« Levelling the Playing Fields » : tools for new streets

Resources to transform our streets and give children back the Right to the City


Policy resource type : Active Transportation, Safety and Vulnerable Users, Public health
Type : Internal

Free play refers to an activity initiated by the child spontaneously, without planning or intervention by an adult. It can be encouraged by transforming the built environment for the benefit of children's health and mobility. These tools make it possible to build an argument in favor of the transformation of our public spaces promoting independent mobility and free play for children.

Thinking of the city in favor of children means putting vulnerable users at the center, which in turn contributes to the development of the whole community. The equation is simple: a pleasant and safe street for young children, will be a pleasant and safe street for all. Like the concept of universal accessibility, urban planning that considers the needs of children has positive outcomes for all users: it is safer, more inclusive, facilitates social interaction, and encourages physical activity, etc.

What makes this tool valuable?

The first factsheet, entitled Fostering free play to improve the well-being of children and restore their right to the city, takes stock of the characteristics and benefits of these innovative models that promote independent mobility and free play, activities initiated by children spontaneously, without any form of adult intervention. Having a recognized impact on the physical, emotional, social and cognitive development of children and adolescents, free play allows children and youth to discover their environment, to gain self-confidence, to experiment and to gradually acquire the skills to later approach the complexity of cities with confidence.

From France to the United States, we are witnessing an awakening of municipal interest in these public-space strategies. This is demonstrated by the second publication Review of inspiring case studies Play Streets and School Streets, which offers eight international case studies for adaptation in the Canadian context.

Jeu libre à Gand, Belgique

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