I am very pleased to announce not one but two online events on Weds 24 and Thurs 25 Feb 2021 to mark the publication of my book Urban Playground: How child-friendly planning and design can save cities. Each webinar features lively formats and diverse sets of expert participants, and both are free and open to anyone who signs up.
In one sense lockdown may be a little less daunting this time around, in part because of the hope offered by the vaccination programme. That said, many parents will be all too aware of the impact of school closures on their children’s education. They will be desperate to do whatever they can to keep their children from falling further behind.
I am delighted to share news that my forthcoming book Urban Playground: How child-friendly planning and design can save cities, is available to pre-order from the RIBA website here.
The book opens with an overview of urban planning and children, setting out why the topic matters. A working definition of child-friendly urban planning (familiar to readers of this blog) is set out in Chapter 2.
Chapter 3 looks in detail at Rotterdam, the city that has arguably devoted more time, money and energy to the approach than any other, and whose investment is grounded in hard-nosed economic priorities.
The geographical scope is expanded in Chapter 4, with case studies and precedents from a dozen or so cities around the world, from post-Communist Tirana to post-industrial Antwerp, from tropical Recife to Nordic Oslo, from historic Ghent to high-tech Vancouver (also taking in my home city of London).
It is not hard to see why early childhood should be a hot topic in Tel Aviv. The city has a booming cohort of young, aspirational parents, and recent unhappy memories of economic decline and falling populations. But why it should latch onto public space – rather than childcare – is less obvious.
The key to the story is a serendipitous, opportunistic partnership with the Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF). I have visited three of BvLF’s leading Urban95 cities now (the others being Tirana and Recife). My hunch is that the initiative has had a greater catalytic effect in Tel Aviv than in any of the other cities it has worked in. I visited the city at the end of February 2020 to find out more. Continue reading →
Key points As this is a longish post – perhaps a 10-minute read – here are the main takeaways:
Children are much less likely to become seriously ill from Covid-19 than adults, and appear less likely to become infected.
Unlike with influenza, it appears that children are not more likely than adults to spread the disease, and may be significantly less likely.
There are good grounds for thinking that outdoor environments present a low risk of infection compared to indoor ones, especially where the time spent in close proximity to other people is short.
Pandemic control measures are likely to lead to significant collateral damage to children, with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children worst affected.
Government, local authorities and other public agencies should take a balanced approach to supporting children through the pandemic. They should:
Encourage schools and child care centres to take learning activities outdoors, prioritising play and breaks, and maximize outdoor play time, as they reopen.
Open all remaining closed parks, review the closure of playgrounds, and take a supportive approach to the oversight of children’s play and socialising in public space.
Address the circumstances of disadvantaged children as a matter of urgency.
Prioritise children’s active travel to school, to help reduce peak hours congestion.
Closely monitor emerging evidence, especially from countries that have relevant experience of relaxing measures.
Encourage the public to engage with and understand the evidence base, and keep them informed as it grows.
Introduction The government’s plans for relaxing the lockdown, including greater freedom to spend time outside, and the possible re-opening of schools, have unsurprisingly generated huge debate. At the same time, evidence is growing on how Covid-19 affects children, and of children’s role in the spread of the disease. This post shares my take on that evidence base and its implications.
The post starts with a summary of the clinical and epidemiological evidence base. It then looks at the collateral damage to children of the pandemic control measures. It closes with implications for policy and practice, with a particular focus on children’s play and mobility.