Urbis Think Tank
Where do the children play?
Legendary songwriter Cat Stevens asked, ‘Where do the Children Play?’ and now, 40 years later, urban planners are asking the same question.
With green space in our cities disappearing, leading property consultant Urbis has investigated how we can make our communities more child friendly.
Urbis Social Planning Director, Stephanie Wyeth, recently completed a research project into what it is that makes cities and suburbs child friendly.
“With our cities becoming more sterile and parents more paranoid about their children’s safety, kids are losing contact with their communities,” Ms Wyeth said.
“The problem we face is parents want to bubble-wrap their children and keep them safe from all manner of harm.
“Instead we should be looking to make our suburbs more child friendly which, in turn, makes them safer places for our children to interact with their friends, family and nature.”
Ms Wyeth said there were a number of ways to create child friendly suburbs including:
- Building more cycling and walking paths so kids can travel safely by bike or on foot;
- Providing access to ‘wild places’ such as nature reserves;
- Knowing your neighbours and having contact with adults outside of the immediate family;
- Providing regular access to free and low cost activities and events; and
- Having well designed parks and public spaces that are equipped with water, seating, shade, public toilets and integrated play areas.
“These may seem like basic and practical ideas and essentially they are,” Ms Wyeth said.
“But it’s staggering how often we get it wrong and ignore the basics. Planners quite often get tied up with fast track transport corridors and forget some people want to stop and smell the roses.”
Ms Wyeth pointed to a number of initiatives around Brisbane where planners had been successful in creating interesting, child friendly spaces.
“The ‘flood’ sign sculpture in New Farm Park is an excellent example of a very simple yet effective child friendly space in the centre of one of Australia’s largest cities,” Ms Wyeth said.
“As well as being an historical marker it also makes a great climbing gym for young children and allows parents to enjoy some down time in the nearby cafe.
“Other examples are the cliff walk at Shorncliffe where families can interact with nature, GOMA (the Gallery of Modern Art) at Southbank where there is plenty of open space for picnics as well as free access to art exhibits and the State Library that offers free wi-fi access for teenagers.”
However, Ms Wyeth also said it is not just about providing play areas or social hubs for children but also how children and youth get around our cities and neighbourhoods.
“It’s no use providing great spaces for them to play and explore if they have no way of accessing them because mum or dad aren’t there to drive them,” she said.
“We need to provide pathways and bikeways that provide safe and easy connections between home, school and parks.
“Some areas have instigated walk to school programs for primary school children that help kids get to school independently and, at the same time, help parents let go.
“We also need to leave some of the ‘adventurous’ places in our neighbourhoods where kids can explore and learn to manage risk, rather than automatically fencing them off.”
Ms Wyeth said it was vital to include children and young people in local planning for suburbs and community spaces.
“Local governments like Redland City Council are taking this issue seriously. A recent survey conducted by Council attracted responses from more than 2,000 young people who wanted Council to know to what was important to them,” Ms Wyeth said
“Studies like this help us to build a deeper understanding of how we can make our cities more child friendly.”
To see the article recently published in the Courier Mail please click here: http://bit.ly/sVkq7m