5 Perspectives on Building Cities Where Kids (and Parents) Can Thrive


The current stereotype of urban communities is that they're filled with young hipsters in trendy loft apartments, plus breweries, coffee shops and restaurants catering to the needs of these millennials. In fact, these days (and always) lots of parents are choosing to raise their kids in the city. But that looks very different depending on the family — and the city.

Today we're sharing five perspectives from parents across the continent about how and why they're choosing to raise their children in an urban setting, and what could help make that experience better:

1. Why I Chose to Raise my Kid in an Urban Neighborhood

Kristin Green is an engineer and principle of the community consulting firm, VERDUNITY. In this 2017 essay, she details why she, counterintuitively, chose to move out of a suburb and into a more urban area after she had her first child:

When we started to think about the community that we wanted to live in, our criteria mostly revolved around the type of environment that was best for [our son].  While good schools were at the very top of the list, we also wanted to be in a place that had an active community with friendly neighbors, at least one park within walking distance, and a safe environment for kids to play outside.

Surprisingly enough, when we looked around our single family suburban neighborhood, we realized that it just didn’t measure up.  Looking outside of our neighborhood, the place that met most our criteria was the old downtown... Read the rest of the essay.

2. How to Find a Balance Between Urban and Rural When Searching for a Family Home

Strong Towns member and urban planner, Justin Golbabai, wanted to live in a dense, walkable area, but his wife preferred the countryside. In this essay, he details the process they went through to find a happy medium:

The first thing that [my wife] and I were able to reach a consensus about was that regardless of where we ended up – urban, suburban or rural – we wanted a living space relatively free from other people’s cars. With that said, we’re not willing to give up our own cars, especially with two small kids and few practical alternatives. [..]

How do we build places for our children to play safely while still retaining the automobile as the dominant mode of transportation? What we found in our housing search is that this is a persistent problem no matter what type of living environment we were to choose. What differs is the proposed solution... Read the rest of the essay.

3. Why Today's Mothers Need Support and Community More Than Ever

Beth Berry is a life coach, writer, and mother of four who has experienced life in a big American city and a small Mexican town. The latter experience taught her a lot about the speed of modern American life and the pressures it places on mother in particular:

In previous generations, parenting was a simpler matter where discipline meant spanking a kid and sending him outside. Today, the expectations for parents are so much greater: they must be creative in their parenting, providing healthy food for their kids, maybe even affording a private education and both parents are likely working.

What's more, parents today must do it all on their own, with no community support system. The "village" is completely absent, and the traditionally standard model of intergenerational families living together and sharing childcare burdens is no longer the norm for many Americans... Read the rest of the essay and listen to a podcast conversation with Beth.

Screen+Shot+2018-01-18+at+11.39.18+AM.png

4. Yes, it's Possible to Live Car-free with Children in Los Angeles.

Alissa Walker is an editor, writer, and mother of two living in Los Angeles — and loving it. She's made the city work for her and actually says that walking or biking is often easier than driving in her neighborhood:

Instead of Alissa spending 30 minutes stressed out in traffic while her daughter sits in the back seat, they get to sit next to each other and watch the world go by together on the bus.

It took a little while to figure out the best ways to navigate transit and biking with children and there are definitely challenges that come with juggling two kids at once, but for Alissa and her family, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Alissa's hopeful that cities like hers will continue to figure out ways to welcome and accommodate families.

One way they can do that is by inviting more women to take the lead in decision making and urban planning... Read the rest of the essay and listen to a podcast conversation with Alissa.

Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 9.43.42 AM.png

5. How to Teach Your Kids to Use Public Transit

Adrian Crook is a single dad living in Vancouver, BC with his five children. To help his family get around easily and develop independence in his school-age kids, he spent time teaching them how to safely and easily ride the bus:

Before this experiment, I was worried that one of my high-energy boys would lose it on the bus and become an uncontrollable spazz. That didn’t happen. Instead, the kids mostly froze in place as they were surrounded by adults on their way to work or school. There’s something calming, or perhaps merely intimidating, about being in that environment – for them, anyway.

Whatever the reason for their good behavior, I loved it. No more screaming from the driver’s seat for them to stop hitting each other in the back of the van... Read the rest of the essay.