Ingredients for a Child Friendly Community

Following my previous post, ‘It Takes a Village,‘ I have been pondering;

What are the necessary ingredients for creating a child-friendly community?

I had a few initial ideas, including;

When you next see a parent struggling, say with a toddler having a tantrum in a public place, show a little compassion and understanding. Young children’s moods can change on a dime. It could be they are tired or hungry, or they were simply told ‘no.’

Yes, children do make noise. They do run around and pick their noses and make mess when they eat. That is half the fun of being with a little person. I understand that the thought of being in a plane with a baby, toddler or small child for a long period of time is not anyone’s idea of fun but it’s life. I have had to sit on planes next to smelly men with BO and people who snore or laugh to loudly at the silly movie being shown. Not my idea of fun either but it is what it is.

Remove the Labels
SAHM, WAHM, Working Mum. As women we are often the worse at making life difficult for each other and in my work running a child care centre I often saw evidence of the huge rift that exists between mums who go out to work and those who stay at home. It stems from guilt about our choices and this unrealistic expectation that we can have it all. Instead we need to accept our own choices as best for our individual circumstances and realise that with every choice something always has to give. It might be that you are not with your child all the time, or that you don’t have as much money, or that you are not as mentally stimulated as when you went out to work, or that your ironing pile is threatening to engulf your entire household.

Whatever your choice, be content with it and don’t judge others who make different choices.

It is easy to smile and be friendly and what a difference it would make to our world if we just shared a few more smiles around.

Immy smiles at everyone who crosses her path, the smile is infectious and most people smile back. She also waves and says ‘bye’ to everyone who passes her by. In her own blog, my Mum tells a lovely story of Immy’s beautiful, innocent interaction with a very particularly tall, very dark skinned man she passed at the shopping centre. He was gracious and did not take offence at her sense of wonder and awe, instead smiling and speaking to her. You can read more here.

A sense of shared responsibility
We can all make a positive difference to the lives of children and families and we need to accept that as a community we are all responsible for nurturing the next generation to be the best they can be and learn from our mistakes.

As a community we can consider the needs of our youngest citizens when planning public places. Properly equipped parenting rooms, high chairs in cafes and restaurants, space for prams and space for families to be together, to name just a few.

Some do it badly…
When Immy was seven months old we went to Taronga Zoo with my sister and 12 year old niece. Now I would think that in this day and age a large, extremely well known and well respected zoo would be designed to be pretty family friendly. Taronga is – as long as you do not have a baby!

We go to have lunch in the main foodhall which is still new and located in the centre of the zoo grounds. Not one of the food outlets within the restaurant area had a microwave that we could use to heat Immy’s baby mush. Instead they direct me to a coffee outlet which is a good five to seven minute run up a steep hill. Great when you have a grizzling baby who had decided it is time to eat…now! So I left Immy with my sister and ran up the hill only to find that the coffee outlet does not actually have a microwave at all. Instead there is one in the parent room at the entrance to the zoo. So I hurry over to the parent room and there is indeed a microwave, thank goodness. Why the only microwave in the whole zoo would be at the entrance, I have no idea. Do many families feed their children lunch as soon as they get to the zoo? Especially, when there is not really any seating nearby and you cannot easily get lunch for the rest of your family at the same time? I don’t think so.

So, we feed Immy and then I decide it is a good time to get her nappy changed. There is another parent room signposted adjacent to the foodhall. We find that it is actually a disabled toilet with one of those horrible plastic, fold down change tables which are only really big enough for newborns, not older babies or toddlers still in nappies, attached to one wall (needless to say, this parent room didn’t have a microwave).

Next, we go to visit a brand new, just built exhibit across multiple levels that is sign posted as not being suitable for prams. I wonder then if it is not therefore also inaccessible for wheelchairs, and if so how the exhibit could be built under current building code for businesses? I know that when we were developing the child care centre, we were put through the wringer with questions about disability access in our two storey building.

Some do it well…
In Sydney our nearest major shopping venue was Westfield Bondi Junction. Their parent rooms are plentiful and well thought out with sizeable nappy change benches and nappy disposal bins, a microwave, feeding cubicles with privacy curtains, child-sized toilets and adult sized toilets, and a small toddler play area. I am not sure that all Westfield’s are as well resources as BJ though I did see similar facilities on a smaller scale at Eastgardens as well.

Now to the other side of the country and we >LOVE the Ivy Watson Playground and Stickybeaks Cafe at Kings Park.
The Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority promotes the Ivey Watson Playground (0-5 years) as follows;


“The Ivey Watson Playground is a wonderfully safe environment promoting traditional interactive and imaginative play. Sail the seven seas and captain your own pirate ship. Cross the sand moat and rescue the fairy princess and fire chief, a racing car driver or perform on the stage. Whoosh down the slides, swing on the swings, race through the maze, create your own music on the sound
wall or build a sandcastle.”

Immy’s favourite, the fire engine.

Ahoy there! Ringing the bell on the pirate ship

Racing Mummy on the jeeps

There are lots and lots of swings and slides too!

All this and a child-friendly cafe too!!!

Sometimes its the simple things, like the small box of toys in a local clothing boutique which recently meant that I could actually try on a couple of items of clothing before Immy became bored. I will definitely be returning to that shop.

I would love to hear your ideas as well. Please comment on what else you believe we need to create child-friendly communities?


  1. All of your points are great ways to create a child-friendly community. I love your photos! That playground reminds me of Fairytale Town here in Sacramento. My kids just love going there.

  2. You already know my thoughts in regards to prams and the public. I hate those fold down change-tables too. I think it should be law that there is a safe, clean place for babies and toddler to be changed in all public places. Thats really annoying about Taronga zoo. Perth zoo has a baby change room but its a bit old and could do with a makeover.

  3. I nevere realised how baby unfriendly places were until I had children. Twin prams are evern harder to deal with. I have found mother's rooms in shopping centres where you can't get them through doors and also doctors room and even the paediatrician I couldn't get the pram into. we have been trying to get a mother's room with a nice change table in toen here for over a year – no luck yet, but we still try.

  4. I remember once many many years ago when I was a first time mother at 17 and went into Perth with my newborn daughter and was at that time very embarrassed to breast-fed in public. At that time there was only 1 baby room in the whole of Perth and you had to know where to find it, it was not obviously signposted – I can only hope that things have improved since then, but having read some comments by mum in 2009 it doesn't seem that there has been a big move forward. Maybe it is time we lobbied more strongly – we can always use our feet eg not go back, but if they don't know that is the reason they don't learn any lessons.

  5. Christie Burnett says:

    Cascia – thank you for the feedback.

    Amanda – I think the Australian Building Code for businesses could really include consideration for parenting facilities, as it does disabled facilities.

    Kate – keep lobbying for that parents room in town, it is so worth it.

    Kakka – True we do complain but actually need to take the time to pass on feedback to the company. I shall pass my comments on to Taronga Zoo.

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