Starting Early Design

Starting Early:
Creating Child-Friendly Downtowns




Is Your Main Street Child-Friendly?
Child-Friendly design benefits everyone

Downtown should be welcoming to all. Traffic-calmed streets, stroller-accessible sidewalks, play-area pocket parks, and other child-friendly amenities are good for everyone. Child-friendly downtown-design is attractive to families, persons with disabilities, retirees, and tourists. The same pedestrian-safety features and accessible designs that encourage parents to frequent your downtown benefit us all.

    Streetscape--Increase Pedestrian Safety:
  • Well-marked corner or mid-block crossings
  • Easily reached and understood light buttons
  • Curb cut outs, chokers, and boulevard meridians shorten crossing distances
  • Traffic calming through speed bumps, raised intersections, brick, stone, or textured streets, and other measures
  • Better lighting
    Universal Design Features:
    Universal Design features that make your downtown more accessible to people with differing abilities also increase the child-friendliness of your downtown. Strollers benefit by curb cuts or accessible entrances.
  • Curb cuts and accessible entrances enable parents to push strollers to safely cross intersections and get onto sidewalks safely.
  • Wider, uncluttered aisles inside your store benefit children and parents with strollers. They are also more attractive to all shoppers.
  • Elevators are welcomed by stroller-pushing parents or even parents with short-legged little children.
  • Downtown benches and shaded seating are welcomed by everyone including tired families.
    Downtown Play Spaces
  • Downtown pocket parks can introduce play areas. They do not have to be primary colors either.
  • “Climbable Art” is very inviting to children and create memorable downtown trips.
  • Water features are the ultimate draw for children of all ages.
    Family-Friendly Dining
  • Children’s menus, casual design, cleanable surfaces, adequate high chairs, butcher-block paper table-coverings and crayons and contribute to an enjoyable dinner for all.  
  • Child-friendly restrooms are important to families.
  • Outdoor dining is tailor-made for boisterous child diners as long as there is adequate division between dining and the traffic.
  • Friendly service and cleanliness are probably most important.
    Having a restroom available is important. Children usually cannot wait until they get home.
  • Provide a clean changing table or fold down changing station in both the men’s and women’s restrooms.
  • Provide a stool by the sink and towels, (or if space and budget allows, a lower sink) for children.
  • Make sure the soap and towels are reachable.

Designated Play Areas
Designated play areas, whether a simple, interlocking block table, a vertical play panel on the ends of clothing racks, or a large play area in a family-oriented restaurant all serve to keep children entertained while parents dine or shop. 

For more information, please contact: Carol J. Dyson, AIA, Illinois State Historic Preservation Office, DNR.