Children visiting the creative children’s city Minicity Ljubljana, where they can get acquainted with different professions and skills through a play-based approach, will be greeted by a range of new features this spring. Among other things, they will be able to act as anchormen/-women of a TV news programme and learn about traffic safety on a new interactive and educational playground unit, which also fosters motor skills. At today’s business- and marketing-oriented Minicity Mikser event, which saw as many as 170 guests in attendance, the authors of this unique interactive children’s park also announced that it will be expanded onto an additional area, opening up into Shopping Arena A of Ljubljana’s BTC City, as well as onto several foreign markets.

With the expansion onto an additional 400 m2, which is planned for this June, Minicity Ljubljana will become the largest children’s centre of its kind in Slovenia, with a total of more than 1600 m2 of surfaces, emphasised its director, Miha Culiberg: “Our motto is learning by playing; it attracts more than 60,000 visitors to our Minicity every year. More than 40 businesses and institutions, who support quality educational free time and have provided our little city with a bank, a bakery, a shop, a police station and 30 additional sites, agree that this project is useful for both children and parents. With the additional area, our little city will gain new interactive houses, a bigger creative park, birthday party rooms, an internet corner for parents, a resting and reading room, and a new shop with educational toys.”

The springtime expansion of Minicity Ljubljana, the biggest provider of content for children up to 12 years of age in BTC City Ljubljana, was also greeted by mag. Damjan Kralj, member of the BTC Management Board. In his opinion, Minicity Ljubljana constitutes a unique, healthy and progressive environment, which lets children develop their potential, helps them expand on their knowledge, and strengthens their social skills. He explained that young people lay at the heart of the development of BTC City Ljubljana, which is dictated by two key trends in the development and management of shopping centres: “In BTC, we continuously upgrade our smart BTC City Ljubljana in accordance with the concept of hybrid shopping centres and with regard to the integration of traditional retail with modern digital tools. Since its very beginnings, BTC City Ljubljana has surpassed shopping alone and has offered its visitors diverse other content, which is why it is presently one of the largest European centres not only in terms of shopping, but also business, recreation, entertainment and culture. It includes numerous activities and features intended for the youngest members of our society, a considerable part of which is contributed precisely by Minicity Ljubljana. The shopping habits of the younger generations of consumers and fast technological development demand a digital upgrade of the shopping experience. In the spirit of digitisation, BTC City Ljubljana has become a testing ground for advanced solutions and technologies. One of the projects that will come to life within this testing environment is the platform Eligma, co-founded by the BTC Company. Eligma promises a new, simplified and advanced shopping experience supported by blockchain technology. Its first functionality, the so-called EliPay – a payment system that enables the customer to pay with cryptocurrencies – will already be introduced in the coming months at selected vendor testing sites in BTC City Ljubljana.”

The highlight will definitely be the unveiling of the interactive educational and motor-skill-enhancing playground unit, which is being constructed in cooperation with AMZS, the Generali insurance company, the Slovenian Traffic Safety Agency, and the shop Didaktične igrače. “This is a completely new feature, a wooden two-story playground unit that fosters motor skills and aims to educate. It comes with a tunnel and a test road, which will enable the child to move, climb, and solve challenges related to traffic and road safety. The challenges will be completely practical, relating to, for instance, visibility in traffic, vehicle safety and integrity, correct seat belt application, how to act when faced with different obstacles on the road, and how to behave in a tunnel in the dark,” said Jasna Žaler Culiberg, director of business development in Minicity Ljubljana. Director of AMZS, d. d., mag. Lucija Sajevec, stressed that the new interactive play unit will present the mission of AMZS to our youngest participants in traffic in such a way that will familiarise them, in a pleasant environment and through play, with the jobs and professions of all those people who make sure that the vehicles are always in good condition and that drivers can enjoy a safe and carefree ride.

Since the beginning of its operations on the Slovenian market, insurance company Generali has supported projects that enrich the living space and contribute to greater safety, a more pleasant living environment and greater wellbeing, said president of the Generali Management Board Vanja Hrovat, and added: “With the new ‘interactive playground’, which we present here today, we are creating an innovative, entertaining and highly educational playing environment for children and their parents”. Director of the Slovenian Traffic Safety Agency, mag. Igor Velov, added: “For more than 13 years now, we have been successfully implementing the project Pasavček (“Belty”), which increased the use of seat belts with children from 53 to no less than 94 percent. And I am proud that it is precisely with this project, which teaches and encourages parents as well as children to use the seat belt correctly, that we will be present in Minicity’s interactive playground. In addition to Pasavček, we will also provide interesting educational content for pedestrians and cyclists.” The story furthermore involves the company Toys 4U, which supports socially beneficial projects and wants to utilise the new interactive playsite to help teach future generations how to behave safely in their environment. The fortification of motor skills, surmounting obstacles, slopes, ramps and bridges, will undoubtedly have positive effects on the children’s psychological and physical development. “Most importantly, we want to help children gain the knowledge they need in everyday life situations,” said procurator Simon Hozjan.

Recently, Minicity has been joined by RTV Slovenija (Radio and Television Slovenia), which aims to educate children in terms of the media and show them some creative professions in their corner of the little city. “In the RTV Slovenija house, we will give our youngest some insight into the mysterious world of making different radio and TV shows, the creative professions involved in TV, and journalistic genres – all the way from acted/fictional to informative programmes. Our mission is the education of our youth, which is why we prepare our own children’s shows thoughtfully and professionally, tailored for different target audiences and with regard to the wishes, needs and developmental traits of each period. Our house in the little city allows for quick changes of set elements. It features a lot of props, hand puppets, and a special dressing room for moderators and field reporters. It also has a camera and a real teleprompter. As anchors of a TV news programme, the children will be able to film themselves and send the video to their email address,” said Gorazd Slak, assistant to the general director of RTV Slovenija for programming and the integration of contents.

Minicity cooperates closely with experts. It obtains information from and follows the guidelines of psychologists, pedagogues and psychotherapists when deciding on a new play unit. There is a consensus that learning important life skills by playing with concrete challenges and materials, fosters the children’s motivation for obtaining new skills and knowledge, and further enables them to retain more information than when learning on a purely theoretical basis. “The newly obtained knowledge is more meaningful, it has a concrete basis in reality, and there is a more active development of critical thinking and linking new information with existing knowledge that takes place,” said special education expert mag. Blaž Povše from Center Motus. Special educator for personality and behavioural disorders Marko Juhant, author of a number of books on child education and development, evaluated the new traffic safety play unit as highly adequate, since children can gain new knowledge and skills through their own movement: “Movement is very important to the human being, and learning that incorporates a lot of movement is much stronger than learning solely while sitting down passively.”

At today’s Minicity Mikser event, which was held for project partners and the general public, and was brightened by 100 smiling kids from primary school OŠ Jarše, another new feature was presented. The MyNanny app is aimed at families and brings together nannies and parents who need someone to watch their children. “A large-scale study has shown that the MyNanny app is great for parents, who increasingly often seek a good and reliable nanny they can trust with their children. The MyNanny app also provides promotional space for companies – those who use it and make a contribution will, similar to Minicity, support a socially beneficial project and enable all parents access to quality childcare,” explained Marko Kotnik, head of product marketing at MyNanny.

Participants of the professional part of the Minicity Mikser event attended a talk by Zenel Batagelj, director and partner of Valicon, on the topic of marketing research in the segment of families and children. Valicon has upgraded the process of how to peek into the minds of children with the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method, which involves Lego pieces. Another topic of the expert discussion panel was the necessity of digitisation in every company. Klemen Tavželj, co-owner and director of advertising agency Idearna, who led Minicity Ljubljana on the path to digitisation, spoke about facing challenges brought on by digitisation. In addition, a blog will be set up, which will utilise strategic editorial guidance to provide visitors to Minicity with fascinating and educational content for parents.

Minicity Ljubljana, a little city spread out on more than 1000 m2 of surfaces, is visited by more than 60,000 people every year, including organised primary and nursery school groups from all over Slovenia. It offers a unique opportunity for the practical learning of different professions and gaining everyday skills with the help of realistic props in miniaturised offices of real institutions and companies. Several times a year, Minicity Ljubljana opens its doors free-of-charge for children from socially disadvantaged families. It also has a team of 40 multilingual educational entertainers (the so-called “animators”), who can take care of the children of tourists, and skilled personnel for children with special needs. They regularly host expert talks with topics from education and didactics, and provide an information network for educators, teachers and pregnant women. The latter are invited to the already traditional events called Okrogli trebuščki (“Round bellies”). The design of Minicity’s programmes, which are mediated to children in the form of interactive games, actively involves pedagogues and psychologists, in close cooperation with 43 private and 7 public companies, namely Snaga, VO-KA, LPP, Energetika Ljubljana, the Police, the Slovenian Traffic Safety Agency and RTV Slovenija.