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10 things that make a city child-friendly

Published by Business Insider on Wed, 23 Oct 2019


Cities can be hubs for culture, entertainment, and innovation, but they aren't always the best places to raisechildren.A good public school system, affordable housing, and accessible transportation are all crucial factors in parents' decision to stay in the city or flock to the suburbs to raise kids.Here is a list of 10 features that make a city child-friendly.Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.While cities usually make for great group day trips, not every metropolis is equipped for families to raise children.Young parents often prefer cities for all the reasons people move there in the first placejob opportunities, independence, and cultural attractions. Some families may even argue that raising kids in the city is better than raising kids in the suburbs.Read more: 11 differences between raising kids in a big city versus the suburbsHowever, families can feel forced to leave cities not because they want to, but because they have tobecause the city is not family-friendly. Key features needed to keep parents and their offspring in place range from affordable housing and childcare to accessible parks.Keep reading for a look at the features that make a city child-friendly.SEE ALSO:10 American cities where income is high, housing is cheap, and it doesn't take long to get to workDON'T MISS:11 differences between raising kids in a big city versus the suburbsKid-friendly cities have plenty of parks and playgrounds to make up for the lack of open spaces.First and foremost, a child-friendly urban area must have outdoor spaces to compensate for a lack of sought-after suburban spaces. Vox writer Matthew Yglesias made the argument that "parks are better than lawns" when debating raising kids in the suburbs, but a city must first put effort into developing these areas. And some cities are."New York City's Open Schoolyard Initiative, which opened school playgrounds on weekends, was an easy, low-cost way to improve access, and Philadelphia's Rebuild Program promises to spend $500 million on repairing and restoring the city's parks, libraries, and recreation centers, with an emphasis on equality, but much more investment is needed," Patrick Sisson wrote for Curbed.For rainy days, museums that offer kid-friendly discounts or are free to the public are a huge plus.Every city, no matter the size, is usually home to some sort of hands-on exhibit, like at zoos, planetariums, botanical gardens, history museums, art galleries, and national monuments. While not every city has the resources to offer free admission to all of its residents, it's a huge benefit to families when there is some sort of discount. Yglesias highlighted Washington, DC's ample kid-friendly activities in his home city."Kids love the Museum of Natural History and the Air & Space Museum, but even the Museum of American History has really cool programming for children," Yglesias wrote. "The Hirshhorn Museum, focused on modern art, has a storytime for children as well as an outdoor sculpture garden."Additionally, outdoor areas with museums such as Balboa Park in San Diego are another great benefit for families with children.Additionally, ample summer camps and programs are an added bonus.For cities struggling with keeping families in town, in addition to park initiatives, summer programs are becoming a top priority. San Francisco is one such city, and it's working to create more opportunities for the younger members of the community in order to keep families from leaving."The city has increased its offerings for summer programs, many of which were fully enrolled last summer," New York Times writer Thomas Fuller wrote.Affordable and spacious housing is a major benefit for families living in cities.It's no secret that there's a housing crisis in many major cities. While this is a problem for most residents or soon-to-be-residents, many initiatives put in place to combat the issue are only coming at the problem with single-unit households in mind.However, some cities, such as Austin, Toronto, and Seattle, have put guidelines in place for new affordable housing developments to include two- and three-bedroom options. This is a major step, as many new buildings only offer studio and one-bedroom options, which target young, single residents without children.Additionally, these housing areas' proximity to family needs is important.Parental duties often become more challenging in the citysometimes due to housing amenities. While child-friendly cities have more spacious affordable housing, they also need to make sure grocery stores are within walking distance, along with laundromats and other services.These are, of course, concerns for non-parents as well, but also something single people may be more willing to sacrifice. Walking fifteen blocks to the grocery store is something a single person might be able to live with, but is a lot different when you have a baby in tow. Additionally, if any existing family-sized condos are placed in inconvenient locationssuch as areas far from train stations or schoolscities are apt to become less accommodating.On the streets, a child-friendly city needs sufficient pedestrian crosswalks, crossing guards, and more.Children are one of the biggest groups at risk for pedestrian accidents, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. For urban parents who will, at some point, have to allow their young ones to walk to school on their own, cities with safe pedestrian practices make for great family environments.Curbed also noted that these initiatives don't just help families, but help "everyone by increasing pedestrian safety."Accessible elevators in subway stations are also a key factor.In addition to it being a general accessibility issue, many public transportation systems are poorly equipped with elevators to accommodate families with strollers. While this might not be a make-or-break factor, people looking to start a family who observe parents struggling down flights of stairs with children in tow or precariously perching a stroller on a moving escalator may be less inclined to think of the city as kid-friendly.Furthermore, an overall functioning transportation system is necessary to transport city families where they need to go.That being said, cities also need a decent public transportation system. Many cities do, but for those that don't, alternative options such as bike-friendly streets or affordable Uber and Lyft rides must exist.Decent parking options are also beneficial, as well as bike lanes so that busy parents can take their children across town to dance practice, soccer games, and art shows. It's one thing to think about how you alone will get to work, but another to think about the city accommodating a family with activities in many different neighborhoods.Decent ' and affordable ' schooling options are also a crucial factor.Perhaps the biggest factor parents or soon-to-be-parents consider when moving or staying is schooling. If a city's public school system is less than great, the next option is to send children to private school."A lot of people come into the city, have small kids, and when the time comes for them to afford school, they can't afford a private education and they leave the city," PlaceMakers urban designer Kaid Benfield told Curbed. "That's obviously not the healthiest population dynamic if you want a diverse, modern city."Affordable childcare options is another key feature to make a city kid-friendly.Finally, childcare will be an issue anywhere, but cities can take action to make sure there are at least some affordable options for working parents who can't enlist the help of a full-time nanny.In some cities, a year of daycare can almost exceed the cost of a year's rent, according to Motherly. Boston and Washington, DC, are two of the worst offenders.
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