Study calls for young children’s voices to be heard in urban planning

Date: 28th January 2021

drawing of a red house with two green trees either side. The house has three windows, a chimney and a door. Leading up to the door are few steps.

A New Zealand study has shown young children are intuitive urban planners. The study, involving 27 children aged two to five, used a range of activities to ascertain children’s views, finding that they were considerate, thorough and thought not only of their own needs, but of other city dwellers.

The children mapped their ideal cities using picture tiles. They wanted health services and facilities, such as libraries, natural environments and gathering places. Many of the children (66%) included a supermarket in their design, 59% included a hospital, 48% a fire engine and 41% a coffee shop — as one child observed, their grandma and grandad would use it.

The children also took researches around their neighbourhoods to give first-hand insights into what they liked and didn’t like about their local area. They raised concerns of the often overlooked needs of non-human things, such as sea creatures and plants, the children demonstrated an awareness of the links between environmental protection and conservation.

The study highlights the importance of involving the voices of children and young people who think holistically, to create a functioning as well as healthy, fun and safe city. It identifies the need for communities, planners and urban policymakers to ensure young children can participate and help make the most of their cities in a safe, inclusive way.