Cloverbuds and Mental Health

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.

The Magic of Fall

Crisp cool mornings, bright blue sunny skies, juicy red apples, changing leaves…..fall is a great time to explore the outdoors!  If your meeting place allows, take your Cloverbuds on a nature hike.  Or encourage them to explore their backyards or take a nature walk with their family.  Take a look around – what do you see?  Many plants are reaching the end of their life cycle and it’s exciting to look for seed pods, berries, nuts, pinecones, etc.  Look for cocoons, spider webs, insects, and empty bird nests.  Remind your Cloverbuds not to eat anything they find.  Also remind them that when we are hiking in a public park we only take pictures.  Leave everything there for the next family to enjoy.

Talk with your Cloverbuds about the changing seasons.  How are the seasons different?  What is their favorite season?  What is their favorite thing about each season?  How does the weather change each season? What are some activities that they enjoy doing during the fall?

Here are some fun fall activities to share with your Cloverbuds.

Leaf rubbings are easy to do and fun to make.  Have your Cloverbuds collect a variety of fallen leaves from trees in their own yards.  Help the Cloverbuds to identify the leaves they find by using a leaf identification book from your local library.  Talk to your Cloverbuds about the different kinds of leaves and the trees that each leaf comes from.  Why are leaves important?  Why do some trees lose their leaves in the fall and others don’t?  Give each child a piece of paper and some crayons and have them make leaf rubbings.  Place a leaf on the table with the veins up.  Put the paper over the leaf and gently color over the leaf with the side of the crayon.  It may be helpful to tape the paper to the table.  Have your Cloverbuds use different leaves and colors to make their picture.

Pumpkins are found in abundance this time of year.  Use the insides of a pumpkin to make a sensory bag.  For each bag you will need a one pumpkin, one, one-gallon plastic freezer bag, the “guts” of a pumpkin, and a few small items to put in the bag with the pumpkin guts.  Small items such as plastic spiders, googly eyes, small fall themed erasers, etc., work well for this activity.  If you decide to have each Cloverbud carve their own pumpkin to retrieve the guts, be sure to have plenty of adult help.  Have an adult cut the pumpkin open and then ask the Cloverbuds to scoop out the guts.  Place the pumpkin guts and small items in the plastic bag and be sure it is tightly sealed.  Lay the bag on the table and have the Cloverbud squish the bag and look for the items inside.

Making a fall tree using the Cloverbud’s hand print as a guide creates a special keepsake for parents, grandparents, or other special person in your Cloverbud’s life.  For this activity you will need construction paper (white for the picture, any color to make the hand print), paint in fall colors (red, orange, yellow), paper plates or foil pans (to put the paint in), and sponge paint wands. 

Trace the Cloverbud’s hand and forearm on construction paper, then cut it out.  Use poster putty to secure the “tree” (Cloverbud’s hand print) to white construction paper.  Once the hand print is in place, ask the Cloverbud to sponge paint all around it with fall colors. Encourage your Cloverbud to leave little or no white around the edges of the “tree”.  Gently remove the paper hand print and any remaining poster putty.  Be sure to have your Cloverbud wear an old shirt or an apron to protect their clothing from the paint.

Some great fall books to read with your Cloverbuds are Apple Picking Day by Candice Ransom; Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak; Leaf Man by Lois Ehert; or Hello Fall! by Deborah Diesen.

So, go out and explore the outdoors,  Enjoy the crisp, fresh air, the ever changing colors, and the glory of nature that is fall!

Resources:
Hand Tree: https://fun-a-day.com/fall-hand-print-art-negative-space/
Pumpkin Sensory Bag: https://www.pre-kpages.com/pumpkin-sensory-bag/
Big Book of 4-H Cloverbud Activities, Chapter 19

Reading Adventures – Connecting Cloverbuds to Literacy

Recently I spent time with my grandson who is in kindergarten.  When I asked him what his favorite subject is, he responded with reading!  Oh how happy this grandma was to hear those words! Being an avid reader myself, I understand the importance of reading and the love of curling up with a good book.

Why is reading important to our youngest 4-H members?  Being able to read and comprehend is the cornerstone of any child’s education.  Reading introduces educational foundation skills, increases vocabulary, and instills a love of books and reading in children at a young age.  Children who read are better able to make the connection between written and spoken words, not to mention the fact that reading is fun!

Reading just one book per day to a child from birth to kindergarten will result in them hearing almost 300,000 words by the time they start school.  Children will also bond with that caring adult who takes the time to read out loud.

The cool thing about books is that they can be used to begin conversations with children about sometimes difficult or challenging subjects.  Reading provides an opportunity for children to safely explore strong emotions.

Cloverbud volunteers can reinforce the love of reading by incorporating a Reading Adventure (or two!) into their annual Cloverbud activities.  Reading Adventures take popular children’s books and pair them with ideas for healthy snacks, games, and activities.  Reading Adventures are designed to be stand-alone lessons that can enhance your already dynamic Cloverbud program; or, they can be used with different chapters found in the Big Book of Cloverbud Activities.  Each Reading Adventure identifies which chapter of the Big Book can be used with that particular adventure.

Most books featured in the adventures are popular books which you may already have on your bookshelf.  If not, these titles should be readily available from your public library or from an online library source.

Check out the Reading Adventures included in this blog.  Check back often as new titles are added as they become available.  Have an idea for a book that would make a great Reading Adventure?  Send your book recommendation to williams.418@osu.edu.

Reading a book can take us places when we need to stay where we are.  And, a child who reads will be an adult who thinks.

Cloverbuds….Moving to the Next Level

Finally!  It’s an exciting time for a Cloverbud when they are ready to take 4-H to the next level and become engaged in 4-H projects like their older siblings or older club members.  How can you, as a volunteer, help them to be successful during this time of transition?

First of all, does your club have some type of “ceremony” acknowledging this milestone?  This ceremony could be a graduation activity, a special induction or initiation ceremony, or something else that is appropriate for your club.  In addition to some type of acknowledgement activity, you might want to plan a meeting with the Cloverbuds and their parents to explain the different types of projects and the opportunities that are available to members who are eight and in the third grade and older.  Take time to explain that projects are primarily self-directed but there is help available.  Let them know your expectations in terms of project completion and project deadlines.  Help them to be realistic in project selection for their first year.  Encourage them to take one or two projects, rather than several, so that the member and the parent do not become overwhelmed and discouraged.  Lastly, check in with them throughout the project year to be sure that they are on target and meeting their goals.

It might be helpful to assign an older 4-H member to serve as a mentor for the younger member.  The older 4-H member should have similar project interests and be willing to assist the younger member with their project work.

Celebrate and enjoy this momentous occasion along with your Cloverbuds, as they move to the next level!