Helping children reimagine their city

Helping Children Reimagine the City

A city is most fairly judged by how it invites and supports children into its urban fabric.

Children see and experience our cities at shorter heights, with fresher eyes and absorbent minds.  It is our jobs as city planners and adults to incorporate a child’s perspective into our thinking about the cityscape.  Future Planners* (a company supported by Emerging City) began conducting workshops last spring, with that very intention, to ignite a passion in young children to reimagine the city.

The motivation of Future Planners is to reverse the current trend whereby some politicians and planners think of children as an added consideration in city planning, and to instead utilize a youth oriented point of view, blended into city development.  Moreover, Future Planners believes that children can become proponents of change, which would benefit everyone.  Any metropolitan area that continually balances the considerations of its city-zens of all ages, is a better and safer place for all.

So, what happens when children funnel up to adults their creative thoughts and ideas on urban interventions?  Future Planners conducted a workshop “Plan a Playground” at The Coop School in Brooklyn which motivated students to use analysis, observation and idea generation to create an ideal playground in 3-D models and a mural.


And final work product was not the focus, rather it was the creation of orienting children to city planning.  Further, the goal was to have children consider “for whom” and “for what” when designing a public space, for residents to use all year round.  The children demonstrated great depth and agency at using empathy for others when thinking of playgrounds, from adults who would be supervising their children to pets, these students showed a wide range of brainstorming design benefits for the public realm.

Child-centered city planning is not a new concept.  La Citta’ di Bambini (The City of Children) is another like-minded association, based in Rome, Italy.  They hold fast to “a political motivation: work[ing] toward a new governmental philosophy of the city, engaging the children as parameters and as guarantors of the needs of all citizens. Not, therefore, a greater commitment towards an increase in the resources and services for children, but towards a different and better city for all, so that the children too can live an experience as autonomous and participating citizens.”

Helping our children to “see”, “read” and “feel” our cities, helps them feel a part of their community, reinforces their esteem in that their thoughts are crucial and heard and finally, shows us the adults, the missing piece to ensure our cities are healthy, safe, eco-friendly and joyful places to live.

*From workshops and after school enrichment classes, to tailored STEAM curriculum, Future Planners helps children feel considered and capable of having a tangible impact in the evolution of our cities.  For further information contact Future Planners.


Photo Credit: Aminah Ricks #CitiesByKids4All

5 Tips to Help Your Child “See” Their City

5 Tips to Help Your Child “See” Their City

Increase you child’s awareness of the city that surrounds them with these 5 tips from

As you go through the city with your son or daughter, try these helpful suggestions which aim to open their minds to thinking about community and their important role in the city fabric:

(1) Encourage your children to see the city as theirs, an entity in which they
should give a critical eye, as to what works and what does not and consider
how things can be improved?

(2) Think about what they “see” and how they “feel” as they move through a neighborhood, from the widths of the sidewalks (infrastructure)
to the speed of the flow of car traffic (transportation methods), how is it

(3) Introduce concepts of high and low residential density, a high-rise
and a brownstone are different, why?

(4) Reveal that city elements like “urban furniture” from bus stop
benches to bike racks are designed but see if they can discover and
point out un-designed urban furniture that they see in their

(5) Demonstrate that thinking about their neighborhood and city can
be fun and cool because they become experts on determining what makes
great shared public spaces.

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Photo Credit: London Scout

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