Where there are cities, there are children. However, very little, if any, consideration is given to children in the planning of urban environments. Yet children are learning every day about life in the city, from the toy roadways in a daycare to their morning commute to a caregiver across town. Where is the child’s voice in all of this? The Child in the City Project was initiated to provide an opportunity to hear children’s unique perspectives and to listen to how they experience living in this city.

The Child in the City Project aims to increase community awareness and appreciation of children’s capabilities and to create an understanding of the importance of both listening to and including children’s perspectives in planning their environment. Children are capable, competent and have the right to be involved in the planning and evaluation of the places in which they live. Children can add an invaluable view into planning processes and should be considered a part of municipal planning to help ensure the Capital Regional District is a welcoming place in which to grow up. Child-friendly cities are places where the voices, needs and rights of children are considered an important part of public policies, programs and decision making. This helps everyone to plan and design communities that are good for children and families. By involving children in planning processes now, we not only help to create people-friendly communities, but we also empower a future generation of engaged, community-minded citizens.

The Child in the City Project has been the collaborative effort of a number of local childcare facilities, their educators and attending children four to five years of age. Participating children and educators explored their collective concepts of community within their respective neighbourhoods. The project evolved as each centre found its own way of engaging children in conversations about community and documenting their ideas. Documentation of children’s perspectives took many forms: from drawings of their favourite places to creating clay cities; digital images to puppet making; mapping projects to creating their own working blue bridge. Supported by their educators and engaged in various creative endeavours, children shared their view of what it was like to be a child in the city and revealed what was important to them. This included the importance of family which resonated throughout their images and narrations. Children clearly articulated they want to go places and do things with the people they love. They also demonstrated an appreciation of the natural world through numerous images and references to trees, grassy fields, flowers and local beaches. Children conveyed their need and love of places where they could move. Whether it was biking, swinging, sliding, swirling or whirling, it was evident they enjoyed places where they could be active.

Children’s creative perspectives of urban living have been culminated into a visual showcase of their collective works, exhibited as “Children’s Views of Urban Living.” The exhibit highlights the importance of including children’s unique voices in creating our communities, now and for the future. It also encourages us to ask, does our city nurture or hinder our children? How do we value children’s voice and include their perspectives in creating our communities? Answers may be found when we take the time to listen to what children have to say and value their perspectives. Are you listening?

Over the next three months, the “Children’s Views of Urban Living” exhibit will be showcased throughout the city at various community venues and presentations are available to be made to interested organizations.

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