KidZania: Hands-On Kid Sized Cities Coming To America
The world’s fastest growing experiential learning center for children is coming to the U.S., promising to bring unique educational experiences to American children. KidZania’s are mini, kid-sized cities and experiential learning centers that allow kids to role-play in a variety of real life professions, from firefighter to doctor to TV news personality to marine biologist.
There are currently KidZania’s in 24 major cities worldwide, and the company plans to open the first U.S. locations in Dallas and Chicago.
KidZania’s cities are unique concepts that haven’t been seen in the United States before.
KidZania’s are in part amusement parks, but they also provide children with real-world, experiential learning that exposes them to a wide variety of occupations (in a fun way), helps foster collaboration, boosts behavioral and motor skills, all while teaching economic principles and financial responsibility (for example, children earn “kidZo” currency when they work in their role-play occupations, which they can deposit in a KidZania bank and redeem for goods and services within the attraction).
Also, KidZania especially empowers young girls by exposing them to a wide variety of potential careers, particularly in the areas of STEM and tech.
Capitalizing on the global trend of educational entertainment, KidZania will open in regional shopping centers owned and operated by GGP Inc. in Dallas and Chicago building on an existing network of locations in 24 major cities worldwide.
“At KidZania, we offer the ideal environment for kids to learn about a host of occupations and careers, all while building skills like teamwork, trust and financial responsibility,” said Keith Rubenstein, acting CEO of KidZania USA. “We look forward to bringing this innovative learning experience to families and educators in Dallas and Chicago and expanding to around 20 other major cities in the near future.”
The KidZania model is built around “mini-cities” that allow children to role-play in more than 100 occupations and professions, from board member to baker and doctor to truck driver. Each KidZania is tailored to the city in which it resides, complete with buildings, paved streets, vehicles and a self-contained economy fueled by a currency called “kidZos.”
“Customers want new, innovative options at regional shopping centers,” said Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of GGP. “We’ve embraced working with KidZania for their remarkable concept that aligns with our mission to provide an outstanding environment and experience that customers have come to expect from us.”
The brainchild of Mexican entrepreneur Xavier Lopez Ancona, KidZania was founded in 1999 on the premise that children want to learn by participating in the real world. Research has shown that by providing children with access to real-life activities that both entertain and inform, they will be better prepared to build life skills and stay focused in the classroom.
“Role-play is a critical part of early childhood development, teaching children how to communicate, explore and collaborate with others. Concepts like KidZania allow children the opportunity to experiment with real-life situations, think critically and express ideas in a fun environment, better preparing them for life,” said Dr. Ger Graus, Director of Education at KidZania.
In each location, companies sponsor landmarks and businesses to help make the experience as authentic as possible. KidZania’s current industry partners include British Airways, Coca Cola, Mitsubishi Motors, Honda, Johnson & Johnson, Sony, Kellogg’s, H&M and Fuji Film.
“Our industry partners work with us closely to make each city unique, while also ensuring each job is modeled on a real-life example,” said Xavier Lopez Ancona, founder of KidZania.
KidZania centers span the globe from Mexico City to London to Tokyo. Each facility receives around half a million visitors a year, making the brand one of the fastest growing youth-oriented attractions catering to children ages 4-14.
The inaugural U.S. locations, developed by Chicago-based real estate firm GGP Inc. are expected to open in 2018 and 2019. They will join the rapid expansion of locations in Paris, Doha, Johannesburg, Guadalajara, Abu Dhabi, Surabaya and Toronto.