10 Ways to Build a City for Children • This City Life

A snappy ten-point checklist for a child-friendly city has been pulled together by Vancouver urbanist and writer Jillian Glover. I confess I am cautious about the ‘top tips’ style of writing, which can lead to oversimplification. But this ticked a lot of my boxes.

Glover’s piece focuses on real-life qualities of cities that matter most to parents and children – homes, services, mobility, amenities, public space, subjective safety – and makes clear links from these to urban planning and policy. In doing so, it offers a set of topics and priorities that should be central to thinking about – and arguing for – child-friendly cities.

Too much of the advocacy and academic work on child-friendliness looks at process – different ways to engage and involve children and young people in decision-making – rather than on outcomes, as I have written before. This has to change if we are to improve the lives of the billions of children who are going to be growing up in cities around the world. We already know the basics about what makes cities good places for children to live, learn and grow: we don’t have to keep asking them to tell us.

Here’s the short version of Glover’s list:

  1. Density
  2. Family–oriented housing
  3. Access to schools and childcare
  4. Access to public transit
  5. Walkability
  6. Bikeability
  7. Access to nature
  8. Access to amenities
  9. Public safety
  10. Fun and whimsy

As I have said, the list chimes with a lot of my thinking (though I would like to have seen something about social and cultural diversity). What do you think of it?

5 responses to “10 Ways to Build a City for Children • This City Life

  1. Reblogged this on PlayGroundology and commented:
    A nice intro and overview from Tim on some work from Vancouver-based urbanist Jillian Glover that includes her original tumblr post. The actual doing of making cities better places for kids and families continues to be a challenge for jurisdictions around the world. Some good thoughts here – Both Tim and Jillian are always interested in ideas on this subject. Thanks Tim for the intro to Jillian’s work.

  2. “‘Whatever prestige the bourgeoisie may today be willing to grant to fragmentary or deliberately retrograde artistic tentatives, creation can now be nothing less than a synthesis aiming at the construction of entire atmospheres and styles of life. … A unitary urbanism—the synthesis we call for, incorporating arts and technologies—must be created in accordance with new values of life, values which we now need to distinguish and disseminate.'” Gil Wolman

  3. There is only one way to build a better city for kids, (at least before we count to 10)!
    And that is to include them in every move we make when designing our cities – a conscious part of every design decision. The same goes for older people.
    I love the 10 points raised, but first and foremost we need a committed consciousness that says that kids are part of every aspect of city life. And that it is this commitment that counts, far more than a checklist.
    I am an idealist……I know. I just wish it was obvious that we could think like this! Fiona Robbé

  4. Hi Tim

    I think this is quite a good list and like Fiona, I’d like to see interesting inclusive ways of engaging the public (including children) in ongoing dialogue that leads to better outcomes.

    Living near Aberdeen, I am also witnessing the impact of an environmental services team headed up by a person committed to sustainability and play and who has a ‘can do’ approach. So perhaps there has to be the political and municipal will.

    Best wishes
    Juliet

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