The Canadian Geographer
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Children today are spending more sedentary time indoors than time playing and being active outdoors. The daily journey to and from school represents a valuable opportunity for children to be physically active through active school travel. The majority of research on children's active school travel omits children from the research process even though children interpret their environments in fundamentally different ways than adults. Our research uses innovative participatory mapping and qualitative GIS methods to examine how children's perceptions of their environments influence their school journey experiences. Through our thematic analysis of 25 map‐based focus groups, we identified three main themes characterizing barriers and enablers to active school travel: safety‐related, material, and affective features. By positioning children as experts of their environments in our participatory methodology, our findings provide an important counterpoint to the adultist privilege characterizing the majority of research on children's active school travel. Environmental features that mattered for children's school journeys took on multiple meanings in their eyes, demonstrating that children's perspectives must be engaged to inform interventions to promote active school travel. We thus argue that identifying barriers and enablers to active school travel for children requires engaging children's views.
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