If you could experience the city from 95cm - the height of a healthy 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. Our goal is to encourage cities to create spaces where children can grow, learn, create, imagine and play across all neighbourhoods, reaching as many families as possible.
More than a billion children live in cities, and rapid urbanisation means that number is growing. Babies, toddlers and caregivers experience the city in unique ways. They need safe, healthy environments, where crucial services are easily accessible, frequent, warm, responsive interactions with loving adults are possible, and safe, a stimulating physical environment to play in and explore abound.
Three lessons for toddler-friendly cities
- Design for caregiving: Babies and toddlers do not wander through cities by themselves; those looking after them decide where to go and how long to stay. These caregivers need to feel safe and comfortable.
- Proximity matters: Good public transport is important, as is being able to walk safely, comfortably and quickly to where you need to go. Learn about the 15-minute neighbourhood concept.
- ‘Think babies’ as a universal design principle: From a design perspective, babies, toddlers and their caregivers’ vulnerability, dependency and strong drive to explore and play mean that if a space is safe, clean and interesting enough for them, it’s likely to work for everyone.
What this means for cities
Cities for babies, toddlers and caregivers are good for everyone.
The presence of children and families is often a measure of a city’s vibrancy and dynamism. 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.
But 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, 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 increase a city’s climate resilience, carry enormous economic and other benefits, and offer a platform for investment that tends to unite political forces.
Urban95 focus areas
Urban95 interventions help 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. They are organised into two categories of policies and services:
- Family-friendly urban planning and design, including the planning, design and regulation of a city’s space, land use, infrastructure and services
- Healthy Environments for children, including improving air quality and access to nature
Data-driven decision-making: We believe in making decisions backed up by data rather than relying on intuition or observation alone.
Behavioural science: We have found that understanding the science behind caregiving and other human behaviours can transform intervention design.
Workforce development: Thoughtful focus on the training and well-being of the supervisors, administrators and others at the project frontlines can improve outcomes and anchor positive change over the long term.
Read more about Urban95, including tangible, creative ideas for action to support babies, toddlers and the people who care for them, on the Early Years Starter Kit website.