Child Friendly TO is a City of Toronto initiative that aims to transform our city into a place where all children can learn, play and grow in the healthiest way possible. We are building a culture that applies a child-friendly lens to inform City planning and decision-making by increasing the role and voice of children in municipal affairs and promoting the rights of children across Toronto, as laid out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Child Friendly TO is grounded in the Child Friendly Policy Framework. We believe that:

  • Children are influential stakeholders: Children are important residents with unique perspectives, ideas and experiences that have the power to change how we plan and make decisions.
  • Children are experts in child-friendliness and we must listen to them carefully: Listening to children’s expertise creates opportunity and improves equity. Building a city that is friendly and nurturing for children requires an understanding of what living in the city is like for a child.
  • Engaging with children is our responsibility and duty: Local government has a responsibility to engage and listen to children, as with all residents, when planning and making decisions.

Toronto’s shared outcomes and data on child and family well-being:  Raising the Village

Raising the Village is an initiative of the Toronto Child and Family Network.  It includes shared outcomes for child and family well-being in Toronto and presents data that shows how well Toronto is doing under each area.

Assessing how child-friendly Toronto’s neighbourhoods are:  The KidScore

The City of Toronto worked with Maximum City to create the KidScore. The KidScore tests the child-friendliness of Toronto neighbourhoods – as defined by Toronto’s kids!

The KidScore focuses on children aged 5 to 12 and includes indicators on safety, health and overall well-being. It is a way for children to assess the child-friendliness of their local streets, places and neighbourhoods.

The information and ideas collected through the KidScore can inform planning at a local level as well as city-wide policies.

Child engagement and consultation:  A toolkit for adults

Engaging children in consultations is as important as engaging adults, however the approach for this is often quite different. Children have both the right and the ability to contribute their ideas, preferences, and opinions. The challenge for adults is to provide the right opportunity for them to do so in a meaningful and appropriate way. A Child Engagement Toolkit, created by the City of Toronto’s Child Friendly TO team in 2019, provides guidance, tips, and examples of child engagement activities to support adults in engaging children in an effective way.

An example of a child engagement project:  Informing more child-friendly neighbourhoods, 2018

In the fall of 2018, children in grade four and five classes in Toronto were invited to share their ideas about creating a child-friendly city.

We asked them:

  • What is child-friendly in your neighbourhood? And what is not child-friendly?
  • What would a child-friendly Toronto look, feel and sound like?
  • If you had one wish to make Toronto more child-friendly, what would it be?

Children from nine schools across Toronto responded with hundreds of submissions, from written responses, to drawings, photographs, and maps. They described the people, places and things that need to be involved and considered to create a child-friendly city and their ideas were summarized in A Child-Friendly City: How would Toronto look if it were planned through the eyes of a child?

All children have rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is a treaty that recognizes the specific rights of children.

Through the Convention, children have the right to:

  • Protection (e.g., from abuse, exploitation and harmful substances)
  • Provision (e.g., for education, health care and an adequate standard of living)
  • Participation (e.g., listening to children’s views and respecting their evolving capacities)
  • Specific protections and provisions for vulnerable populations such as Indigenous children and children with disabilities

Canada offers many opportunities for children and their families.  Despite this, however, “some children suffer from poverty, homelessness, abuse, neglect, preventable diseases and unequal access to good quality education, protection and justice systems. The standards and principles articulated in the Convention can only become a reality when they are respected by everyone—within the family, in schools and other institutions that provide services for children, in communities and at all levels of government.”  UNICEF Canada

Canada ratified the Convention in 1991. It is all of our responsibility to ensure that these rights are upheld.

November 20 is National Child Day. It has been proclaimed in the City of Toronto and is recognized officially by the Government of Canada to acknowledge and promote children’s rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The day celebrates the importance of children as active participants in their own lives and communities, who can and should have opportunities for meaningful contributions to decision-making.

National Child Day 2021

This year’s theme is “The Right to Survive and Thrive.”  This comes from Article 6 of the UNCRC and means that every child has the right not only to be alive, but to have access to what they need to develop to the fullest extent possible.

This theme is particularly important in the current pandemic.  After more than 20 months into this pandemic, the impacts of COVID-19 on children and youth are unprecedented.  The pandemic has shone a light on the vast inequities that exist between communities and families, with children from families most impacted by these inequities at greatest risk.  As we continue to plan and respond to COVID-19 and as we consider a recovery from the pandemic, it is critical that we focus our efforts on what will help children thrive through these difficult times and beyond.

An online lunch and learn session titled Moving beyond survival: How to help children and youth thrive through a pandemic recovery will be provided for City staff on November 24 by:

  • Dr Jean Clinton, Clinical Professor at McMaster University and globally renowned advocate for children’s issues,
  • Josh Fullan, Director of Maximum City and expert in child and youth engagement, and
  • Santiago Rincon-Gallardo, Education Consultant and Chief Researcher for Michael Fullan’s global consulting team on Education.

National Child Day 2020

The day was proclaimed by Mayor John Tory. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, additional activities were not provided for National Child Day in 2020.

National Child Day 2019

Children have an important voice!

Children have the right and the ability to inform decisions and projects that directly impact them.  Three impressive examples of this in Toronto were showcased in a National Child Day event on November 20, 2019.  Check out the video below for highlights!

To recognize National Child Day 2019, an event was held at City Hall with local students and City leaders. Students shared how they have contributed their ideas and opinions through civic projects to make their communities and Toronto increasingly child-friendly.

The projects highlighted included:

  • Maximum City’s KidScore
    • An interactive tool that allows children to assess the child-friendliness of their neighbourhoods, based on emotional health and wellbeing, safety, green space and the environment, mobility and activities.
  • Evergreen’s Placemaking with Children
    • A landscape master plan for the schoolyard of Lord Lansdowne and daVinci School led by a design team of 10 children.
  • Holland Bloorview’s Children’s Advisory Council
    • A broad group of child-clients who help inform programs, policies and operational decisions at the hospital and other community organizations to better serve children.

Thank you to all the children who participated and shared their ideas and opinions. Please see the video above for highlights of this incredible event.

National Child Day 2018

In celebration of National Child Day in 2018, the ideas and perspectives of grade 4/5 students across Toronto were showcased at City Hall. Key themes included:

  • Why it’s important to listen to children when the City plans and makes decisions
  • What a ‘child-friendly city’ looks like to children in Toronto
  • What is and isn’t already child friendly in Toronto
  • How Toronto could become more child-friendly.

Two grade 4/5 classes from Kensington Community School (TDSB) and St. Barnabas (TCDSB) held a meeting with the Mayor and senior City officials to share their ideas. The media captured the ideas presented by the children; check out this video from CBC Kids. Thank you to all of the children who participated. You were heard.