If you could experience the city from an elevation of 95 cm – the height of a 3-year-old – what would you change?
This is the core question Urban95 seeks to answer on behalf of the babies, toddlers and caregivers who rarely have a voice in city policy, planning or design.
We do this by helping city planners, urban designers, and other urbanists understand how their work can influence child development. Importantly, we also help them identify and scale cost-effective ways to improve the way families with small children live, play, interact and move through cities.
What it means for cities
Cities for babies, toddlers and caregivers are good for everyone
“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, Former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia
The presence of children and families is often a measure of a city’s vibrancy and dynamism. And their experience of living and growing in cities is wholly unique. Designing cities with young children and caregivers in mind – for example, with outdoor spaces that encourage safe movement, play and social interaction – is an issue of growing concern everywhere.
Today, more than a billion children are growing up in cities. Urban families around the world, especially those living in poverty or in informal settlements, benefit in transformational ways from more – and more accessible – services, transport, and safe, clean green spaces for small children to play and families to gather.
Better planning and design that incorporates the experience of babies, toddlers and their caregivers helps children thrive and become healthier and empowers caregivers; it also carries benefits for other members of a city’s population characterised by limited range and unhurried pace, such as disabled and elderly people. Such family-centred urban planning and design is not only about building more playgrounds. Families are disproportionately challenged by poor public transport, as well as food, healthcare and childcare ‘deserts’.
Thoughtful urban planning and design can play a major role in addressing such challenges and in giving children a good start in life, by offering:
- Walkable, mixed-use neighbourhoods that cater for the basics a young family needs within 15 minutes on foot
- Lively, green public spaces close to home that offer amenities for caregivers while allowing small children to explore safely
- Safe transport routes and transit systems that make it easy, reliable, affordable and enjoyable for families with young children to travel where they need to go
- Healthy environments with safe levels of air quality and low noise pollution
- Vibrant community life that supports family well-being
Additionally, family-friendly urban planning and design can also increase a city’s climate resilience, carry enormous economic and other benefits, and offer a platform for investment that tends to unite political forces.
What does the city look like from a height of 95 cm?
Here are five key ways in which young children experience a city, and how urban planning and design can help or hinder development.
- The smallest features, such as a step or a pattern of tiles on the sidewalk, invite play and exploration.
- Young children depend on their caregivers to move around the city. Making it easier and faster for families with strollers and on little legs to reach key destinations is one of the best things you can do to ease stress and make it more likely that those families will make use of services.
- Travelling long distances between well-baby clinics, maternal health services, childcare, green spaces and places to buy healthy food can be especially difficult – and expensive.
- Toddlers’ shorter height places them consistently close to passing car exhaust fumes.
- Waiting (for buses, appointments and in queues) is a challenge. Design features that allow for exploration and play make waiting easier and create valuable opportunities for learning and social interaction.
Meet the Young Explorers
Experience the challenges and joys small children growing up in
the city encounter every day.
Policies & Services
Urban95 Ideas for action focus on helping cities increase positive interactions between caregivers, babies and toddlers; increase access to - and use of - the services and amenities families need; and reduce stresses on caregivers. The ideas are organised into two categories of policies and services:
These Ideas for Action do not cover all the aspects of urban life that are important to healthy child development, such as affordable, safe housing and access to water and sanitation (WASH) services. We have chosen to prioritise a set of issues where we believe the impacts on child development are important but not often directly addressed. We have developed a set of briefs on how other aspects of urban life influence child development.