Child-Friendly Communities

Neighborhoods, Towns, & Cities

To be sustainable, a neighborhood, town or city must SUSTAIN ITS CHILDREN. It must provide a physical environment that ensures children's health, develops their faculties, and fosters their love for community, and for nature.

In this way, children grow up to become agents of sustainability.

Urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, planning and land development play essential roles in ensuring a sustainable physical and built environment.

If our cities and towns are badly planned, children - like canaries in the mines - are the first to suffer. If children are the measure of sustainable planning, then we can achieve truly sustainable neighborhoods, towns and cities.


There was a time when kids had free range of their neighborhoods – shimmying up trees, biking around their community, and being greeted by neighbors. Today, however, due to modern zoning practices, planning for the car, and uncontrolled growth, children are growing up unhealthy, obese, and depressed in sprawling subdivisions. We cannot damage the health of another generation of children.

The International Making Cities Livable Council (IMCL) and the National Town Builders Association (NTBA) are partnering to guide the development of a “Child-Friendly Community” Certification Program that gathers together under one umbrella all of the guidelines necessary to design and restore neighborhoods that encourage children’s physical and emotional health and well-being – neighborhoods that provide children with the free range and daily contact with nature and community that their grandparents enjoyed.

The guidelines will incorporate the collective wisdom – from many disciplines and many countries – to set standards for Child-Friendly Communities, and will be made available to developers and municipalities. Qualifying projects will be officially certified and celebrated as “Child-Friendly”.

IMCL and NTBA will work with national leaders, allied organizations and expert advisors to create the guidelines and standards. With this leadership, we can build a new wave of Child-Friendly Communities, empowering kids to reclaim their great outdoors.

The intention of the Child-Friendly Communities Certification Program is to demonstrate that children who grow up in Certified communities are more likely to be in better physical and mental health than children who have grown up elsewhere. The eventual aim of this project is to improve the lives of all children growing up in communities across the U.S.

Contact with nature, opportunities to walk and bike, and participation in community social life improve the health and well-being of adults, as well as children. By creating communities responsive to the needs of children and young people, this approach to community planning will also result in neighborhoods, towns and cities that are ecologically and socially sustainable. The most sustainable community is one that raises healthy children who maintain their involvement in community, and love for nature into adulthood, and transmit these values to their children. A healthy community for children is a healthy community for all.