The goal of My City Too is to illustrate how adopting a child centered lens can make an already great city even greater, more inclusive, and joyful.
For this project, we focused on outdoor free play and independent mobility for children under 12 in Toronto.
Outdoor free play refers to child-led, imaginative, unstructured play that takes place outdoors. Opportunities for this type of play have drastically waned over time, due to changes in work patterns, dangerous street design and traffic, parental concerns, and the rise of indoor entertainment options. Instead, modern childhood takes place indoors in highly structured, regulated, adult-supervised and goal-oriented environments. Community and play are increasingly found online rather than the outdoors.
Access to outdoor free play has been compromised in part by decreasing rates of children’s independent mobility. Independent mobility refers to the ability for a child to move around their neighbourhood or city on their own, typically by walking, biking, and/or public transit. Studies have shown that Toronto children increasingly rely on adults to drive them to everyday destinations.
There is abundant research that recognizes that both outdoor free play and independent mobility are important to children’s physical, social, cognitive and emotional well-being. According to UNICEF, there is a high correlation between children’s well-being and their freedom to travel and play without adult supervision.