When it comes to taking care of our children, it is easy to identify their basic physical needs: food, clothing, and shelter. What children need to satisfy their mental and emotional needs may be less obvious. Why is mental health important? Good mental health enables our children to develop their emotional and social skills and to develop other critical life skills.
As a Cloverbud volunteer you play an important role in the emotional and social development of your Cloverbud members. Select activities that are age-appropriate for your Cloverbuds. For example, if your Cloverbuds are all five years old, select activities that use pictures and have minimal writing. Most five-year old children are just learning to read and write and may become frustrated with activities that are focused on these skills. Give plenty of positive reinforcement and encourage them to problem solve together. Keep instructions short and simple, giving no more than a step or two at a time. Show them what to do as well as tell them. Know the ages of your Cloverbuds and choose activities accordingly.
How can Cloverbud volunteers help Cloverbuds to develop their self-esteem and self-confidence (both of which play an important role in a child’s mental health)? Utilize these simple suggestions:
- Praise them. Give positive reinforcement for following directions, cooperating with others, and being attentive. Be encouraging if a Cloverbud is struggling with an activity. Encourage them to work together cooperatively.
- Know your Cloverbuds and be realistic about their capabilities. Choose activities that can be successfully completed. Challenge them but not to the point where they become frustrated and give up.
- Children value honesty. Let them know it’s okay to make a mistake. Making mistakes help us to learn and grow. Adults make mistakes, too, and it’s okay to admit that.
- Provide a safe environment. Do not tolerate bullying or “picking on” others.
- When it comes to discipline, be firm but fair. Do not allow unacceptable behaviors to disrupt your Cloverbud meetings. Focus on the behavior and not the child.
- Make Cloverbud meetings fun! Allow them to interact appropriately and allow time for play. Keep activities simple and short to allow for their short attention spans.
Successful Cloverbud meetings teach children about working together and having fun. Finishing a challenging task and developing new skills reinforces self-confidence and helps children to develop a healthy self-esteem.
Developing self-confidence and positive self-esteem are critical components of a child’s mental health. Children who feel good about themselves are more likely to develop a positive outlook on life. Cloverbud volunteers play an important role in helping our Cloverbud children to develop a firm foundation for positive mental health. Take time to reflect on how you can be a positive influence on your Cloverbuds.
Need help with planning a successful Cloverbud meeting? The Big Book of 4-H Cloverbud Activities is full of lessons that are designed to facilitate the healthy emotional and physical development of our Cloverbuds. Contact your Extension Office for information on how to obtain a copy of The Big Book of 4-H Cloverbud Activities.