Urban Playground book cover

Urban Playground:
How child-friendly planning and design can save cities

** Just want to order it? Head here. **

“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

“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

“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

“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

See below for more endorsements and fuller quotes


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. Download button below: 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’.]

urbanplayground_sample Download

10 2-page spreads from Urban Playground book

Media coverage

The Guardian, 25 Feb 2021

Screenshot of Guardian article by Oliver Wainwright

Yorkshire Evening Post, 22 March 2021

Urban Design journal (free pdf download) Autumn 202 issue 156: short synopsis by Tim

100 degrés: two French-language features in this Montreal/Quebec online magazine:

Play Wales magazine (forthcoming: Welsh and English)

Igloo, Romania (forthcoming: Romanian)

Podcasts and online interviews

  • ‘Urbanistica’ season 3 episode 176 (with Swedish urbanist Mustafa Sherif)
  • ‘reSITE’ podcast and transcription with Prague-based global urbanists Martin Barry and Alexandra Siebenthal (also on Spotify)
  • ‘Spokesmen’ podcast interview episode 269 and transcription with leading transport journalist and author Carlton Reid (also on Apple podcasts)

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)

More reaction

“Such a treasure of knowledge and lots and lots of inspirational images. And the often-forgotten minority – teenagers – gets a mention too!”
Marketa Nosalova, Development Manager, Town (award-winning residential and mixed-use developer) 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)

Launch events

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.

Publication details

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
ISBN: 9781859469293
Cover price: £38:00
Published 1 February 2021 by RIBA Publishing, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD
Supporting partner: Bernard van Leer Foundation

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