My View of Wannado

(the simulated fossil dig)

Yesterday we went to visit Wannadocity(http://www.wannadocity.com/) , advertised as the placed where kids can "do what you wanna do". It is like an entire city, scaled down to "kid" size, and made so that kids can participate in all the "adult" activities, like working at various jobs, having a bank account, shopping, etc. I liked the concept in that it provided opportunities for things that most kids will never get to try because of age restrictions (such as having an ATM card, and practicing an appendectomy). But some things about the place were really upsetting to me.

For most of the activities, the kids had to wait in line. Each activity was set in a prescribed, scripted way, with little room for extra exploration or questioning. It was like, "Here it is. Be amazed. Have fun. Now move on." Also, the kids went by themselves with the guides behind closed doors much of the time. They would state, this is for "kidizens" only. When I pressed an employee, saying I wanted to take pictures of what they were doing, he said he would call me in once things were "set up". Basically, the kids get a little intro first, then they get to do something. I was called in, and the young man working there said that they keep the parents out because they want the kids to be doing it all, they don't want the kids to get distracted by the parents or running to the parents. Maybe it's just me, but I didn't like that attitude. It reminded me of all the articles I've read lately that demean involved parents of school children by calling them "helicopter parents".

The atmosphere of the whole place was very much like a themepark, right down to the piped in music. You know the kind, with the dramatic building up to a climax, leading the listener to thinking, "This is gonna be great!!!!" There were even fake bird whistles in the trees. It was driving me crazy. I was literally covering my ears trying to drown it out at one point. In general, the noise level was equal to that of a fair, or theme park too, making it difficult to communicate at times. Of course there was the obligatory gift shop /exit, too.

At one point, my 6 year old wanted to be a detective. He went in to the "Detective Agency" get the details of his case and came back out, not quite sure of what he was to do. I think it would have been more beneficial if I could have been there to help him. I followed him around. We found one clue......I think. Then when we went back to the "crime lab" we were instructed to go on the computer and put in our info. Having no idea what that meant, I went on for my son, took a guess at who the criminal was, and was told I was right. I wonder if the computer says every guess is right.

Some of the activities were pretty cool, like: getting to ride on the firetruck and put out a simulated fire with firehoses; the rock climbing wall; the simulated surgery. But other activities were just plain lame. At "The Cookery", kids waited in line, then paid 20 wongas (Wannadocity currency) to decorate a sugar cookie. The women cut and baked the cookies right in front of everyone. Then one cookie, with a dollop of frosting , and a teaspoon of various sprinkles were put on a paper plate for each child. The kids filed in, sat at the cookie bar, decorated their cookies, ate them, and that was it! I know that schools do this all the time. This is called a cooking activity, but it has very little, if anything to do with cooking! The pizza making activity was pretty similar, except you had to pay $5 (real money) for the pizza, and the kids got to choose their toppings. These are activities in which the real-life experience of my children far outweighs the simulations of Wannadocity.
(Proud display of personally-made pepperoni pizza)

That is, I guess, my main problem with the place. I think kids should be allowed to do and experience as many of these things in the real world as possible. Understandably, some things aren't possible, but far more are possible than people realize. If a child wants to see a surgery, there are lots on TV now. Sometimes it is possible to view surgeries at university hospitals. If you know professionals in fields that your child is interested in, they might be able to give you more insight and/or access than you would imagine.

It was also disappointing how Wannadocity supports the division between adults and children. By preventing the adults and children from experiencing the activities together, they help to widen the rift between the "adult world" and children's worlds. Some adults, like myself really like to play along side our children, and learn alongside them too. But sadly, many adults have difficulty remembering how to play, or even interacting with children at all. Maybe they would learn to play and have fun with their children in a setting like this, that is more "adult". The division between the adult and child worlds was overemphasized, where it could have been an opportunity to unite. I even became a little nervous at one point when some kids were running around and getting kind of "rough" in their roles as police taking in a criminal. They were really relishing the message that was touted all over the place, "Kids really are in charge." I had visions of "The Lord of the Flies."

HOWEVER, despited all my misgivings and negativity towards the place, my kids really enjoyed it! I guess I successfully kept my opinions to myself, and allowed them to experience it fully on their own terms. I thought they would like the firetruck, but they didn't even want to try it! I thought they would be unhappy with the supermarket experience when they didn't get to be the cashier, but they liked it! It just goes to show that we really do need to let our kids experience the whole world without the overlay of our judgements. And sometimes, we just need to throw out some of our judgements and look at things again with new eyes, the eyes of our children, and just enjoy the view.

1 comment:

Nance Confer said...

I think part of what they enjoyed -- a large part! -- was just being with each other.

It's funny how little "entertainment" they actually need to have a good time.

And thanks again for going through all that, Deanne. Just yesterday, DD was telling me about the hail. There was hail? Well, very hard rain anyway. :)