By 2050, around 70% of the world is predicted to be living in the cities, and the majority of them will be under 18. Because, people are moving from rural towns to urban cities, in order to find work and have a better lifestyle. Today, around 1 billion children are growing up in cities.
“Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.”
— Enrique Peñalosa, Mayor of Bogotá
Architects and designers are capable of making cities more friendly for children. A well designed built environment, cities can help children lead healthy lifestyles. Also, it can help ensure that children are given respect, safety, fair treatment, and preparing them for the challenges the future holds for them. Therefore, Focusing on children’s needs will also solve other urban challenges, leading to benefit everyone.
Challenges of urban childhoods
Traffic and Pollution
Traffic and Pollution hinder the free movement of children in localities. Therefore taking away their independence, and hindering mental and physical development.
Unplanned cities increase car dependency, cramped conditions, and lead to isolation.
Parents are mostly worried about their safety, terms of accidents, crime, strangers, and traffic.
Cities lacking quality green spaces, playgrounds, and safe access can exacerbate social inequality across the city, leading to a shortage of family activities.
Basic Concept for Child-Friendly Cities
Everyday freedoms give children a sense of independence and confidence. Small initiatives to make cities more child friendly, giving them everyday freedom. Allowing them to step out of their houses without, their parents being worried.
Children’s infrastructure is the network of spaces, streets, nature, and interventions that make up the key features of a child-friendly city. They are critical to a more inclusive, equitable, healthy, and resilient public realm.
Reccomadations for a Child-Friendly City
Intergenerational and Recreational Spaces
Public spaces in neighbourhoods increase interaction and exchange amongst children, socializing, and skills development. Also, Outdoor physical activities have a positive impact on the health and well being of children. Importantly, playable spaces should look beyond basic design functions, take a balanced approach to risk, and provide facilities for families to spend time together for longer. Redefinable spaces are flexible and adaptable areas, of vacant or underused plots and bring nature back to the community.
Connection with Nature
Nature has an important role in children’s lives and in cities. Connection with nature develops mental and physical health benefits, including lower rates of obesity, depression, stress, and attention disorders. Moreover, creative and flexible green spaces that indulge children in adventurous activities are essential to developing physical coordination, teamwork, and risk assessment skills, while also supporting more reflective and imaginative play. Not only do they bring a sense of belonging to the community, but children and residents also learn to care about nature.
Furthermore, engaging artwork, diverse habitats, and colourful planting all add to children’s experience and their growing connection with nature.
Traffic, pollution, crime, and other hazards are all issues that affect children’s everyday freedoms. And designers are responsible for making healthy cities for them.
Reducing car dominance in cities, can, therefore, reduce the traffic and make cities safe. Thus, measures can be implemented to increase both actual and perceived safety, for example through traffic calming, active travel networks, and multifunctional spaces.
Enhancements of routes for children to nurseries and schools can reduce the number of accidents. In order to protect children from road accidents, creating safe routes, clear demarcation of sidewalks, children’s murals to raise awareness and a ban on-street parking on the route to school entrances led to traffic fatalities among children falling by 95%.
A city designed for the needs of children’s caters to everyone’s need. It provides spaces and activities for bonding with friends, family, and neighbours, who are playing an important role in the lives of children.
Somehow, the responsibility of a healthy lifestyle and well being of children lies in the hand of planners, designers, and architects. And therefore, this responsibility should be take very thoughtfully.