Category Archives: Urban planning

Making the case for more playful and child-friendly places

It is obvious that children’s play experiences and everyday freedoms are hugely shaped by the places where they live. So anyone who cares about these issues should also be concerned about the qualities of neighbourhoods, towns and cities, and about how they are planned, designed and built.

Child playing on pavement in residential area of Delft

Human habitats are changing fast. In particular, cities are growing and changing faster than ever before – and more and more children are growing up in cities. How should play advocates, and advocates for more child-friendly places, respond to these changes? This post tries to answer that question.

The post brings together some key strands of my thinking over the years on child-friendliness, outcomes and advocacy. It is a very lightly edited version of my response to a discussion on play and the environment that was initiated by the International Play Association (IPA), of which I am a member. You can find the IPA discussion paper here. Continue reading

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.

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Not culture, not history – physical change

“Their marvellous environments for cycling did not appear out of nowhere – they are not some innate condition of being ‘Dutch’.” An important history lesson for those of us arguing for more child-friendly streets.

As Easy As Riding A Bike

I was struck by two details from yesterday’s blogpost by Mark Wagenbuur, about early protests for child-friendly streets in Amsterdam in the 1970s – details that highlight the importance of the quality of the physical environment for enabling cycling, over and above any prevailing national culture or attitudes.

The first instance was the contentiousness of the changes being proposed to the streets in Mark’s post. One Dutchman, surrounded by children, argued that it was ‘impossible’ to create a street without motor traffic on it. You can see this in the video, about 2:30 in.

Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 14.37.04

These were residential streets, which now have motor traffic filtered out, as Mark describes in his post. This is an almost universal treatment across residential areas in the Netherlands now, but back then, the notion of doing this was evidently completely foreign to this gentleman. These streets were for driving. (These attitudes were reflected…

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Are child-friendly city approaches being used to push out poor families?

[May 2019: postscript added – see the end of this post.]
Rotterdam child-friendly city report cover
Rotterdam is one the few big cities that has taken seriously the goal of becoming more child-friendly. Its ambitious planning policies have been debated in the National Assembly for Wales. Its public space improvement projects have been lauded at international conferences (indeed in 2008 it hosted Child in the City, a leading global cross-disciplinary event).

What is more, unlike some other Child-Friendly City initiatives, it focuses on hard outcomes that make a real difference in children’s lives – better parks, improved walking and cycling networks, wider pavements – and not just on participation processes that, however well-intentioned, may end up being idle wheels.

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How child-friendly is Moscow?

Mum and child on bridgeOn my visit to Moscow last week, I witnessed an intriguing sight as I was crossing a bridge near the city centre. A little girl and her mother were walking towards me. As they went past, the girl stooped down to make a snowball, and then she threw it playfully towards her mother. Not very noteworthy, you may think – except that it was minus 6 degrees Centigrade, with a biting wind and eight lanes of Moscow traffic roaring by just metres away from us. You could not have asked for a clearer example of children’s appetite for play, regardless of their circumstances. So how well does Russia’s capital satisfy that appetite – how child-friendly is it?

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What is it like to grow up in Moscow?

Young people on a bench

Image by Edwin Gardner, from Partizan Publik

In a couple of weeks I will be speaking at the Moscow Urban Forum, and I am asking for your help in making the most of this exciting opportunity. I want to find out more about everyday life for Moscow’s children. Can you help me discover what it is like to grow up in the neighbourhoods that the majority of Muscovite families live in?

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Open for Play: The Director’s Cut

Do you want to enjoy all the presentations from last month’s Open for Play seminar – on designing for play in playgrounds, streets and public spaces – from the comfort of your own office (or living room, studio, or bedroom)? Well, here is your chance. The full programme of formal presentations is now available to view online in glorious video and audio.

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