Abstract

The emphasis on creating cities and buildings that take children’s needs and perspectives seriously has gained strength across the international built environment community in recent years. Manifested through agendas such as child-friendly environments and the rise of participatory design approaches involving adolescents and children, it highlights a shift in viewing children as active rather than passive agents in the design and creation of spaces. In parallel, the growing concerns regarding the built environments’ impact on children’s physical and mental health have contributed to the resurgence of interest in play and playful learning as a key factor in children’s holistic and healthy development.

This research is a first step towards the generation of a sound knowledge base on how to better design child-friendly environments and spaces that encourage children’s play, learning through play, and children’s holistic development. Moreover, it considers how processes of co-creation can assist in the pursuit of more child-friendly built environments. Accordingly, the aim of the research project was to critically explore existing scholarship on children, play, playful learning, and creativity in the built environment (i.e. architectural and urban spaces) in order to identify the state-of-the-art in research as well as examples of practice internationally.

Our report synthesizes the key collection of academic literature and vocabulary associated with “children in the city” and “play in the built environment” to develop a systematic understanding of: (1) the different components associated with designer-child collaboration in the built environment as well as (2) a variety of novel approaches and methods for conceptualizing and investigating children’s interactions with the built environment.

Based on the critical reading and analysis of the 159 academic papers and 20 cases, we present a series of findings that unpack the relationship between children and the built environment from the complimentary perspectives of embodied cognitive science and co-creation. Through these lenses, we posit a number of research gaps and suggestions for future investigation on the themes presented.

Our report presents a seminal study, which for the first time, links children, play, playful learning, and creativity with the built environment, co-creation, and embodied cognitive science. At present, this field is not yet well established, representing an emerging area of scholarship and academic interest. While existing research on the subject hold value, connections between co-creation and embodied cognitive science in the built environment are in their infancy, thus there is a need for further testing to corroborate the outcomes of the review with additional empirical research belonging to a number of specific areas.

Through these gaps, we highlight opportunities for developing stronger theoretical and empirical research on how different spaces afford and invite children’s play across the play spectrum as well as how designer-child collaboration can potentially influence place-making to more readily enable child-friendly design approaches in cities. We put forward, that children can—and should—be considered as co-producers of spaces and places through play and their own practices in the built environment. Designer-child collaboration—if executed with due care and consideration—can act as the bridge and translation process to ensure that this environment is designed collectively and a rich landscape of affordances for play are provided.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBillund
PublisherCoC Playful Minds
Volume3
Number of pages140
ISBN (Print)978-87-93907-10-2
ISBN (Electronic)978-87-93907-11-9
Commissioning bodyCapital of Children (CoC Playful Minds)
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Jelić, A., Martin, M., Laursen, L.H., Tvedebrink, T.D.O., Fich, L.B., Oehlwein, L.I. (2019) Children, play, and the built environment: What can we learn from co-creation and embodied cognitive science? (Report). CoC Playful Minds and Aalborg University, Denmark.

Keywords

  • Children
  • Built environment
  • Co-creation
  • Embodied cognitive science
  • Play
  • Playful learning
  • creativity
  • Urban childhoods
  • Affordances
  • Designer-child collaboration

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