Photography by Quang Dam, via

A perfect play space for children and…chickens

Photography by Quang Dam, via

‘Never work with children or animals’, said the legendary WC Fields. Tongue-in-cheek he may have been, but clearly it is not a philosophy shared by those who champion the benefits for children of city farms.

From sensory learning to appreciating nature, hands-on learning to healthy living – the value of giving children the opportunity to get up close with animals and nature is appreciated by everyone. As next month’s 9th Child in the City World Conference will hear, city farms provide an outlet for those children and families who perhaps struggle to escape, if only fleetingly, the confines of urban living.

Indeed, the whole concept of bringing children and animals closer together is one which is making designers come up with all sorts of radical ideas. Take a recent example in Vietnamese of a firm, Tropical Space, which was approached by an elderly couple who wanted to raise some chickens and create a play space for their grandchildren to visit.


And here you can see the result – an elaborate 20-metre square steel chicken coop like no other. With its curious labyrinth of stairs, boxes and platforms, there really is something for both four and, naturally, two-legged visitors.

Tropical Space says that while there was a need to construct a coop which met all of the chickens’ living needs, the design process also involved creating fun and inspiration for the kids and, crucially, help them to connect with animals.

“The team thinks of little kids in the big cities, they are growing up in a society where adults live fast and always busy,” says Tropical Space. “When we finished the chicken house, we realised that sometimes humans also need to relax in order to have the (same) freedom as chickens. The simple things make life more beautiful and lovely.”


If design is your thing, then you can read more about the Tropical Space project. Yet while this type of small-scale design concept is highly innovative – if not right out of the left field – the value of giving children access to ‘urban nature’ is certainly not dependent on modern design. It is all about the experience. Child in the City World Conference will, as part of the theme equality and diversity in the child-friendly city, share with delegates some examples of how such initiatives are being delivered.

Ingeborg Tangeraas is from the European Federation of City Farms (EFCF) and a passionate advocate of helping children to get in touch with animals, nature and the whole environment. Her presentation, Every child should have access to a City Farm, will say that for any city wanting to be seen as truly child-friendly, it is vital that children have access to city farming in order to help build a future in which their community lives in harmony with nature.


She believes that all children and youths ‘find confidence and strength’ in simple activities like feeding animals, harvesting and just being part of a farm’s everyday life.

“Children also learn about the biological processes and how they are a part of nature. At the farm it does not matter if you are poor or rich, clever in maths or a genius in computer skills,” she adds.

“The animals and plants don’t demand a lot from you, but still they pay you back with great memories of a peaceful co-existence, healthy food and good moments, together with many generations who share the meaningful time at the city farm.”


Run by volunteers, the EFCF was established in 1990 as a collaboration of various European city farms and their national organisations. It says city farms can attract anything between 40,000 and 100,000 visits a year, providing green spaces in ‘the middle of a busy, fast and urbanised world’. Its website has some diverse examples of city farm projects across Europe.

Are you attending Child in the City World Conference 2018? It takes place from September 24-26 in Vienna. This year’s conference – the biggest to date – features keynote speakers and hundreds of presentations covering four themes: children’s rights in urban development and regeneration; children and young people and the media; equality & diversity in the child-friendly city; and mobility and access to the child-friendly city. Visit the website for the full programme and details of how to register

Author: Simon Weedy

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