Abstract The environment surrounding us sends strong messages about how to behave and what to perceive. Planners and decision-makers play a key role in constructing these messages, and therefore help determine how people view and interact with the world. As a result, the living environment and its associated messages can greatly influence the physical, social and mental health of all residents. Since children are just learning about the world, their living environment will profoundly influence almost all aspects of their lives. This puts a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of planners, who need to balance a number of different issues in urban design to make places more child-friendly. Four major issues that are critical to the creation and maintenance of a child-friendly community are: safety, greenspace, access and integration. The benefits of child-friendly community design range from the promotion of healthier lifestyles, to improving the quality of social interactions to the long-term sustainability of natural spaces. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) program Child Friendly Cities promotes child-friendly community design and inclusive decision-making. Waterloo, Ontario, a mid-sized Canadian city, has many positive and community-oriented attributes, but could benefit greatly from incorporating child-friendly design procedures and participatory decision-making.