• Proximity of Care Design Guide

Urban Toys

(Juguetes Urbanos)

Images by LabCDMX

The Urban Toys Initiative is a child-centred design competition in Mexico City to reactivate underused public spaces through temporary playful interventions, in proximity to areas with high population densities of children.

The winning teams get a money prize and the opportunity to see their design implemented. The construction, implementation and impact assessment of the interventions are the core research and data for public policy recommendations around the impact of play in urban environments. The Urban Toys Initiative enables citizen agency over the improvement of public space through play.


Location Mexico City, Mexico

Organisation LabCDMX Governmental Organisation

Partner organisations Mexico City’s Historic Centre Authority

Historic Centre Trust Fund Public Space Authority Secretary of Government CDMX Institute for social assistance and integration Institute for the care and prevention of addictions Cuauhtémoc Community Development Center National Institute of Anthropology and History


Local community

Scale of catchment City Built environment component: Public Space




Participants to the competition are guided through the following design steps:

(1) Create in interdisciplinary teams.

(2) Think of playful and ingenious proposals that challenge the established typologies and conceptions of urban play.

(3) Experiment with shapes, perspectives and materials that can provoke other kind of looks, interactions and activities.

(4) Attend a workshop that is organized in each of the intervention spaces, where the designers will be able to interact with the children who live or spend much of their day near the site.

(5) Think critically about your experience: how you played, what you enjoyed most, the spaces you liked to explore.

(6) Consider the value of the relationship between the game and the forms of space.

Implementation learnings

(1) As this was the first time a prototype like this was made in Mexico City, it required creating a collaboration ecosystem of government agencies to participate in the construction of the competition and follow the development of the project.

(2) To generate a city-wide change, the interventions need to balance action-research, knowledge and data-driven measurements to demonstrate the impact of play in order to be translated into evidence-based policy.

(3) Sometimes the local community might have a wrong idea of what is pushing them out of a space. In one of the intervened squares there was a community of 8-10 homeless people and most parents saw them as one of the main reasons as to why the square was dangerous (amongst drug dealing, lack of maintenance and urban lighting). The engagement process considered inviting homeless people to be part of the design process and it proved to be clever and advantageous as they became protectors of the intervention and explained the visitors how it happened and why it was good for them too.







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