Image for What to say to children instead of ‘be careful’

What to say to children instead of ‘be careful’

How can the words we choose when talking to children outdoors encourage skills such as observation and self-reliance?

How can the words we choose when talking to children outdoors encourage skills such as observation and self-reliance?

Foster awareness by saying

    • Notice how… these rocks are slippery, the log is rotten, that branch is strong
    • Do you see… the nettles over there, your friends nearby?
    • Try moving… your feet slowly, carefully, quickly, strongly
    • Can you hear… the rushing water, the singing birds, the wind?
    • Do you feel… stable on that rock, the heat from the fire?


Image: Annie Spratt

Encourage problem-solving by saying

  • What’s your plan… if you climb that boulder, cross that log?
  • What can you use… to get across the stream, for your adventure?
  • Where will you… put that rock, climb that tree, dig that hole?
  • How will you…. get down, go up, get across?
  • Who will… be with you, go with you?


Image: Jordan Whitt

Josée Bergeron is a mother of three from Canada. She lives in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia and writes about her family’s experience of hiking, biking, camping and skiing at backwoodsmama.com

Featured image: Josée Bergeron

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