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Designing for Urban Childhoods

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

A child’s expectations are never different from us.

Adulthood and Childhood might be two very different stages of life but a child wants to experience her city the same way as an adult does.

Safe and clean streets, access to green space, clean air, active things to do, the ability to get around, the freedom to see friends, and some place to call home. This is a platonic description of how one wants her city to look and feel like. What makes it better is how we initiate ‘Child-friendly Approach’ into the design of the same. As a designer we realise the need to cater to different visions of each society based on their geography, demographics, socio-cultural aspect, environment concerns, economic trend etc. The challenges and barriers while figuring out a solution might be different, but obstacles in the dreams of a child and our underlying issues are the same.

The above scenario might have been mostly correct, if I was writing this blog in 2019 or the modern BC (Before Corona). The expectations of every individual have changed now.

Separation of facilities, yet equitable model of opportunities, is the ideal choice.

Since the 19th Century, (to be precise from 1885), motor vehicles on roads have been one of the major concerns of urban lifestyles. That is the main treason parents don’t allow their kids independent mobility. Following which, the amplitude of social interaction, group activities, nature discoveries have reduced drastically. Introduction of the concept of inequality among kids and their social status has caused loss of Photographer: Saurabh Panwar equitable access to play spaces, parks and in turn a loss of healthy well-being.

In a publication by Arup called ‘Cities Alive’, it is stated that a large proportion of children under 11, across countries, globally, do not have the freedom to move around their local area.

In the ‘Childhood forecasting of a small segment of the population with large economic burden’, research, it is said that “Adverse early childhood experiences are associated with increased risk of adult disease and dysfunction.”

“The likelihood of a child using a destination declines beyond about 800 m from their home. This restricts their range and access to amenities to below one kilometre.”

Healthy Active by Design and Heart Foundation

As a designer, I have also realised that a kid can never be directed to take the exact path as directed by our designs. They should be given elements and open ended features of a play space that they can easily explore, twist and break and join to their whims and fancies. This in turn has a direct effect on their cognitive development and opens paths for a healthy experimental development. In addition to the individual design of the play space, the community involvement is of utmost importance. A kid’s safe space is a healthy and an inclusive space, preferably in their own neighbourhood and its own accustomed familiar of streets and roads.

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