Strengthening Urban Resilience Through Play

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on children, disrupting their schooling, affecting their well-being, social contact, and even nutrition. This is especially damaging for children living in deprived urban areas, increasing the risk of poverty given their accumulated disadvantages.

While cities around the world cautiously reopen to a post-pandemic world, national and local leaders, urban practitioners, international organizations and communities are emphasizing the need to ‘build back better’. The imperatives for more resilient, inclusive, healthy, and green cities are more significant than ever.

Building cities of the future requires first and foremost that the children of today are empowered and prepared; not only to survive, but to thrive in the face of adversity. Evidence has overwhelmingly shown that play is essential for children’s health, physical and emotional growth, and educational development. It also helps children to acquire social and behavioral skills that build resilience.

In our drive to create more resilient cities, R-Cities is building a community of practice to respect the importance of play in children’s development. In partnership with the Real Play Coalition, and building on the Reclaiming Play in Cities initiative, we will work together to scale up play in the city.

The Strengthening Urban Resilience through Play initiative was launched by the Real Play Coalition and the Resilient Cities Network, in collaboration with the cities of Houston, Milan, Belfast, Barcelona, Colima, Ramallah and Tbilisi (Play Ambassador Cities). The initiative aims to promote the value of play in cities globally and support impactful play-focused ideas that contribute to children’s well-being, optimal development and resilience. The initiative also seeks to:

  • Generate evidence on children’s play experience in cities, and the value of play on their well-being, skills development and resilience.
  • Identify the types of play-focused investments and solutions that cities are prioritizing (or could adopt), particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Accelerate play-focused actions and ideas on the ground through collaboration with local authorities, urban practitioners, the private sector and community organizations.
  • Facilitate knowledge-sharing and peer-to-peer learning among cities and experts.

It is critical that city leaders ensure stimulus spending and investment priorities prepare and strengthen the resilience of their children and families whose lives have changed in profound ways during this pandemic. Cities, in partnership with their local communities and with the support of national governments, the private sector, and the global community, need to act quickly to mitigate the blow to their children’s development.

Interested in supporting child development in your city? Follow this page for our latest resources on strengthening urban resilience through play.

Click HERE to download the latest report created in partnership with Arup and the LEGO Foundation. It presents insights from a series of peer-to-peer learning activities between partners and member cities, public events and a global survey on the various aspects of scaling up play in the city.

Click HERE to download brochure on our initiative

Participating Cities









The Real Play Coalition is a global non-profit coalition created in 2018 which includes UNICEF, National Geographic, Arup, IKEA and LEGO Foundation. It has the ambition to create a movement that narrows the play gap for 100 million children by 2030, by making play accessible and inclusive, because it is an essential right for children to thrive now and in the future. The coalition seeks to change the perception of the value of play; embed play-based principles into urban design and planning; support the implementation and upscaling of safe play activations in cities globally; and grow the number of play moments in the lives of children across the world.

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