Our results suggest that policymakers can foster behaviour change in children through environmental design, informed by a multidisciplinary analysis of factors affecting their neighbourhood experiences. These insights are synthesized through three lenses:
- Urban form as an enabler and barrier of child-friendly neighbourhoods.
Urban form greatly influences child-friendly environments. Walkable streets and varied land use are crucial, with a well-connected street network enabling safer and more active lifestyles for children. Design policies should focus on improving connectivity, with more routes and closer proximity between homes and schools to enhance children’s mental health and life satisfaction by reducing emotional and behavioral issues, thereby bolstering their physical activity.
This study recommends that housing and urban planning policies focusing on child mental health should emphasize the creation of local green spaces like gardens, parks, sports fields, and woodlands. The strong link between greenery and mental well-being indicates that enhancing access to green open spaces near residences could mitigate children’s emotional and behavioral issues.
- Neighbourhood design as a provider of social opportunities.
Neighborhood design plays a crucial role in fostering child-friendly communities, offering social opportunities for children. Design features like pedestrian-friendly streets (i.e., pedestrianised/low-traffic streets), neighbourhood parks, and playgrounds within gated communities uniquely shape children’s daily experiences and affect their active behaviors, underscoring the importance of urban design in enhancing children’s lives.
- Urban Planning and Design Guidelines for Creating Child-Friendly Environments
The study suggests Turkey’s Child-Friendly Cities (CFC) guideline fails to fully meet children’s needs in terms of safety, accessibility, and natural spaces. It calls for the guideline to be revised to include safe public transport, access to nature, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, and accessible public areas. Achieving child-friendly urban environments in Turkey requires a comprehensive policy approach engaging children, parents, and experts.
Overall, our research shows that understanding how urban form features near homes and schools influence children’s mental health and their daily experience of the neighborhood can aid urban planners, designers, and health experts. This knowledge can guide more effective neighborhood interventions for behavior change, and inspire the redesign of streets and public spaces to foster active, social communities, improving public health outcomes.
Akin, Z. Ozbil Torun, A., Severcan, YC., Defeyter, MA., Bingol, H., (2023). “Assessment of Urban Planning and Design Guidelines for Creating Child-Friendly Environments: What Can We Learn From Children?”, AESOP Annual Conference, 11-15 July, Lodz, Poland.
Ozbil Torun, A., Severcan, YC., Defeyter, MA., Bingol, H., Akin, Z. and Cankaya Municipality officers. “Urban Design and Planning Guidelines for Promoting Healthy Children”, Policy Brief in preparation.