The theme park ‘KidZania’ provides a universe of training and of fun for children to practice and execute adult jobs, with the help and participation/sponsorship of brands that explore children’s abilities to imitate the world of adults—including, of course, their possible market choices. This park consists of a ‘city’ built to children’s scale where children can ‘play as adults,’ choosing from more than 60 different professions in replicas of the most representative institutions of a real city: airport, factories, shops, racetracks, police stations, firefighters, press, TV studio, stadium, among others. There even exists a special currency that is earned in the various jobs and spent in the city afterwards. The author questions the use of toys within the different professional contexts that are offered by the park. Are these gadgets for play? Are children playing in the KidZania theme park? Or are they working? Are children engaged in role-play activities, or are they really committed to performing a job? Are children aware of the activity of play in this park? And what creates the difference between these concepts as long as children consider this fun? The results of a research questionnaire applied to 300 children are presented in this chapter. The main objective of the research is to identify the eventual awareness of children about the activity of play, together with their response to the performance of adult jobs and corresponding handling of currency within a real bank context. Furthermore, data show the willingness to return to KidZania park as an intention to carry on with adult-life situations, thereby expressing the desire to become adult as quickly as possible. This confirms Gilles Brougère’s formulation about play as the major expression of the children’s desire to be adult, and therefore affirms the presence of toys in KidZania as tools for learning how to work rather than as mere gadgets for enacting role-play performances.
KeywordsTheme park Play Toys Work Performances
Luísa Lima, Paula Macedo, Mariana Fernandes, for helping with the inquiry. Marta Amorim Candeias for help with exceptional guidance and access to the park.
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