Purpose: This paper aims to explore how environmental employment can promote desistance among criminalised children. Research demonstrates that being immersed in and interacting with the natural environment has a positive impact upon well-being and behaviour, including reduced aggressive and violent behaviours. However, how exposure to the natural environment might promote desistance amongst children with persistent criminal involvement is unclear. Design/methodology/approach: This paper examines, through semi-structured interviews and participant observations, the experiences of n = 23 criminalised children aged 16–18 employed in outdoor work at a UK social enterprise. Findings: The findings demonstrate how working in the natural environment can provide a safe space for children, where they can build positive relationships, learn valuable skills and reconnect with the world outside of the high-pressure, conflict-driven spaces in which they typically occupy. Originality/value: This research highlights the relevance of the setting in which child rehabilitation takes place and the potential role of natural environments in providing places and opportunities which support pro-social identity development and desistance for children.