Home » All posts » Time to listen to teens about the ‘outdoors’ they want


Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised about the disconnect between children and nature, when it seems we’re not listening to them about what they actually want from their outdoor spaces.

Studies by Professor Catharine Ward Thompson and her colleagues at the OPENspace research centre at the Universities of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt have found “many discrepancies between the types of outdoor environment we typically provide access to for our children and teenagers, and what they really want to see and do in nature”.

UK teenagers, for example, told the team that they wanted natural places that “offered risk and challenge, that inspired them to do things and that allowed them freedom (especially from adults)”.

Precisely, that is, the kinds of spaces we’re so busy getting rid of, or won’t let them explore alone because of our own misplaced paranoia.

As Professor Ward Thompson says in this article, “If we don’t provide for this kind of use – design it out, as it were – we shouldn’t be surprised to find that teenagers feel they have nowhere to go (and stay indoors), or that they seek excitement in less appropriate locations.”

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