Child Friendly Cities: Toronto

Banksy Child on Swing

Artist: Banksy

Did you know that play deprivation and play provision are now matters of global concern? The world is becoming more urbanized; more children are living in cities where they have little freedom of space and time. They are under pressure to be “learning” in school for long days, while their most essential learning, through play, is neglected. Spatial as well as social structures that support the playing child are falling apart or missing in many places all over the world. The United Nations and UNICEF have taken notice.

In April 2013, the U.N. issued a General Comment on Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is the paragraph that protects the right to play.

If you want to read the whole General Comment, you can find it on the IPA website.

It’s a good read.  Here is one part of it:

Children have a spontaneous urge to play and participate in recreational activities and will seek out opportunities to do so in the most unfavourable environments. However, certain conditions need to be assured, in accordance with children’s evolving capacities, if they are to realize their rights under article 31 to the optimum extent. As such, children should have:

  • Freedom from stress
  • Freedom from social exclusion, prejudice or discrimination
  • An environment secure from social harm or violence
  • An environment sufficiently free from waste, pollution, traffic and other physical hazards to allow them to circulate freely and safely within their local neighbourhood
  • Availability of rest appropriate to their age and development
  • Availability of leisure time, free from other demands
  • Accessible space and time for play, free from adult control and management
  • Space and opportunities to play outdoors unaccompanied in a diverse and challenging physical environment, with easy access to supportive adults, when necessary
  • Opportunities to experience, interact with and play in natural environments and the animal world
  • Opportunities to invest in their own space and time so as to create and transform their world, using their imagination and languages
  • Opportunities to explore and understand the cultural and artistic heritage of their community, participate in, create and shape it
  • Opportunities to participate with other children in games, sports and other recreational activities, supported, where necessary, by trained facilitators or coaches
  • Recognition by parents, teachers and society as a whole of the value and legitimacy of the rights provided for in article 31.

The General Comment goes on to detail many of the specific actions that governments need to take in order to implement the child’s right to play, including:

  • The development of dedicated plans, policies and frameworks at national and provincial levels of government.
  • Mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating implementation measures.
  • Cross-departmental collaboration between national provincial and municipal authorities, including those not only dealing directly with children but also those concerned with housing, water services, parks, transportation, environment and city planning all of which impact significantly on the creation of environments for children.
  • The development of play policy and planning at the municipal level, impacting on many municipal departments.
  • The development of plans to support play in school environments
  • Training and capacity-building among those who work and/or care for children

In order to help cities all over the world develop policies and programs that support children and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the U.N. has established the Child Friendly City initiative, which recognizes local governments that have worked to achieve “child friendly” status. Toronto is not yet considered a Child Friendly City, but we used to be known as the city that works.

We can do this!

Check out these websites:

and then,
check out our calendar for upcoming events and workshops!