Designing with Children

Aims and Content

This website aims to inspire design practitioners and bring together in dialogue anyone interested in exploring how children's cultures, capacities and imagination may have an impact upon the design profession, design process and ultimately the built environment.

Each image on the main page represents a spatial design that has involved both designers and children (anyone 18 years or under), working together in active ways to create a new or improved space. There is an emphasis on work carried out since 2000, but with a few earlier examples to represent key programmes and practitioners in the field. Projects devised purely for educational purposes, though also important, are not included here. The examples are chosen to illustrate a range of approaches to adult-child interaction in design process, focusing on anything from a playground to a youth centre or housing development. With a clear focus on the design and research processes rather than the built output, these examples aim to elucidate the dialogical and creative nature of design, as a 'situated social process' (McDonnell 2012: 62).

The information on the site has been gathered from existing publications and websites and through direct communication with facilitators and designers involved. The site is far from exhaustive. If you have further examples that could be documented in a similar way, please send us a message via the contact page.

Read more about the wider research project in: The research context: children transforming spatial design.

Exploring the database

Filters allow you to select examples according to:

-What: what kind of space or structure has been designed (and in most cases also built)?
-Location: which country did the process take place in?
-Age Group: what is the age of the children who took part?
-Group Size: how many children were involved?
-Project Stage: at what point in the design and build process did the children take part?

Children's Role: what roles did the children play in the design process? Were they Advocates for Change, Builders, Clients, (Co) designers, Creative Inspirers, Expert Consultants, Placemakers, or Trailblazers? (See Glossary for definitions.)

Clicking on an image takes you to a description of the project. Here, on the right hand side, you will see a summary of the above information, along with the project timescale and the key partners. The main text includes: background information; an explanation of the motivations behind the project and in particular, the reasons given by the project initiators, facilitators and designers for including children in the process; any available detail about the approaches taken to children’s involvement and interaction with the designers; and finally anything that can be learned about both the outputs and the outcomes of the process, supported with quotes from participants where possible.

Rosie Parnell, Sheffield January 2014

The Research Team

Jo Birch (Research Associate), Rosie Parnell (Principal Investigator), Maria Patsarika (Research Associate), Maša Šorn (Research Assistant and PhD candidate), based at The University of Sheffield.


Thanks go to our website designer, Dorian Fraser Moore of The Useful Arts Organisation, for all his good work. We are grateful to The Leverhulme Trust for the research project grant which is making this website and the wider research project possible.