Proximity of care: A new approach to designing for early childhood in vulnerable urban contexts

One third of people living in cities are children, but urban spaces are not often designed with children and their families in mind. Cities have a big role to play in shaping children’s development by addressing their needs, as well as their caregiver’s needs. We know that child- and family-friendly urban environments bring benefits for the entire community, including a commercial return on investment.

That’s why we developed the Proximity of Care, together with Arup, to embed design principles that help children and families thrive into the work of urban planners, designers, developers, city leaders and early childhood development practitioners.

A good start in life for its youngest residents is one of the best investments a city can make.

To complement the publication, we partnered with Arup to develop the Proximity of Care Design Guide (March 2023), structured into four sections. Each section represents the main stages in the life cycle of an urban project:

  1. Understand – effective design begins with understanding.
  2. Design – make the right design choices for impact.
  3. Implement – put your design into practice with community collaboration around a shared vision.
  4. Influence – gain and sustain support for your project and a child-friendly approach.

The guide is a practical and free online tool for the design and implementation of cost-effective interventions that facilitate healthy, protective, stimulating and supportive environments for a city’s youngest inhabitants and their families.