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The Why

A good start in life, for its youngest urban residents, is the best investment a city can make.

Photo credit - Bernard van Leer Foundation

Nurturing cities for brighter future

Urban design and city planning play a crucial role in shaping the early years (0- 5 years) of a child’s life – the period most vital for a child’s long-term health and development. Urban environments also impact caregiver’s behaviour and their capacity to nurture their babies’ development through play, affection, and healthy nutrition.

Babies, toddlers and caregivers need a healthy environment, easy access to crucial services, interaction with warm, responsive people and safe and stimulating spaces to explore and play.

Why 0-5 matters

There is compelling evidence, from the fields of public health, neuroscience and economics, that investing in early childhood development can translate to better health, greater ability to learn and work with others, and higher incomes in adulthood.

Research indicates that in the first years of life, a child’s brain makes as many as 1 million new neural connections per second. The quality of experiences during the first 1,000 days of life is vital for a good start in life and depends on a supportive ecosystem and physical environment that allows a child to maximise his or her potential.

Framework for an Infant – Toddler – Caregiver Neighbourhood

The following five objectives provide a roadmap for city managers to create healthy, stimulating, and desirable neighbourhoods for everyone, by fulfilling the needs of young children and their caregivers. ITCN refers to the Infant, Toddler, Caregiver-Friendly Neighbourhoods (ITCN) framework of the Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India, developed in collaboration with the Bernard van Leer Foundation (available here).


  • Safe to walk or bike while daydreaming or mentally distracted
  • Structured, demarcarted, space is assigned
  • Eyes on the street, trust of neighbors
  • Slow
  • Respectful of privacy


  • Attention focusing (not grabbing)
  • Enveloping and protecting from distraction
  • Challenging
  • Committed to culture
  • Authored by and memorializing of the childhoods belonging to it


  • Legible
  • Flexible
  • Free of physical and virtual obstacles
  • Clusters of services/convenient
  • Predictable and dependable,well communicated services


  • Listening and responding to needs of residents through engagement
  • Even and thorough implementation of interventions
  • Transparent processes
  • Fair to all, not just "owners"
  • Objective, informed by data


  • Comfortable and protected from elements
  • Quiet
  • Bio-diverse
  • Renewable energy sources
  • Future-oriented, green technologies