Think About Your Children

When talking about politics, global warming, or conservation you can almost be guaranteed to hear the phrase, “Think about your children.” I have probably heard this phrase uttered more than 100x during my short life-time and I will likely hear it many times more. However, until reading the article “Children and City Design: Proactive Process and the ‘Renewal’ of Childhood” I have never thought about this question in terms of city planning. This could be for 2 years: 1) I have taken little part in any city or space planning or 2) City spaces have not, until recently, been built for children.

Growing up, I was always taught that the street is no place for kids. I rode my bicycle on the sidewalk, never walked anywhere alone, and was only allowed to play on the grass closest to my house, and never on the strip of grass that laid between the sidewalk and the street. I also believed that cities were planned by architects, city planners, or civil engineers. I never imagined that children were brought into the process and asked about their preferences.

But kids can often be streets’ and sidewalks’ most frequented users so taking their wants/needs into account is very important. There were many different suggestions made by kids discussed in this article that surprised me. Some of these surprises were suggestions for “green” places, mixed use spaces, and small scale construction. Being a young child just a few years ago and volunteering in elementary schools for 6 years, I thought I knew what most kids would like. This article and the suggestions it provides has proven me wrong.

This shows that the #1 thing we can do while planning is to involve children. To really connect and listen to children’s requests while at our Halloween children workshop. I am not a child. I do not know what these kids want/need. We can daydream and design all we want, but what we really need to do first is ask the children. As a class it seems like we all have ideas as to what we want the terrace to look like, but our efforts will be wasted if the end result does not cater to the needs of the users. Let their ideas and creativity inspire our work. As the reading suggests: parents, city planners (our professors), and other community members need to remain involved, but I believe that the children’s needs/wants need to be the focus of all discussion and decisions.

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