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An approach towards the planning of green child-friendly spaces in South Africa


Case study proposed as a guide for developing green child-friendly spaces in developing countries

This case study examined the process of planning and designing child-friendly spaces in the Vaalharts area of South Africa. Vaalharts is a typical rural area lacking adequate infrastructure and basic services. People living there generally experience poor health and low income earning opportunities. One challenge addressed by this research initiative was translating international theory and best practices as they relate to child-friendly spaces to fit the unique characteristics and constraints of rural South African communities.

A detailed needs analysis indicated a lack of community resources supporting the physical and mental development of children. Of special concern was the lack of child-friendly public spaces. Many children were swimming in water canals which was not only illegal, but also dangerous, leading to the drowning deaths of approximately 20 children per year.

Four core concepts framed the planning process: safety, access, green space, and integration. Related goals were to (1) create safe play spaces where children can move freely and independently and partake in a range of activities, (2) provide qualitative green spaces where children can interact with nature and natural elements, (3) provide accessible green play spaces for children of different ages and from different cultures, and (4) provide multifunctional spaces that integrate social, environmental, and economic objectives.

The planning process resulted in a proposed WIN (Water Innovation Network) project. The central idea of this project was to use the current resources of the surrounding area (abundance of water) and transform it into a useable commodity and a safe and secure environment for children. The WIN design includes a waterpark to be located in close proximity to the schools and residential areas. Plans for this park include (i) a water-based child-friendly space, (ii) a community garden and (iii) a multipurpose sport field.

Structured expert interviews were conducted to test the feasibility and approach of the WIN project. The interview results along with other analysis of the plans indicated that the strengths and opportunities of the proposed water-based child-friendly space outweigh the weaknesses and threats associated with the idea. As suggested by the researchers, the outcomes of this study could serve as a guide for planning and developing similar green child-friendly spaces in South Africa and other developing countries or areas with similar challenges.


Cilliers, E.J., Cornelius, S., (2016). An approach towards the planning of green child-friendly spaces in South Africa. Community Development Journal, 1-18.


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