How child-friendly planning and design can save cities
** Just want to order it? Head here. **
A RIBA bestseller! Urban Playground sold better than any other RIBA Publishing book in 2021 (out of 160+ titles, and 20+ new titles that year)
“A must-read for anyone who is interested in cities and people.”
Guillermo (Gil) Peñalosa, global urbanist and founder of 8 80 Cities
“Moves beyond vague vision statements and policy documents to outline the concrete steps needed to make cities healthier, more active, and more joyful places for everyone.”
Olly Wainwright, Guardian architecture and design critic
“Offers a broad, action-oriented tool kit to promote child-friendly urbanism around the globe… By rethinking fundamental and universal urban questions, Gill helps us rediscover the child, ourselves and the city.”
Prof Elissa Rosenberg, review in Landscape Architecture Magazine
“The best book I’ve read this year.”
Shannon Conway, Residential Director, Glenbrook Property, on twitter
“A must-read for all those interested in children’s well-being, and equally for those concerned with the future of cities… It has the potential to transform the way we think about our cities and neighbourhoods and how they are designed.”
From review in Children, Youth & Environments by Paul Tranter, Honorary Associate Professor, School of Science at the University of New South Wales
“Offers a wide-ranging overview of child-friendly cities and an inspiring guide for their creation… Inviting and well designed [with] accessible and concise writing… A treasure trove for academics and professionals.”
From review in International Journal of Play by Lauren Sheedy and Prof Rae St. Clair Bridgman, University of Manitoba.
Brilliant and critical. I feel (and hope) it will become the seminal publication on this vital topic. I hope it finds its way to every local authority, design professional, student and commissioning client across the land.”
Jo McCafferty, Director, Levitt Bernstein
“Hopeful and optimistic about what’s possible… packed with examples… enough depth to the research to satisfy the PhD student, along with bold, practical recommendations for the politician and placemaker… Anyone eager to create child-friendly places will find this book a great place to start.”
From review in the Journal of the Academy of Urbanism by Marketa Nosalova, Senior Manager Strategic Projects at Homes England
“A handy overview with numerous insights, models, indicators, checklists, tips and tricks… and a substantiated plea for more inclusive cities and for healthy places where children can live, play and grow up.”
Gerben Helleman, independent researcher and thinker, review on his Urban Springtime blog
“Makes a compelling argument for child friendliness… an enjoyable and easy read for a variety of audiences.”
Ilaria Geddes (University of Cyprus Dept of Architecture) review in Cities & Health journal
“A thorough, but succinct and accessible guide to child-friendly planning and design which holds out a clear and potent vision for reimagined towns and cities.”
Adrian Voce, play and children’s rights advocate and President, European Network of Child-Friendly Cities
“Fascinating and expertly written… shows just how important it is to listen to children and act on what they say.”
Sarah Weir OBE, former CEO of the Design Council
“A really enjoyable read… over the past 3 weeks I had post it notes all over my desk about key ideas and initiatives drawing parallels from projects included in the book.”
Sripriya Sudhakar, Head of Regeneration, London Borough of Tower Hamlets
“Excellent… a fascinating book that moreover is a pleasure to read. Anyone interested in how we design our urban spaces and how we want to support our children would enjoy it… [It’s also] a very handsome book.”
Gerry Gaffney, design expert and producer of UXpod podcast
“Absolutely mind-blowing: I can’t stop reading it. I’d recommend to any parent, even if [you are not working in] planning.”
Tami Gaberz, planning student and mother, on twitter
Ordering Urban Playground
e-book versions are available from Amazon (kindle) and Routledge (various formats) – links as above.
Orders from beyond the UK
Try your leading online booksellers, or:
- RIBA (as above: ships worldwide)
- The Book Depository (owned by Amazon) ships worldwide
Urban Playground: How child-friendly planning and design can save cities aims to elevate the status of children in city building.
As the climate crisis and urbanisation escalate, cities urgently need to become more inclusive and sustainable. Urban Playground reveals how seeing cities through the eyes of children strengthens the case for design, planning and transportation policies that work for people of all ages and for the planet. It shows how urban designers and city planners can incorporate child-friendly insights and ideas into their masterplans, public spaces and streetscapes. It is a clarion call for more enjoyable, inclusive and healthy cities, and a route map for sustainable urban transformation.
- Shows how urban planning has failed children, and how a children’s lens can improve streets, public spaces and neighbourhoods
- Signposts a better future for cities and city dwellers of all ages
- Features extended discussion of initiatives from Antwerp, Barcelona, Boulder, Edmonton, Fortaleza, Freiburg, Ghent, London, Oslo, Recife, Rotterdam, Tel Aviv, Tirana, Vancouver, and schemes from many more cities
- Underpinned by thorough scholarship and original research
- Beautifully designed and lavishly illustrated, with over 100 full-colour photos and images
See this post for more on the book’s content.
Download a 20-page sample using the download button link below [pdf: file size 18MB]. For the full effect, use Acrobat Reader’s ‘Two Page View’ setting, and make sure you enable ‘Show Cover Page In Two Page View’.
The Guardian, 25 Feb 2021
Yorkshire Evening Post, 22 March 2021
Urban Design journal (free pdf download) Autumn 202 issue 156: short synopsis by Tim
Pro Landscaper magazine (Dec 2020 issue): feature article by Tim
Nursery World magazine (23 Nov 2021 issue): feature article with extended quotes from Tim
El Diari de l’Educació: Interview with Tim on this Catalan online education website (8 July 2021)
100 degrés: two French-language features in this Montreal/Quebec online magazine:
Igloo, Romania, issue 202 (Romanian)
Morgunblaðið, Iceland, 25 Oct 2021 feature article (Icelandic)
Berria (Basque) Feature article on child-friendly cities, 26 Feb 2022.
Dennik N (Slovak) Interview with Tim, 1 June 2022.
Podcasts, video and audio interviews
- ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ (with former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and journalist Geoff Lloyd) episode 184 (also on Apple podcasts, Spotify)
- Video interview with leading podcaster John Simmerman for episode 106, Season 3 of his ‘Active Towns’ series (or listen here)
- ‘Spokesmen’ podcast interview episode 269 and transcription with leading transport journalist and author Carlton Reid (also on Apple podcasts)
- Online video interview with Patrin Watanatada (former Knowledge for Policy director, Bernard van Leer Foundation), hosted by US NGO Capita
- ‘Urbanistica’ season 3 episode 176 (with Swedish urbanist Mustafa Sherif)
- ‘Wearthy’ podcast with Australian play advocate Lukas Ritson (also on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Soundcloud)
- ‘reSITE’ podcast and transcription with Prague-based global urbanists Martin Barry and Alexandra Siebenthal (also on Spotify)
- ‘Placemaking US’ interview/mini video documentary plus extended Q & A: with play advocate Tina Govan
- ‘What’s wrong with’ podcast interview with New York and Istanbul-based design practice Sour Studio
Review extracts and more reaction
“Provides a cogent explanation of why child-friendly planning is not only important for children, but for the future survival of cities themselves. This book is full of insights to help urban designers, planners, politicians and policy makers create more livable, resilient and prosperous cities… Gill’s writing style, combined with the format of the book, makes reading Urban Playground a pleasure. This is not another boring academic text. The arguments about child-friendly planning are clear, engaging and persuasive. They are powerfully supported with superb photos… It provides a well-documented and compelling rationale for child-friendly planning’s role in creating better cities for children and all city residents, as well as promoting global sustainability. More importantly, it provides the techniques and strategies to enable child-friendly planning to thrive in the world’s cities.”
From review in Children, Youth & Environments by Paul Tranter, Honorary Associate Professor, School of Science at the University of New South Wales
“A thorough, but succinct and accessible guide to child-friendly planning and design which holds out a clear and potent vision for reimagined towns and cities… not just for planners and architects, but the complex professional networks of all those involved in creating more liveable spaces and places. [Makes] a highly persuasive case for the needs of children and young people to be not just a bigger priority, but central to the strategic thinking – economically, environmentally and healthfully – that should inform all spatial planning and the policies that drive it.
“An attractive, well-designed, volume [with] plenty of space for the handsome illustrations and graphics that adorn almost every page. This makes it both easy to navigate, and also enjoyable to dip into and browse. Populated with a treasury of ideas, initiatives, projects and schemes, that are then distilled into the tools for making it happen. [Sets out] the essential components of a built environment that responds sensitively and intelligently to its youngest citizens, and a roadmap for getting there. British cities are in a good position to take a lead on what economic and social recovery should look like. In preparation for that vital endeavour, this book should be high on their reading list.”
From online review by Adrian Voce, play and children’s rights advocate and President, European Network of Child-Friendly Cities
“If children could have the whole city to play in, why should we fence them into the gated corner of a public park? [Urban Playground] is hopeful and optimistic about what’s possible… packed with examples from Barcelona to Boulder via Fortaleza, Freiburg, Tel Aviv and Tirana. There is enough depth to the research to satisfy the PhD student, along with bold, practical recommendations for the politician and placemaker… Anyone eager to create child-friendly places will find this book a great place to start… A whole chapter [is] dedicated to the tools and principles needed for child-friendly urban planning. There are diagrams, tables, sketches, building blocks and models – a policymaker’s dream – on topics such as engagement methods, impact assessment, and the challenges and opportunities for ongoing management. There is much to digest, but it is all vividly brought to life with imagery that ranges from the delightful to the dismal.” From review in the Journal of the Academy of Urbanism by Marketa Nosalova, Homes England Strategic Projects Director
“Such a treasure of knowledge and lots and lots of inspirational images. And the often-forgotten minority – teenagers – gets a mention too!”
Marketa Nosalova on twitter
“So much evidence about how critical outdoor play is for children’s health, wellbeing and learning. More important than ever that policy makers, planners and developers focus on incorporating these long-term elements into new schemes.”
Alexandra Notay, Strategist, Placemaker, Speaker, Innovator, on twitter
“Excellent book. Perfect timing.”
Cynthia Gentry, US Play Advocate and Board member, International Play Association, on twitter
“An excellent book, full of examples from around the world of how to make cities better for everyone. Some really useful tools and measurable indicators.”
@LeedsBikeMill (bike recycling and training co-operative) on twitter
“A wonderful book that has been inspiring me ever since I bought it.”
Joanne Coughlan, architect and Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI) member (via LinkedIn message).
“Excellent: a fantastic book exploring the importance of child focussed city planning to economic growth and health.”
Shannon Conway, Residential Director at Glenbrook Property via LinkedIn
“Provides the key elements, principles and examples of cities where children are safe, healthy and happy. It is a must-read for anyone who is interested in cities and people, including built environment professionals, current and aspiring decision makers, elected officials, public sector staff and students from all areas, community leaders, citizens and parents. Tim’s analysis and insights from around the world demonstrates just how wonderful cities can be for children. His unique and extensive knowledge, spanning across public policy, education, childcare, planning, transport, urban design, and playwork, allows him to provide a holistic perspective. As Tim says, ‘we need to expand the horizons of childhood’. This book is an excellent resource to help us do so.”
Guillermo (Gil) Peñalosa (from the Foreword)
“Sets out exactly why children’s relationship with cities matters, and establishes practical principles for how it can be improved… shines a spotlight on how these principles can work in practice, moving beyond vague vision statements and policy documents to outline the concrete steps needed to make cities healthier, more active, and more joyful places for everyone. In the light of the coronavirus pandemic, which has revealed our stark urban divides and magnified the importance of decent public space, his message is more urgent than ever.”
Olly Wainwright, Guardian Architecture and Design Critic (from the cover)
“Brimming with examples of how we might plan a healthier post-Covid world.”
Olly Wainwright (writing in The Guardian)
“Shows just how important it is to listen to children and act on what they say when we plan their urban spaces. Expertly written, and presenting clear and compelling evidence, this is essential reading for all those interested in creating places that work for everyone.”
Sarah Weir OBE, former Chief Executive, Design Council (from the cover)
Review by Helle Nebelong in Landskap (magazine of the Danish Landscape Architects Association) 2020 Vol 4.
Two online launch events took place in February 2021: one hosted by Urban Design London, and the other by the Bernard van Leer Foundation (which also gave financial support to Tim). This post shares video recordings of both events, while this post has more details on the participants and format.
Urban Playground: How child-friendly planning and design can save cities
Format: 246 x 189 mm (Crown Quarto) paperback with cover flaps, 208 pp, full colour, 105 illustrations
Cover price: £38:00
Published 1 February 2021 by RIBA Publishing, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD
Supporting partner: Bernard van Leer Foundation
Thanks to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for the award of a Fellowship in 2017 that laid the foundation for Urban Playground, and to the Bernard van Leer Foundation for financial support with visits and writing. Thanks also to everyone who helped with visits, writing, images and production.