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Surviving versus Thriving: How are our 4-H Families Feeling?

We all have felt like we are just surviving in life, it is a natural feeling. It isn’t always the picture perfect image from a storybook we have for our family, but for some this is not just a temporary stop on the journey of life. For some families, this is a way of life day in and day out that causes stress, anxiety and other health concerns on both caregivers and children. Do we as 4-H volunteers know i our families are surviving or thriving when they come to meetings?  According to www.TalkSooner.org, there are several characteristics of a Thriving Family, but we will focus on two of those: quality family time and positive supportive adults for caregivers and children.

4-H club meetings can provide both of those supportive characteristics for our families. What better time to get a family to be focused on each other and experiencing quality family time then engaging Cloverbuds and caregivers in an activity that has them working together at a club meeting.  An activity that allows for creativity and flexibility is a win-win for engaging caregivers and children in collaboration. Designing your family shield is a good activity that includes writing and drawing components.  A family shield can be printed or downloaded from the following link. https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/lessons-activities/greco-roman-myths/coat-of-arms.pdf. The shield should have four sections and a banner across the bottom where you can list your family name. Caregivers and children should complete one section on the shield for each of the following prompts:

  • People we Love (Make a list)
  • Family Fun (Draw a picture)
  • People that we can Count on (Make a list)
  • How our Family Communicates (Pictures or a list)

4-H volunteers should be a positive adult role model that supports youth in their club and encourages children to explore their interests and learn new skills. As 4-H volunteers you can also be that supportive adult that a Cloverbud caregiver might need in their life to move their family from surviving to thriving. Engage caregivers in the Cloverbud experiences during your club meetings on a quarterly schedule or provide time for them to talk with another 4-H volunteer while at the club meeting. I think you can agree that we all can use another supportive adult in our lives and someone else “in your corner” when life throws you a curve ball.

Source: TalkSooner.org. (n.d.). About the thriving families campaign and the Northwest Quadrant. Retrieved on November 15, 2022, from https://talksooner.org/thrivingfamilies/

Keeping Cloverbuds Connected

It seems like most Ohio 4-H Clubs have packed up their activities and 4-H meetings are limited as we head into fall. Some 4-H clubs meet year-round, but most take a fall break to reboot. However, our Cloverbud members sometimes don’t want to take a break.  What can we do to help them stay connected and involved in 4-H even during the non-peak season? There are so many ways volunteers can provide projects and activities for members even if they aren’t attending meetings. Below you will find a few ideas for activities that can be done in a home environment or in a club setting to help Cloverbuds feel engaged in 4-H. Share these ideas with your4-H club families, so they have resources to help members stay connected. 

Thank you notes for advisors or older members.

Provide paper, stickers, markers, or crayons. Encourage the Cloverbud to have fun and be creative. Talk about why it is important to write thank you notes and brainstorm whom the Cloverbud may want to write to. It could be an advisor that helped them learn about 4-H, an older member who helped with an activity, or even a parent or guardian that helped the Cloverbud make it to a special Cloverbud event. Thank notes can be created with a few simple steps: create a design, say thank you, share a detail on why they are saying thank you, address the card, and mail or hand deliver it. What an important life skill for a Cloverbud to learn and practice!

Arrange a play date with a fellow 4-H Cloverbud member.

A very needed and important part of 4-H is being with new people and making friends. Once the meetings stop for the year, members miss their friends. So, arrange a meeting at the library, park, or other safe place to spend time with a 4-H friend. 

Stop at your Ohio State University Extension (OSUE) office to look at project books.

All Extension offices love to have visitors, especially 4-H members. Plan a time to stop in and go through the project books. It will not be long before the member will be able to take projects so this could be a wonderful time for them to explore topics, projects, and more. They can also get a quick tour of the office and meet the staff that works with 4-H and 4-H Cloverbud members. 

Search the Ohio 4-H Family Guide.

Sometimes just reading about 4-H or seeing pictures is enough to keep the 4-H excitement going. The new family guide is posted at https://ohio4h.org/familyguide. Current members will also receive a copy over the winter.  (Thank you to the Kroger Company for making this possible!)  The Family Guide is the one stop spot for Cloverbud and project members to learn about the complete collection of 4-H projects for Ohio. This will be even more exciting for members graduating from Cloverbud membership to project membership as they can begin selecting a project for 2023.

 Watch county emails for special fall and winter events.

Many OSUE offices and 4-H Programs offer promotional and fun events around the holidays and winter season. Check emails, social media, and your local 4-H website to see if there are any fun events going on.

Click it, Print it, Do it Activities – New Activities!

Visit https://u.osu.edu/cloverbudconnections/click-it/ for ready-to-go educational and fun activities. Simply click, print, and do fun activities with your Cloverbud. From learning safety around dogs to sports bingo, this is your place to find Cloverbud ready activities. Most activities require few supplies and cover a broad range of topics. 

Time Capsule.

Ohio 4-H has a wonderful resource with instructions to make a time capsule. This could be a fun way for Cloverbud members, or the entire family to complete to celebrate and remember the year. A time capsule is a fun way to help a member create a visual record. This could be for an event, a specific period of time, or even the current 4-H year.

https://u.osu.edu/cloverbudconnections/files/2020/12/2020-Cloverbud-Time-Capsule.pdf 

Goal setting for next 4-H season. 

Sometimes members jump from one event to the next and do not have the opportunity to spend time reflecting on the experience and what they learned. As we launch into another active season, it is especially important for our youngest members to reflect on their 4-H experience and talk about goals for the following year. Sometimes the term “goal” may seem overwhelming, but it is important for the Cloverbud member to know what the term means. This might be the first time a child might get to experience setting goals. So, they will need some direction to create clear and measurable goals.

  1. Brainstorm ideas on what they want to accomplish next year.
  2. Create a plan for each goal. (1 or 2 goals will be plenty for Cloverbud members.)
  3. Read the goal regularly so they can visualize themselves accomplishing the goal(s).
  4. Reflect on their progress to see if they are on target.
  5. Revise the plan if needed.
  6. Celebrate when a member meets the goal(s).

These are just a few examples of fun hands-on learning activities that can be completed anytime throughout the year. Encourage parents and guardians to review the activities and talk to their Cloverbud members. They should work together to make plans to work on one or two activities a month that fit into their schedule. Hopefully, by sharing this information with 4-H families Cloverbuds will find ways to stay connected to 4-H until 2023!

Family Traditions

“I always know when Santa has been here, because I see the candy cane hanging on my bedroom door”. These innocent words came from my young daughter one Christmas Eve. I panicked because I had totally forgotten that Santa had left candy canes on the girls’ bedroom doors the previous year! Did Santa have any candy canes in the house?! How could such a small little thing be one of the most important memories of our family Christmas? And now that my daughter is grown and has her own children, Santa is leaving a candy cane on their doors when he visits.

Family traditions! We all have them, each family has unique and different traditions – some are related to a holiday, some may be school, or birthday related or may involve a certain member of the family. Traditions can offer children a sense of normalcy, build excitement in anticipation, and build special bonds within a family.

This lesson will help you celebrate family traditions with your Cloverbuds. Encourage your Cloverbuds to share their traditions through stories and pictures. They may want to think of a new tradition they would like their family to start.

Enjoy learning more about your Cloverbuds and their families. And to answer your question – yes Santa did have candy canes to leave on my daughters’ doors that Christmas Eve!

Take Time to be Mindful

We live in the age of technology and distractions are everywhere – video games, cell phones, television, hand-held devices, and more. With the constant bombardment of technology, our children can easily become overstimulated and overwhelmed.

Teaching our children to be mindful and present in the moment can help them to gain control over their emotions and give them the tools they need to control impulses.  Practicing mindfulness can lead to greater self-awareness, aid in the development of coping skills, improved emotional intelligence, and greater empathy for others.  Taking the time to learn mindfulness skills at an early age will benefit our Cloverbuds throughout their lifespan.

Cloverbuds need to know that it is okay to take time for yourself.  It is okay to take time out and just chill.   Here are some activities that you can use to help your Cloverbuds calm themselves and just be present in the moment.

Deep Breathing – Cloverbuds can either sit on the floor or sit in a comfortable chair.  If they are comfortable, they may close their eyes or just stare at the floor or the table without really focusing on anything in particular.  You might want to play soft music or nature sounds in the background.  Tell them to take a deep breath through their nose and then softly breathe out through their nose.  Have them focus on the breath going in and out.  You might want to have them breath in to the count of three and breath out to the count of three, as you quietly count to three in the background.  Deep breathing helps the child to become more aware of their thoughts and should help to calm them.  Do this for several minutes to help the children relax.

Shake it Out – Sometimes children may become frustrated or anxious and don’t know how to deal with their feelings.  It can be helpful to just stop where they are, breathe deep, and quietly shake their arms or legs for a few minutes to shake out the anxiety or frustration.  This helps them to focus on calming themselves so they can move forward.

Attitude of Gratitude – Have your Cloverbuds take a few deep breaths to center themselves.  Then go around the group and have each child name something for which they are thankful.  Children will learn to appreciate what they have and be thankful for the small things.

Explore Nature – Take your Cloverbuds on a nature walk.  Ask them to walk quietly and think about what they hear, see, and smell.  Find a quiet place to sit and talk about what they experienced.  What did they notice that was new or different?  Help them to develop a deeper appreciation for nature and the world around us.

Make a Stress (Sensory) Bottle – You will need a water bottle for each child, glitter, baby oil or vegetable oil, food coloring, small objects (buttons, small toys, beads, sequins, rocks, etc.) to drop in the bottle, funnel (to make it easier to add water and oil to the bottle), hot glue gun (to seal the lid).  Give each child a bottle filled about two-thirds with water.  Add food coloring (optional) and gently shake to mix.  Fill the remainder of the bottle with oil.  Ask your Cloverbuds to choose a few of the items to drop into the water.  You might want to help them if they decide to add glitter.  Once the child has added their objects, use the hot glue gun (adults should do this step) to seal the bottle.  When a child is feeling anxious or overwhelmed, they can sit quietly and gently move the bottom upside down and right-side up to watch the items gently floating in the water.  This helps them to focus and calm themselves.

These are just a few of the techniques that you can use to teach mindfulness to your Cloverbuds.  Other options might include simple yoga poses, coloring, drawing, reading a story together, or just talking about what is going on in their lives.

For Cloverbuds (and the rest of us), mindfulness is about learning it’s okay to take a few minutes for yourself and just sit quietly.  Mindfulness is about centering yourself and finding relief from the chaos.  Mindfulness is about being present and appreciating the world around us.  Mindfulness is about remembering to just breathe.

 

Starting Conversations with Cloverbuds

School has started and children are adjusting to back-to-school routines.  The beginning of a new school year brings additional responsibilities, activities, anxiety, and stress.  As a trusting adult in a Cloverbud’s life, we can help our Cloverbud youth learn to manage change and talk about how they are feeling.

It can be hard to find out what is causing stress and anxiety in children. One way to begin the conversation is by using a children’s book.  When children see themselves in a book, they connect at a deeper level with the story.  Check out the Ohio 4-H Cloverbud Reading Adventures for many books with activities, snacks, games, and crafts ready to go. One book that could be used to start a conversation is The Rainbow Fish, Ohio 4-H Cloverbud Reading Adventure.

Another great technique is to simply chat with the child. Pay attention to the conversation. Sometimes it is difficult for Cloverbuds to identify the word they are feeling but they know something is different.

As you finish your 4-H year and prepare for the next, take time to reflect with your Cloverbuds.

  • What is your favorite memory from this year in 4-H?
  • What do you hope to get better at this next year?
  • What is the best thing about 4-H?
  • What do you like most about yourself?
  • What are you most excited about learning in 4-H next year?

Encourage them to find ways to seek additional opportunities to lower their stress.  Some suggestions are playing with friends, being outside, reading a book, or counting to ten and taking deep breaths.

Links for children’s books about managing stress:

Sources:
Dayton Children’s https://www.childrensdayton.org/the-hub/news-and-blog
Kids Health https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/anxiety-tips.html?ref=search
Dayton Children’s on Our Sleeves https://www.childrensdayton.org/onoursleeves

Cloverbuds Back to School: Create a Healthy Living Routine

August means it is time to get ready to go back to school and time for a new routine at home. Cloverbud members can help parents, siblings, and themselves determine what that routine looks like. An easy thing to do is to decide what clothes to wear the next day.  Set them out the night before so getting dressed is not such a chore when the school bus is approaching.

In addition to creating a morning routine, you can help your Cloverbud prepare for the school day.  Parts of the school day may be stressful for your Cloverbud.  Talk to them ahead of time to identify what those stressors are and how to address them. Are they worried about lunch time? Have them accompany you to the grocery store to pick out healthy snacks they can pack in their lunch. Cloverbuds can pack lunch the night before, so they know what to expect the next day. Is there an item they are worried about getting opened? Perform a trial run at least one time at home or talk through who may be available during lunchtime to help them open that tricky juice box.

CLICK HERE for ideas to become a MyPlate Champion. Visit https://www.myplate.gov/life-stages/kids for more information.

A new school year is also a great time for youth to identify healthy goals. They could work on becoming a MyPlate Health Champion by eating more fruits and vegetables or playing outside at recess and after school instead of playing video games. The United States Department of Agriculture has a website for children devoted to MyPlate that includes easy activities to familiarize them with eating healthy or making better health choices. A fun activity that might help at the grocery store is MyPlate Grocery  Store Bingo.

Print a few of these cards or challenge your child to make their own and take them with you to the grocery store. Cloverbud members can look for these items at the store while walking the aisle. If you have older children, they can help by selecting an ingredient or two to try out in a new recipe.

Back to school time does not have to be stressful for everyone. Use this year to focus on creating a new routine or trying something new as a family to alleviate some of the stress. Begin with easy steps such as buying more fruits or vegetables on your next grocery trip, having a sit-down family dinner, or talking through “what to expect” those first few days of school. Even one small change can make a difference, and it may ripple into big changes down the road.

Resources:

 

Making Snack Time Fun and Healthy

Have you ever made Ants on a Log or Teddy Bear Toast?  Snack time is a favorite for most Cloverbuds, so why not make it fun and healthy at the same time!  Young children may be a picky when it comes to food.  Making snacks together at a meeting can make the snacks more appealing and aid in the discussion of MyPlate and the importance of eating healthy.

Ants on a Log is a simple recipe with three ingredients: celery, peanut butter, and raisins.  Clean the celery and cut it into approximately three-inch pieces.  Fill the grooved center of each celery slice with peanut butter to fill your “log”.  Now, add your raisins or “ants” and your Ants on a Log is ready to eat.  Be sure to provide each youth with their own supplies including a plastic knife they can use to spread their own peanut butter.  Have a picky eater in your group who does not like one of the ingredients or a member with a food allergy?  Check out some alternative ingredients at https://www.healthylittlefoodies.com/ants-log/.

Teddy Bear Toast is a simple recipe with four ingredients: Bread, peanut butter or butter, bananas, and blueberries.  Toast a slice of bread.  Spread peanut butter or butter on the toast.  Peel a banana and cut three ½ inch round slices of bananas – place one in the center of the toast as the nose and use the other two as the ears, one in each of the upper corners of the toast.  Wash three blueberries and place one in the center of the nose and use the other two as eyes.  Place them just above the nose in the peanut butter.

Continue your lesson by teaching about MyPlate and the 5 food groups that will help keep your members healthy.  Check out free activities at https://www.myplate.gov/life-stages/kids.  For example, you can have the members color their own MyPlate based on the five food groups and then ask them where the ingredients from their snack come from on the plate.  Help your members make the connection from their healthy snack to healthy choices to fill their plate.

Educating Cloverbuds about the importance of MyPlate and eating a variety of healthy foods will give them a firm foundation for healthy nutrition throughout their lifespan.

 

 

 

Helping Youth Find Their Spark

What is a spark and why would you want to search for it? A spark is something that you love to do, something that gets you excited, something that you are good at or something that energizes you. Maybe you have already identified a spark in your life, as most of us have many sparks that get us excited and ready to jump into action. Cloverbuds might have already identified a spark through school, sports, or family experiences. 4-H provides another opportunity for them to have new experiences and participate in new events that can help them discover new sparks! Sparks are interests, skills, talents, and special qualities that can emerge while youth are experiencing 4-H after school programs, 4-H community club events, or special interest clubs.

Cloverbuds can identify possible sparks by choosing from a list of topics or answering questions that require them to choose a thoughtful answer. For example, having them respond to, “Do you like to play indoors or outdoors?” or “Would you rather be invisible or be able to fly?”. Exposing youth to new ideas outside of their normal home and school environments are a great way to identify additional sparks. Sparks help youth set goals and expand their support network as they identify friends that have similar sparks. Most youth need one to three spark champions (caring adults that support the identification of sparks) who will continue to make connections and encourage them to further develop their sparks.

Club meetings are a great place to start the process of identifying sparks. Give members a sheet of blank copy paper and some markers or colored pencils. Have them close their eyes and think about an activity that they love doing and picture themselves doing that activity. After 30 seconds have youth open their eyes and draw that activity they were imagining. Once members have finished drawing have a group conversation about why they chose that activity.  You might have some suggestions about other ideas they could explore given their interests. Your role as a 4-H volunteer is very much a role of SPARK CHAMPION!

Sources:

Extension Foundation. (n.d.). 4-H Thriving Model of PYD. Retrieved June 27, 20222, from https://helping-youth-thrive.extension.org/what-are-sparks/

Supporting our Cloverbud Youth during Challenging Times

In today’s world there are many tragic events, from gun violence to natural disasters, to which children are exposed on a regular basis. It is important as we get into the busy summer season that we serve as caring adult role models for Cloverbud participants. In doing so, we provide a safe, supportive environment for them.

The main purpose of this Cloverbud Connections article is to share about how to support healthy interaction with Cloverbuds. Talking with Cloverbud members can be difficult with not knowing what to say or how to be supportive. There is helpful guidance from the National Council on Family Relations (Myers-Wall, 2022) and KidsHealth (Walls, 2022).

Suggestions for supporting Cloverbuds include:

  • Help the children feel and know they are safe. Reassure them that you are here to support and care for them.
  • Make time to talk and to share about what they are feeling. Let their questions, if they have any, guide the interactions.
  • Use various expressive outlets and Cloverbud activities for them to express themselves such as music, art, movement, puppets, and play.
  • Cloverbud children may express a desire to help those hurting or experiencing pain. Support them with writing letters of care, gathering donations, or ideas they may have.
  • Know that Cloverbud age children may have a wide range of emotions from sadness to empathy. Let them express themselves as needed. It is okay to not to know the answers to all their questions. Listening and being there for them is just as important as what you say.

As a 4-H Cloverbud Volunteer, remember to take care of yourself. Know that your Extension professional is always available for your support.

 

Myers-Walls, J. A. (2022). Talking with children when the talking gets tough. Coping in the Wake of Shootings, Mass Violence, and Terrorism. National Council on Family Relations. https://www.ncfr.org/resources/resource-collections/coping-wake-shootings-mass-violence-and-terrorism

Walls, M. T. (2022). How to talk to your child about the news. KidsHealth. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/news.html

Cloverbud CloverBOT Challenge – Get Your Team Registered

What is the Cloverbot Challenge?

The Ohio 4-H Cloverbot Challenge gives 4-H Cloverbuds the opportunity to work cooperatively in teams to problem-solve using STEM (science, engineering, technology and math) skills. A new theme is selected each year and teams  research a topic, build a working model of their solution to the Challenge issue and create a poster to illustrate their findings. Teams present their models and findings to a team of reviewers, learn about other Cloverbuds’ projects, participate in age-appropriate STEM activities and are recognized at a closing celebration.

This year’s theme is Wonderful Water! We use water everyday: to drink, cook, take a bath, wash dishes and laundry. Water also provides energy and transportation, aids in manufacturing and helps grow our food. Water is critical to our survival! Find the details here.

New this year…three locations. Find the Challenge closest to you!

  • June 23 at 6:30 p.m., Montgomery County Extension Office in Dayton
  • June 23 at 6:30 p.m., Washington County Junior Fair Building, Marietta
  • June 25 at 10:30 a.m., Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, Columbus
  • June 28 at 6:30 pm Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds

Cloverbud Volunteers can register teams by Friday, May 27, 2022 at: https://go.osu.edu/2022cloverbotchallenge