Children’s Experiences of their Neighbourhoods

Our study indicates that children’s daily experiences in different urban forms influence their activities and health. “Playing” emerged as a key positive activity (Fig.2). Urban core and general urban children often played in public parks and streets, while those in peripheral suburbs and sprawls used private gardens or gated areas for safety. Urban areas also favored biking and skating. While children in urban areas visited local shops near schools and homes, those in suburbs and sprawls preferred malls and markets in gated communities, usually with family or friends. For a detailed exposition, refer to our DSA Symposium 2023 presentation.

Figure 2: Positive Experiences in Neighbourhoods

Concerns about ‘safety and security’, and ‘accessibility and mobility’ dominated negative responses in the ‘quality of built environment’ (Fig.3). Children in suburbs noted issues with pollution, poor maintenance, and visually unappealing construction zones. Many from both suburbs and urban areas reported dangerous behaviors like bullying. Notably in Ankara, children often avoided routes where stray dogs were prevalent. While ‘accessibility and mobility’ did not emerge as a positive neighbourhood experience, challenges such as limited access/lack of permeable public spaces, high traffic, and unsafe pedestrian crossings were highlighted. Urban children also faced difficulties with crossing busy roads and navigating inadequate or muddy sidewalks.

Figure 3: Negative Experiences in Neighbourhoods

In urban core and general urban areas, children’s positive and negative experiences often occur in the same locations such as parks and streets, and they frequent various public spaces beyond their schools (Fig.4). Conversely, in planned suburbs and urban sprawls, children’s activities are mostly concentrated around their schools and immediate vicinity. Due to limited accessibility and mixed-use spaces, children in these areas tend to stay within their gated communities or near their homes, using school-adjacent areas for socializing.

Figure 4: Heat map of positive and negative children experiences in neighbourhoods.

A closer examination of various activity types and their locations reveals distinct differences in the use of spaces among neighbourhoods. For instance, children in urban core neighbourhoods commonly use public spaces like parks and pedestrianised streets for various activities (i.e., playing, cycling, and walking). Conversely, those in urban sprawl areas tend to utilize private spaces within their gated communities, such as gardens, playgrounds, and designated sites.

In summary, four aspects of neighborhood urban form are related significantly with children’s positive and negative experiences: accessible amenities and social spaces enhance experiences, while poor maintenance and impermeability, marked by unsafe roads and cul-de-sacs, detract from them. Green spaces add value, their lack diminishes experience quality, and safety concerns, especially regarding stray dogs, are also a notable influence.

Related Publications

Ozbil Torun, A., Severcan, YC., Defeyter, MA., Akin, Z., Bingol, H. (2023). “Learning from Children: design and policy insights for child-friendly neighbourhood design”, Development Studies Association (DSA) Conference, 28-30 June, Reading. (