Gratitude is an important foundation to the Ohio 4-H program, and it is easy to adapt for any age group. Gratitude means you have a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. This is a wonderful skill to instill in our 4-H members, and it’s as simple as saying, “Thank You!”
Here are some easy ways to start helping our youngest members say thank you:
- End every meeting with Thank You – As your Cloverbud meeting comes to an end, take a few moments to reflect with the members what they learned that day. Maybe have some of the members share what they learned or what their favorite thing was. Bring attention to anyone who may have helped them during that meeting – did you have a guest speaker, did parents help with the craft, or did another member bring snacks? Once the helpers have been identified, tell the members on the count of 3, we are going to say “Thank You” all together. Lead a countdown and thank those people you identified. This is a simple activity, but it helps connect everything from the lesson and immediately recognizes those in the room.
- Write a Club Thank You Note – Is there something your club or Cloverbud group has done that has received attention? Maybe the club won best decorated club booth, received an award at the fair or project judging, or received recognition from the Extension Office. Take time to write a thank you note expressing your appreciation for being recognized. If your Cloverbud club has members of all ages, help an older member write the thank you card and then pass it around for all members to sign their name.
- Send a Postcard – While Cloverbuds may be our youngest members and still developing those foundational life skills, this is a great way to let them take ownership of a thank you card. Make a post card with most of the Thank You message typed up and leave a few blanks for the members to write in their own message. See the picture below of an example we used for our county fair. Cloverbuds should be encouraged to share what the experience or gift means to them, and then say thank you in their own words. It also helps them identify the important parts of a thank you note that they can include when they are able to write one on their own.
Whether your club year is coming to end or you are starting a new 4-H year, November is a wonderful time to practice saying Thank You. If you need a few suggestions, write a thank you note to your county Commissioners for supporting your local program, the state 4-H office for their continued support, or your Extension office for the work they put into your county 4-H program.
Teaching children about gratitude can sometimes be a challenging endeavor, but rewarding none the less. Little research has been done to assist in understanding how children define gratitude and at what age they truly begin to comprehend what gratitude is and how it can be shown. A study of parents of first through third grade students shared some insight into how their children define gratitude including: inspiration for the gratitude, forms of gratitude, and ways in which they could come to an understanding of gratitude (Halberstadt et al., 2016).
The parents in the study shared three main inspirations in which their children are grateful: for what they have, for what they have been given, and for what exists with or without their presence. The children showed their gratitude by recognizing that they had received something, feeling happy when receiving something, or by showing appreciation. Parents believe their children could come to an understanding of gratitude by learning from other’s perspectives, a comparison of what they have to those less fortunate.
This year has provided many challenges to each of us and our Cloverbud members have had many unexpected changes. Yet, there is still so much to be grateful for as we look around. Help your Cloverbud members understand what things they can be grateful for this year.
- In advance of your meeting, ask your members to gather 3-5 things they are grateful for so they can share with them with the group. This will help keep your members engaged virtually.
- Gather some things you are grateful for that you can share with your members as well.
- Begin your lesson asking the members what gratitude is or what it means to be grateful. Show the things you are grateful for this year.
- Remind the youth that even when times are tough, we have so much to be grateful for in our lives. Take turns having the members share the 3-5 things they gathered to share.
- Children will often times think of the material things they use daily, but remind them of other things provided for them such as food, shelter, clothing, and good health. Maybe they are grateful for the sunshine that allows them the opportunity to play outside, the rain to help our crops grow, or the hug from a loved one to make them feel special.
- Ask the members how they can should gratitude for those who have provided these things for them to appreciate. (Ex. hug, say “thank you”, a smile, etc.)
- Ask your members to pick one thing they are most thankful for and show gratitude for it. Have each member write a thank you note or draw a thank you picture and give it to the person they want to show gratitude or appreciation. Ask each member to send you a picture so they know you have completed the activity.
Reference: Halberstandt, A.G., Langley, H.A., Hussong, A.M., Rothenberg, W.A., Coffman, J.L., Mokrova, I., Costanzo, P.R. (2016). Parents’ understanding of gratitude in children: A thematic analysis. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 36, 439-451. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2016.01.014