Child-Led Tours to Uncover Children’s Perceptions and Use of Neighborhood Environments
Children, Youth and Environments
This pilot study tested a child-guided protocol integrating qualitative field techniques with spatial analysis tools to explore children’s neighborhood perceptions and use. Sixteen children aged 7-9 in London, Canada led researchers and city planners on guided walks of their school neighborhood to document and discuss places of significance to them. Children were equipped with digital cameras and maps to record neighborhood features, while adult facilitators recorded the ongoing dialogue and tracked the routes taken with GPS units. Children’s photographs from the walks supported a group photo-elicitation exercise that further probed and clarified the children’s community perspectives. Location data from the GPS and narratives allowed for the analysis of children’s comments and photographs within a geographic information system (GIS). Thematic and spatial analysis of narratives and photographs revealed significant but complex patterns of neighborhood perception and use, suggesting that this child-led protocol is an effective tool for engaging children in community assessment and for revealing their local lived experience.