Date: 28-08-2018

NEWS - Comparative Study of 'Urban Spaces to Support Parents'

Around the world, an important movement in the development of Early Years services is the growing understanding of the holistic role a city plays in the life of children and their caregivers.

The complex structure of the built environment and its overall socio-demographic borders can influence to a great extent the way children benefit of their surroundings, how they get access to services, and the quality of these services.

The United Nations played an important role in strengthening this important movement. Their Sustainable Development Goal 11 identifies that currently 3.5 billion people in the world live in cities and by 2030, almost 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas [1]. Therefore, it is paramount that a new vision on city life is developed, one in which children are at the center. For it may still be so that it takes a village to raise a child, but how do we best accomplish similar, stimulating structures within brick-built environments?

Resilient cities
Cities need to become inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, so stipulates Goal 11, all in support of improving children’s lives. Starting with the young, making sure that their potential shall not be hindered by unnecessary factors, such as living in the ‘wrong’ neighborhood, whether such places are downright unhealthy or without proper services, such as daycare centers or playgrounds.

At ISSA we strongly embrace the importance of improving city life, as we believe that everything around the child contributes to their development and wellbeing. As their primary caregivers and educators, all parents should have access to quality services within urban structures, as a key priority. Providing access to stimulating areas, safe places to gather and play, indoors or outdoors, should start from learning about the needs of parents, and from seeking ways in which they can contribute to expanding the networks of support within communities or cities.

Need for studies
At the same time however, too little is known of how deeply the city environment can influence the child, positively or negatively, and what it takes to make improvements. To help overcome such questions, more studies need to be carried out.

ISSA has recently conducted such a study of urban spaces to support parents, which was commissioned by the Bernard van Leer Foundation earlier this year, to inform Tel-Aviv’s urban strategy. Along with other cities around the world, Tel-Aviv is part of the Urban95 program, which is aimed at working with urban planners, architects, engineers and city managers to incorporate a focus on early childhood development into the planning and management of cities [2].

Piggyback on services
The main goal of this study was to map out and create a blueprint of social facilities that have the potential to improve the quality of life for children from birth to 4 years of age. The focus was on making an inventory of how local governments can piggyback on existing services in order to expand access for a bigger variety of needs. The study sheds light on the efforts of some ten organizations which run a number of services, and analyzes more in-depth five programs from five different countries: Australia, Belgium, Slovenia, the UK and the USA.  The research aimed to learn more about the diversity of the services provided, the type of workforce required, the curriculum of their programs, their flexibility in terms of opening hours, their funding schemes and the cost per beneficiary.

Social Cohesion
The study illustrates how these services are important mechanisms for social cohesion, and how, by expanding services and cross pollinating with other organizations and their areas of expertise, cities can offer meaningful support to children and families. A must read for everyone involved or interested in the development of urban places, in big cities or small.

For more information contact Dr. Mihaela Ionescu, Program Director at ISSA: mionescu[at]



Photo: Klemen Skubic