Planning Communities for Children and Families

Child in the City asks “If you could see the city from an elevation of 95 cm, what would you do differently?” It provides a toolbox of specific policies and planning practices for creating more child-friendly communities.

3 minute read

March 9, 2021, 10:00 AM PST

By Todd Litman


Norway Biker

Bård Aase / Flickr

A new book by Kristin N. Agnello, Child in the City: Planning Communities for Children & their Families [pdf], asks, “If you could see the city from an elevation of 95 cm, what would you do differently?”

The book provides a toolbox of specific policies and planning practices for creating more child-friendly communities, primarily oriented toward existing urban neighborhoods rather than greenfield development

Agnello emphasizes that environments that addresses the needs of children—who have limited independent mobility, experience, and autonomy—are friendlier and more accessible to people of all ages and abilities. This toolkit has been developed collaboratively, with voluntary input from local governments, nonprofit housing organizations, architects, urban designers, urban planners, developers, real estate specialists, researchers, and educators. This toolkit is not intended to exclude adults and seniors, but rather provide a lens through which planners, designers, and policy-makers can support child and family-friendly development practices that have positive intergenerational benefits. To plan  cities in a way that enables children to be co-authors of their own communities is key to a sustainable—and inclusive—future. If the city tells a story of experience, opportunity, and ownership, then its design should enable all citizens to write their own story.

This guidebook emphasizes the value of mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhoods with diverse and affordable housing, local services for families with children (stores, schools, parks, etc.), convenient and comfortable pedestrian and bicycling conditions, plus community safety. It includes checklists of local policies for family-oriented communities.

Here is a summary of child-oriented urban design features:

  1. Children need opportunities to join a loose social group of other children without a formalor prearrangedinvitation to play.
  2. Children need access to safe, uninhibited outdoor play to support their physical and mental health. Outdoor play should include opportunities to interact with the natural environment—finding bugs, smelling flowers, playing in puddles, or collecting objects—without the need for excessive rules, oversight, or segregation.
  3. Children need environments that are safe from traffic, pollution, and undue physical or social hazards, including safe routes to and from school and local playgrounds, allowing them to travel throughout their neighbourhoods safely in order to develop confidence, resilience, and independence.
  4. Children need private spaces for themselves and their friends, including tree houses, forts, or clubhouses that are close to home yet away from public view. 5.
  5. Children need stable, appropriate, and affordable housing that provides them with private space to rest, study, and play.
  6. Children need local access to appropriate early childhood education, child care, and community schools.
  7. Children benefit from the opportunity for their parents to work locally.
  8. Children benefit from walkable communities, with infrastructure for safe walking, cycling, and recreation.
  9. Children benefit from diverse, multi-generational communities, where they can interact with—and learn from—children, adults, and seniors of all races, religions, cultures, and incomes.
  10. Children should be given an opportunity to effectively and productively participate in decision-making processes.

Friday, March 5, 2021 in Child in the City: Planning Communities for Children & their Families

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Wood-frame two-story rowhouses under construction.

Fair Housing Cannot Take a Back Seat to ‘Build, Baby, Build’

If we overlook fair housing principles in the plan to build US housing back better, we risk ending up right back where we started.

April 11, 2024 - James Jennings

Renewable Energy

Just Transition: Bringing Equity to the Clean Energy Conversation

A new report from the Environmental Defense Fund offers a roadmap for countries, energy companies, and other stakeholders to navigate the complexities of transitioning to clean energy while ensuring equity at every step of the process.

43 minutes ago - Environmental Defense Fund

Black car parked in bike lane

New App Pays Users to Report Illegally Parked Cars

A Swedish company is leveraging the power of crowdsourcing and the gig economy to enforce parking laws.

1 hour ago - Euronews

Close-up of row of slot machines in dark casino.

New York Casinos Gain Zoning Change Approval

The new process will let casino projects avoid undergoing a separate land use review in certain circumstances.

2 hours ago - The Real Deal

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.