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.

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

Indian Trail, North Carolina

Four ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ Zoning Reforms

An excerpt from the latest book on zoning argues for four approaches to reform that can immediately improve land use regulation in the United States.

June 26, 2022 - M. Nolan Gray

Car Traffic

San Francisco Just Ended Single-Family Zoning

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to Tuesday to eliminate single-family zoning, but pro-development advocates say additional changes are needed to unleash a wave of construction.

June 29, 2022 - San Francisco Chronicle

Housing Construction

The State of the Nation’s Housing: 2022 Report

An annual report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) reveals that a growing number of American households face housing insecurity and spiking costs of living.

June 23, 2022 - Enterprise Community Partners

Nighttime view of Oklahoma City skyline

Oklahoma City Begins Work on its First Bus Rapid Transit System

The BRT line has been in the works since 2005, when the city created a plan to focus on regional transit solutions.

1 hour ago - Mass Transit

MARTA Bus

Atlanta One Step Closer to Bus Rapid Transit

The city’s transit agency says bus rapid transit will be cheaper and faster to build than light rail.

5 hours ago - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Two-story housing in Sacramento, California

Sacramento Households Hit Hard by Evictions

With pandemic-era renter protections ending and rents rising by close to 20 percent, renters in Sacramento are finding it harder to afford housing in the region.

July 1 - The Sacramento Bee

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

International Real Estate Strategies and Deal Negotiation

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Affordable Housing: Principles for Changing Domestic and Global Markets

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

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.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.