Why ‘Be careful’ Doesn’t Work

why saying be careful doesn't work: a 4 year old boy climbs a rope climbing frame
Sian Thomas

Your pre-schooler is climbing along a fallen tree trunk. You’re nervous about it and so you shout, ‘be careful!’ Whilst it might sound like sensible advice, what does ‘be careful! really mean to a pre-schooler? And ‘be careful’ of what exactly? Falling? Splinters in the wood? Rogue creepy crawlies?

Here’s the thing, when we use phrases too often, they lose their meaning.

Your toddler is jumping off the couch – be careful!

Climbing up the slide – be careful!

Walking across a stream – be careful!

At best the phrase will be ignored and when you genuinely need your child to ‘be careful’ you will likely be ignored and worst, the phrase will make your child very nervous and fearful of trying new activities.

What You’ll Learn in this article:

  • Breaking the ‘be careful’ habit’
  • When to interrupt play
  • The difference between risk and hazard
  • How to dress for play 

What do you receive as a paid subscriber?

  • Access to this article and the other newsletters in this masterclass series (which are released over the course of October 2022
  • Printable resources
  • Journal prompts and reflection questions
  • Access to the Playful Prompts library
  • Seasonal Rhythms Guide and Printable resources
  • New masterclass topics every month
  • Access to community discussion boards

This newsletter is part of the Outdoor Rhythms Masterclass which is exclusive to paid subscribers of my Substack membership. To access the content, including printable resources and guides, please click the link below.

You can try before you buy (and access all Masterclasses) with a free 7 day trial.


this playful home substack subscription