MyPlate Activities for Cloverbuds

Happy birthday, MyPlate! MyPlate is 10 years old this year. It’s a good reminder to think about how MyPlate concepts can be incorporated into Cloverbud activities.

What is MyPlate? MyPlate is a nutritional food guide that was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help people become more aware of what they eat and to assist them in making better food choices. The MyPlate icon shows the five food groups: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Protein Foods, and Dairy. It features a simple picture of a plate, which offers a visual cue that is easy to relate to, with sections of a plate representing how much of each food group people should consume relative to the other groups.

The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasizes the importance of an overall healthy eating pattern with all five groups as key building blocks. Each food group includes a variety of foods that are similar in nutritional makeup, and each group plays an important role in an overall healthy eating pattern.

Why emphasize healthy eating patterns? Because we know diets early in life can shape food habits into adulthood, our Cloverbud members are at the ideal age to foster good habits. However, recent studies show there is a cause for concern.

Current intakes show that from an early age, dietary patterns are not aligned with the Dietary Guidelines. Five- to 8-year-olds are generally within the range of recommended intakes for protein, fruits, and grains (although this is achieved with refined grains, not whole grains), but below in vegetables and dairy. Vegetable intake is especially low in children, and increasing vegetable consumption tends to be particularly difficult. In addition, most diets exceed the recommended limits for added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.

A recent study found that diets of children in the U.S. have improved modestly but remain poor for most. This improvement in diet quality is promising. However, another report found that more than a third of U.S. children and adolescents consumed fast food. Other researchers have examined sugar-sweetened beverages and junk foods. The results of these studies are cause for concern because fast food,  sugar-sweetened beverages, and junk food have been associated with higher caloric intake and poorer diet quality. These dietary patterns contribute to overweight and obesity, as well as increasing the risk for chronic diseases later in life.

MyPlate Activities for Cloverbuds

4-H volunteers have the opportunity to help children meet guidelines for healthy eating by regularly incorporating healthy living activities into 4-H club meetings. If you’re looking for activities for Cloverbuds, the “Making Healthy Food Choices” in The Big Book of 4-H Cloverbud Activities (4-H 710GPM) is a great place to start. The Food and Nutrition Service has the Serving Up My Plate curriculum. The MyPlate website also contains activity sheets than can be downloaded. Here are some more to try.                              

Eat the Rainbow of Colors. Draw columns on a large sheet of paper labeled red, orange, yellow, blue, green, purple, and white. See how many fruits and vegetables the group members can name for each color.

Category Match. Divide the group into five smaller groups. Give each group one of the five food groups from MyPlate. Have the group members brainstorm as many foods as they can that fit into each category. Share lists with the whole group.

MyPlate Picnic. Have each person say their name, a food that begins with the first letter of their name, and the group it fits in. For example: “My name is Theresa, I’m going to bring tomatoes to the picnic, and they are in the vegetable group.

What’s on Your Plate” Food Collage. Gather grocery store ads and old magazines. You will also need paper plates, markers, scissors, and glue sticks. Divide the paper plate to match the divisions on MyPlate. Cut out foods and fit them into the appropriate section of the plate.

Taste Test. Children may be reluctant to taste new foods, so taste testing can improve children’s dietary intake.

Eating the Alphabet. Use the idea from the book Eating the Alphabet (by Lois Ehlert): Name and illustrate a food for each of the letters of the alphabet. This activity can tie in with the “Planning a Community Art Exhibit” in The Big Book of 4-H Cloverbud Activities.

Read All About It.  Build literacy skills while learning about the five food groupsPicture books can be effective when children are actively involved.  Having them answer questions about the story exercises their critical thinking skills.  There are several websites that feature selected children’s books.  Here are a few to get you started.

MyPlate Talking Points

MyPlate is not perfect–for one thing, the size of the plate matters. The specific amounts of food needed in each group vary by age, gender, and activity level; the Dietary Guidelines provides more detailed information on this topic. Some foods contain ingredients from multiple groups, making them difficult to classify.

The MyPlate icon focuses on incorporating healthful foods; however, all foods in a group are not the same. The key is choosing a variety of foods and beverages from each food group—and making sure that each choice is limited in saturated fat, salt, and added sugars, including cakes, cookies, ice cream, candies, sweetened drinks, and fatty meats like sausages, bacon, and hot dogs. Use these foods as occasional treats but not everyday foods (“sometimes foods”). 

  • Fruits – Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: Focus on whole fruits.
  • Vegetables – Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: Vary your veggies.
  • Grains – Make half your grains whole grains.
  • Protein – Vary your protein routine. Choose protein foods like beans, fish, lean meats, and nuts.
  • Dairy – Move to low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt. Drink fat free or low-fat milk or water instead of sugary drinks.

4-H volunteer leaders working with Cloverbuds can encourage children to make healthy food choices. Developing healthy eating habits can go a long way to ensure a better lifestyle now and in the future.

References
de Droog, S. M., Buijzen, M., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2013). Enhancing children’s vegetable consumption using vegetable-promoting picture books. The impact of interactive shared reading and character-product congruence. Appetite, 73, 73–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2013.10.018
Fryar, C. D., Carroll, M. D., Ahluwalia, N., & Ogden, C. L. (2020). Fast food intake among children and adolescents in the United States, 2015–2018 (NCHS Data Brief No. 375). https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db375.htm
Gold, A., Larson, M., Tucker, J., & Strang, M. (2017). Classroom nutrition education combined with fruit and vegetable taste testing improves children’s dietary intake. Journal of School Health, 87(2), 106–113.  https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12478
Leung, C. W., DiMatteo, S. G., Gosliner, W. A., & Ritchie, L. D. (2018). Sugar-sweetened beverage and water intake in relation to diet quality in U.S. children. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 54(3), 394–402. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2017.11.005
Liu, J., Rehm, C. D., Onopa, J., & Mozaffarian, D. (2020). Trends in diet quality among youth in the United States, 1999-2016. Journal of the American Medical Association, 323(12), 1161–1174. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.0878
Liu, J., Lee, Y., Micha, R., Li, Y., & Mozaffarian, D. (2021). Trends in junk food consumption among US children and adults, 2001-2018. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nqab129. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqab129
Snelling, A. M., Newman, C., Ellsworth, D., Kalicki, M., Guthrie, J., Mancino. L., Malloy, E., Van Dyke, H., George, S., & Nash, K. (2017). Using a taste test intervention to promote vegetable consumption. Health Behavior and Policy Review, 4(1), 67–75. https://doi.org/10.14485/HBPR.4.1.8
U.S. Department of Agriculture. MyPlate. https://www.myplate.gov/
U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Service. (2020). Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025 (9th ed.). https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/
Williams, K., Dill, A., & Lindberg, S. (2019). Changes in nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and behavior after implementation of Serving Up MyPlate and vegetable taste tests. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 51(7S), S31–S32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2019.05.589

Conducting Nature Fun Activities Virtually

Spring is in the air and children are excited to go outside and explore.  However, many clubs still need to conduct their meetings virtually because of current restrictions.  With a few modifications, you can still offer some great outdoor related activities in a virtual setting.  Read on to learn how you can modify some of the Nature Fun activities from The Big Book of 4-H Cloverbud Activities (2016, pgs. 85-89).

Preparing for a virtual lesson takes a little bit of communication and preparation by both the volunteers and the members.  Get your members excited and prepared for the meeting by sending a message a few days prior.  Let the members know the topic you plan to cover and the supplies you need them to have ready when they log onto the virtual meeting.

The Magic Can activity allows children to use their sense of hearing to listen for noises they may hear when an item from nature is being shaken in a can.  Since members will be unable to pass the can around and shake it individually, you can shake the can for them. The children will need reminded to use their ‘listening ears’ and quietly listen to the sound so everyone will have a chance to hear.  Ask the members to give you a thumbs up once they think they know what item from nature is in the can.  You can call on members to share their guess before showing the group what is in the can.

The Sounds of Nature Hike activity can be adapted using audio recordings of nature.  Check online for videos or audio recordings of nature.  You can share the audio from your electronic device during your meeting and allow the members to listen to sounds.  Ask your members to close their eyes, turn on their ‘listening ears’, and listen quietly to the sounds.  Once everyone has had a chance to listen for a little while, the members can share the sounds they heard.  You can replay the audio to point out specific sounds that were mentioned.  When searching for sounds of nature, be sure to find a variety of recordings to share such as birds, moving streams, waves of the ocean, etc.  This activity can enable you to share how sounds of nature may vary depending on where you live. 

The Leaf Rubbings activity can be done virtually as well.  Ask your members to gather 3-5 leaves prior to the meeting.  They should have the leaves and a piece of paper and some crayons when they join the meeting.  This activity may be easier to use a little later in spring when leaves are more readily available.  Members can each share the leaves they found and use them for the leaf rubbing drawing.  Members may be able to identify the tree species their leaf came from or find it exciting to see that other members have the same type of trees near their house.

The Nature Scavenger Hunt activity can be turned into a nature hike show and tell activity.  Ask your members to take a hike through nature prior to the meeting and bring 5 things to the meeting that they found in nature.  Remind them not to bring anything back that may be an animal’s habitat as they do not want to disturb it.  Allow each member to share the items they found on their hike and tell where they found it.  Some items may be very common while other items in nature are unique to certain environments (open, dry area vs. a dark, moist area).  Ask the members to each share two things they saw on their nature hike, but were unable to bring back with them (i.e. bird, bird’s nest, squirrel, insect, etc.).  If they are able, encourage youth to return the items they collected back to nature after your meeting is complete. The original Nature Scavenger Hunt activity can be shared with members to complete on their own prior to your meeting as an interest approach activity or after the meeting as a follow-up application activity.

The attention span of Cloverbud members during a virtual meeting may drop quicker than an in-person meeting.  Your virtual meeting may only last 30-40 minutes.  Depending on the number of members you have and how much you want to accomplish, you may feel like this is not enough time to complete your lesson.  It is okay to provide an activity for the member to do prior to the meeting as an interest approach to the lesson you are going to teach during the meeting.  Another option is to provide them with an activity to complete at home after their meeting, reinforcing what they learned.  Encourage members to share with you what they completed during their application activity.

 

Reference:  Glover, C., Longo, M., Mendenz, B., Millhouse, C., Williams, R., Woods, D.,  Zimmer, B. (2016).  The Big Book of 4-H Cloverbud Activities.  Columbus, OH, The Ohio State University.

Using Books to Discuss Mental, Emotional, and Social Health

“You are never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”

Dr. Suess

4-H members pledge their “health to better living” – that means mental health, too. Mental health is a very broad term referring to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It’s about how people think, feel, and behave. Just like the definition for overall health, mental health is not only the absence of mental illness, it also refers to the presence of positive characteristics. Ohio 4-H is promoting mental health in January by providing resources on a section of our webpage, through educational programming, and throughout our social media platforms.

Why Mental Health Matters

Mental health is important because it determines how people handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Positive mental health is important because it allows people to do the following:

  • Realize their full potential
  • Cope with the stresses of life
  • Be productive
  • Make meaningful connections to others
  • Make contributions to their communities

Our mental health can change over time. It depends on many factors. Having good mental health doesn’t mean that people never go through bad times. Experiencing setbacks is inevitable – it’s part of life. It means we have the tools to cope with life’s challenges. It helps us keep problems in perspective and bounce back from those setbacks.

Mental health problems don’t only affect adults. Children, teens, and young adults can have mental health problems, too. Young children are still learning how to deal with their emotions and figure out how to regulate their behaviors in socially acceptable ways. All children can benefit from learning how to express themselves, get along with others, cope with stress, and be resilient.

Using Books to Discuss Mental, Emotional, and Social Health

Books are an ideal tool when discussing serious topics, because they can make abstract ideas more concrete through simple words and images. In her Cloverbud Connections article, Greene County 4-H Educator Rebecca Supinger reminds us about using books as a jumping-off point to start tough conversations.

Here are some general suggestions to prepare you for using books with Cloverbuds.

  • Get recommendations from local educators or librarians or read reviews (e.g., Goodreads, a site for book recommendations).
  • Read the book ahead to familiarize yourself with it. You can also find YouTube videos of many books.
  • Consider companion activities to allow children to engage in more interactive and hands-on ways with the topic.
  • Think about reflection questions to encourage discussion after reading the book.

Amanda Raines, 4-H Educator from Hardin County, has used the book When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really, Angry… by Molly Bang (Blue Sky Press, 1999) with Cloverbuds and preschool classrooms. In the book, when Sophie gets angry, she runs far, far away. “It is an easy tool to get our youngest members talking about how their body feels when they are upset,” she said. “After reading the book, we have a conversation about how to use your words to express your feelings instead of letting your body take over.” Amanda said she also usually follows this story with an activity, such as making a calm down jar or meditation bottle, which gives the participants a tool to take home and start practicing what they’ve learned. Amanda and her Cloverbud, Lily, demonstrate how to do this craft in this Cloverbud Creators video.

Reviewers of this book point out that Sophie runs away when she gets angry, and therefore it might encourage children to take this action as well. Although physical activity is a positive strategy, because of their age and where they live (e.g., an urban area), running away into the woods isn’t necessarily a good option for young children. This illustrates the importance of following the book with some discussion. For example, have the children tell what techniques they use to calm themselves when they are angry. (“When Sophie gets angry, she runs away into the woods and climbs her favorite tree. Different people handle anger in different ways. What do you do when you get angry?”) It’s important to validate the feeling (it’s okay to feel angry) but not necessarily the reaction that follows.

“My Feelings,” in the Big Book of Cloverbud Activities that is now available at Ohio 4-H Stay at Home Projects, has some great activities that can be paired with books that discuss mental health topics. For example, after discussing a book, Cloverbuds might want to draw or write about their own emotions.   “Disappointment and Feelings,” an activity in Coping with COVID: Lesson Plans to Promote Mental, Emotional, and Social Health, would also work for the Cloverbud age group.

Other book suggestions:

  • How Big are Your Worries Little Bear: A Book to Help Children Manage and Overcome Anxiety, Anxious Thoughts, Stress and Fearful Situations by Jayneen Sanders, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman (Educate2Empower Publishing, 2018)
  • There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Laurel Molk (Candlewick Press, 2017)

To find more children’s books about mental health-related topics, here are three websites that Amanda Raines recommends.

Check out the Mental Health Month resources on the Ohio 4-H webpage. Mental health-related topics are also featured in the Ohio 4-H Healthy Living blog. Although targeted to a teen audience, volunteers can benefit from the resources shared on this platform.

Thumb Print Family Tree

The holidays are a great time for families to pull out a family album or scrapbook. Spend some time with your child looking through the pictures and telling stories. The time spent together focusing on family will help children learn about their heritage. Every family is unique and special and it is important for children to learn about family members and how they are connected, regardless where they live.

To help children remember their own family tree, you can Create a Thumb Print Family Tree with your children or at an upcoming 4-H Cloverbud meeting.

Materials: white cardstock paper (cut into 8” x 10” rectangles), washable brown and green paint, Styrofoam plates, paper towels, paint brushes, black or brown permanent markers, one 8” x 10” frame per child (optional) and wet wipes.

Tip – To save time during the activity, cut the cardstock into rectangles ahead of time. Ask parents to provide a list of family members on both sides of the family of each child if they won’t be attending the meeting.

Family trees are a fun way to learn about our family members. This is a great multigenerational activity for families to do together.

What to do: Paint a blank tree (including the stump and multiple branches) big enough to cover your page from top to bottom. Allow to dry.

Squeeze green paint onto the Styrofoam plates. Show children how to dip their thumbs into the paint, and then gently onto a paper towel to remove excess. Then, have them press their wet thumbs onto the branches of the tree to create leaves for each family member on both sides of the family. They can use different colors of green to create depth. Place the thumb prints accordingly, so that families are represented in clusters.

Once the paint is dry, write family names onto the leaves.

Optional: frame the artwork and hang it in common area for the family to enjoy.

 

Source: The Big Book of 4-H Cloverbud Activities. Valuing Family, Page 143

4-H Cloverbud Resources to Purchase

Ohio has several 4-H Cloverbud resources available for volunteers and educators. In Ohio they are available from your local Extension Office. Outside of Ohio the resources can be ordered from http://estore.osu-extension.org/ Click on 4-H then Cloverbuds

  • The Big Book of 4-H Cloverbud Activities – NEW in 2017
  • My 4-H Cloverbud Year – NEW in 2017
  • Clover Cubes
  • Choose and Tell Cards
  • Cloverbud Volunteer Guidebook
  • Connect to College