’s work and Katie…well, Katie ended up pooping. :))
To make Katie feel better about missing her shift, I brought her around to see what else she can do while waiting for Mikaela. We ended up at the gas station and she was an excellent (and very cute!!) gas attendant, courteously asking her customer which gas he needed and wiping down the car.
Karlo sent me a photo of Mikaela “scrubbed in” with a proud Daddy caption, “Kakay is first assist!” She was so adorable in her green SLMC scrubs, OR cap and mask, consciously holding her hands up to keep them “sterile”.
I like how Kidzania and their corporate partners made everything child-sized but realistic, from the machines, the props and the uniforms — there was even a plane setup c/o Cebu Pacific where kids can choose to undergo Cabin Crew training or have Aviation lessons using a flight simulator.
Mikaela’s favorite was the OR because she got to be a doctor like Mom and Dad, while Katie’s favorite was the Magnolia ice cream facility. My little foodie had a happy little dance of triumph when she finally came out of the place with her cup of ice cream…AND she got paid 5 Kidzos for her work too. Total win!
Funny thing is, they came out of Kidzania with more money than they initially had because they weren’t so keen on services like shopping or getting pampered at the salon. They said, “But we already do that, it’s boring!” :)) O sige ha, pwede pati sa totoong buhay?
More than the realistic props and costumes, what I like about Kidzania is that it initiates social awareness in kids at an age when they are used to having people do things for them. Unlike places that offer freestyle play, they get to experience the actual work that goes into service-based jobs and get acquainted with real-world rules. They get to see how their food is made and then get to enjoy the product of their labor afterwards. The best part is seeing them come out of each establishment looking so accomplished, beaming with pride and saying things like “Did you see me work, Momma? I helped put out the fire!” or “I saved that patient!”.
We were all so very tired afterwards and I still had cataplexy episodes despite having doubled my prednisone dose that day, but it was definitely worth the effort. The girls kept remembering that they didn’t get to try a lot of the activities on our original itinerary, so I promised them that we will schedule another visit. For now, I think I need to put my feet up and recover from a whole day of walking and standing.