Reclaiming the public realm with children and young people

Reclaiming the public realm with children and young people

By Joost Beunderman
Celia Hannon
Peter Bradwell


This report draws on six in-depth case studies to explore the everyday experiences of children in public places and children's access to the public realm. It argues that we need a paradigm shift in the way we think about the built environment – one which addresses the deepening segregation between generations. With a range of recommendations designed to empower frontline professionals, children and young people, this pamphlet offers practical steps to create places that are welcoming for all.

The freedom of children and young people to roam around, to play independently and to discover the world is crucial to their development and happiness. Much of this happens in the private domain such as the home and other family situations, or in institutional settings like the school or the sports club. A significant portion, however, takes place in public spaces – from the foraging adventures of a day in the park to a simple walk to school. Because of the importance of this process of discovery and development, the way that children experience the public realm, and how they are treated in it, is an integral part of their well-being.

Children will benefit if the public realm is understood as a shared resource and site of exchange, interaction and collective experiences. Playable space, and playful streets that are welcoming to all generations, should be the normative vision guiding the ambitions for urban renaissance and sustainable communities.

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Resource type: | Published: 2013