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Child Friendly Urban Design

Child Friendly Urban Design

  • Definition:

Nowadays, more and more cities are designed without considering the needs of different people, just like children who need more space for activities. Van Vliet and Karsten have said that ‘The Child-Friendly City (CFC) label means different things to different people, influenced by their professional interests’ (Van Vliet and Karsten, 2015)

  • Benefits:

(1) Health and wellbeing 

Health is very important as children grow up. Health includes physical health and mental health. In urban design, children’s active participation in physical activities can reduce obesity rates. At the same time, designers can provide children with a relatively quiet environment, which can help reduce their anxiety. Also, communities can provide high-quality education to improve their cognitive and development levels.

  • Example:

For example, in Barcelona, In the design of this square, the designer redesigned the street from a human perspective. On both sides of the street, we can see workers planting a lot of greenery, which can provide fresh air for children. Under the shade of trees, children will have more entertainment space, which can help them improve their physical fitness.

Barcelona Superblocks, Spain

(2)Local economy

As for local economy, whether it is good or bad can directly affect a city’s resource allocation and service level. The higher the economic level of a city, the higher the quality of life of children. In a high-level city, it is more important to allocate resources reasonably and treat every child fairly.

(3) Safety 

In a good urban design, security can also be divided into several aspects, such as road safety, perceived safety, safe and active streets and inclusivity and accessibility. Urban safety should be the most important part of urban design. Safe urban environments reduce the risk of injury to children. In a city, if children can play safely on the streets, this city’s safety index will be much higher. At the same time, safe cities generally have low crime rates. In these kind of cities, we can usually see bright street lights and so on.

  • Example:

Here has an example. In 2020, South Korea, the Korean government promulgated the “Child Safety Management Act.” They thought the roads leading to school are not very safe for children. I saw the plan on a website which said “In cooperation with other ministers, the Ministry of Interior and Safety pledged to ensure the safety of children from traffic accidents by improving the pedestrian environment in school zones and tightening the management of traffic lights, and more”(15 August 2022).

Their approach is conducive to protecting children’s safety issues. They installed railings on the campus, giving children priority and cars passing on the other side of the railings.

This narrow street in a school zone in Korea.

(4) Stronger communities

In a community, we can usually see that it includes several aspects of services, such as social support, educational resources and so on. Referring to the previous three aspects, if a community is strong enough, children’s educational resources are often higher than those of their peers in other communities. Meanwhile, for some children with difficulties, these communities can usually provide more effective help.

(5) Nature and sustainability 

In urban design, in addition to some buildings, we can usually see many natural parks. Children can engage in some outdoor activities according to their free time and hobbies, which will help improve their physical fitness. The zero pollution of nature helps them breathe fresh air. These green environments help children release their stress in time.

(6) Resilience

Urban resilience helps improve a city’s ability to withstand stress. Generally, the ability to withstand stress in big cities is much higher than that in small cities. Designers should consider the impact of different factors on a city when planning cities, such as the impact of population growth or decrease percentages on urban design. At the same time, there will be natural disasters of different sizes in each place, such as floods, earthquakes and so on. When we face these uncertainties, the flexibility of urban design is also very important.

(7) A catalyst for improving cities

In urban design, a city’s catalyst usually consists of several parts. In public spaces, creating some public facilities that are beneficial to children. They can provide them with more places for entertainment and social interaction. Children can improve their social skills while playing. Every urban design should consider the sustainable development of the city as much as possible and unify the theme. For example, designers can choose some clean energy, which can provide a clean and healthy environment for children.


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School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

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