Cloverbuds and Social Emotional Learning: Now and for the Future

Youth’s social and emotional learning (SEL) skills are receiving increased attention, especially because of concerns about a loss of socialization opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic and overarching concerns about youth mental health. Social skills cannot be learned by reading about them in a book – they must be learned by doing, in situations where you interact with others, which makes Cloverbud meetings and activities an ideal learning environment.

There is no doubt that these skills are important for Cloverbud-age youth. How youth thrive may depend on whether they possess a variety of SEL skills. Being able to concentrate on SEL skills assumes a foundation having basic and safety needs met.

Social emotional learning, as conceptualized by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, consists of five overarching competencies (see the CASEL Wheel). The Ohio Department of Education also uses the CASEL SEL competencies. These five SEL competencies represent very broad areas.

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Skills
  • Responsible Decision Making

In addition to being important for Cloverbuds now, research indicates that SEL competencies have become increasingly important during the transition from middle childhood to early adolescence because they have been consistently linked to two primary developmental tasks of adolescence—academic achievement and social competence. In the most recent study, researchers studied five more specific indicators of social emotional development. The descriptions of these five skills are below.

  • Prosocial Behaviors: being able to take another person’s perspective, offer support, and help when others are in distress.
  • Cooperation: the ability to work well with peers, teachers, and other adults for a common benefit or goal.
  • Self-Control: being able to control and regulate attention and impulsive behavior in order to pursue and achieve long-term goals.
  • Emotion Regulation: identifying and managing emotions.
  • Work Habits: the ability to work hard and independently, to turn in work on time, to follow group rules, and to put forward one’s best effort to achieve goals.

This study found that there were distinct profiles of children’s SEL skills during middle childhood (measured in Grade 4). The researchers found that about half of the children displayed consistently high scores across all five SEL skills, while others were strong on some, but weaker on others, and still others were low on all skills. The other major finding was that these patterns were linked to distinctive peer and academic outcomes in early adolescence (measured in Grade 6), with the those displaying all five skills faring better. In contrast, the youth who exhibited prosocial and self-control skills were at risk of poor academic competence; the high cooperation/work habit youth were at risk of poor social functioning. Those with overall low SEL skills demonstrated the highest risk in poor academic and social functioning in early adolescence.

SEL and Cloverbud Volunteers

What does this mean for Cloverbud volunteers? A key takeaway from this research is that it is important to help youth achieve a variety of social emotional skills, not just any one skill. Children in the Cloverbud age group are learning social and emotional skills, but they are a work in progress – they are still mastering them. Small group activities help them learn how to get along with others and be social. As you work with Cloverbuds, how you set up activities and the interactions that occur between you and the members and between the members with each other will provide many opportunities to reinforce these skills. Encourage them to work with and talk to each other. These practices will create a positive social climate.

It’s easy to see how these SEL skills will help Cloverbuds get along in the world now and in the future. However, because they are more self-centered, it will be a while before Cloverbuds are totally able to see something from someone else’s perspective. Developing self-control allows them to share with others and to stay focused. Rules help establish group norms while teaching work habits, self-control, and emotion regulation. These rules should be focused on safety and well-being. If corrections are needed, the best practice is to start by getting the child’s attention by using their name, restating your expectations, and giving a specific instruction on how they can correct their behavior. When giving directions, start off by saying, “Soon, but not yet,…” and keep the number of steps simple.

In addition, you can teach these skills directly. For example, The Big Book of Cloverbud Activities has activities titled “My Feelings”; these activities help Cloverbuds learn to recognize and label emotions. Activities must take into account children’s developmental stage. For example, there is a gradual shift from the ability to recognize and name different emotional states (what does an angry face look like, and how is anger different from or similar to sadness?) to understanding that different people can have different emotional reactions to the same situation because of their own personal experiences and preferences (I feel angry when X happens, but my best friend feels sad).

These skills can also be embedded in many other activities. For example, many games involve waiting to take a turn. A game of “Freeze Frame” (play some music and when you pause, they are to freeze in whatever pose they are in when the music stops) can work on managing impulsivity. Another great way is to use books to introduce SEL concepts. Fortunately, there are many such books available (for example, see the Denver Public Library and the Deschutes Public Library for lists).

Developing SEL skills is not a one-shot deal; it’s a process that unfolds over time. As a Cloverbud volunteer, you get to be part of the process!

References

Collaborative for Academic, Emotional, and Social Learning. (n.d.). What is the CASEL framework? https://casel.org/fundamentals-of-sel/what-is-the-casel-framework/

Denver Public Library. (n.d.). Books for social, emotional, and academic learning. https://kids.denverlibrary.org/blog/k-3/books-social-emotional-and-academic-learning

Deschutes Public Library. (n.d.). DPL Kids: Social emotional learning (SEL) picture books. https://dpl.bibliocommons.com/list/share/362500057/1258121077

Ferrari, T. (2021, January). Using books to discuss mental, emotional, and social health. Cloverbud Connections. https://u.osu.edu/cloverbudconnections/2021/01/18/using-books-to-discuss-mental-emotional-and-social-health/

Jones, S. M., & Doolittle, E. J. (2017). Social and emotional learning: Introducing the issue. The Future of Children, 27(1), 3‒12. https://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/Documents/FOC-Spring-Vol27-No1-Compiled-Future-of-Children-spring-2017.pdf

Ma, T.-L., Zarrett, N., Puente, K., Liu, Y., Vandell, D. L., Simpkins, S. D., & Yu, M. V. B. (2022). Longitudinal links between profiles of social emotional behaviors in childhood and functioning in early adolescence. Journal of Early Adolescence, 42(6), 765–792. https://doi.org/10.1177/02724316221078829

Matheis, L. (2021, December 2). Rebuilding children’s social skills during COVID. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/special-matters/202112/rebuilding-children-s-social-skills-during-covid

Ohio Department of Education. (2019). Social and emotional learning standards. https://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Learning-in-Ohio/Social-and-Emotional-Learning/Social-and-Emotional-Learning-Standards

U.S. Surgeon General. (2021). Protecting youth mental health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s advisory. https://www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/reports-and-publications/youth-mental-health/index.html

Caring for Others

Cloverbud aged children often focus on themselves as they are forming their self-concept. As young Cloverbud children (5 – 6 years old) become 7- to 8-year-olds, they start to increase their awareness and concern for others; in particular, they can have empathy toward others. Empathy results from an increase in their emotional understanding skills as thinking abilities develop and through social experiences.  In the 4-H Cloverbud program we can help members learn to care for others and grow their empathy skills.

Certainly, it’s a good thing to care for others and be kind, but why is empathy and caring for others important for Cloverbuds? By learning to care of others, children benefit in many ways:

  • Contributes to their overall healthy development
  • Builds positive relationships with other kids and adults
  • Feel a sense of accomplishment
  • Increase their self-esteem and confidence
  • Creates a sense of belonging

As Cloverbud volunteers and advisors, how can we promote a caring attitude with our Cloverbud kids? Here are some strategies to use:

  • Model caring behavior for them to see (share, offer compliments, hold a door open)
  • Talk about your feelings to encourage them to do also (“I am tired from a busy day, but happy to be with you,” “I feel sad because a family member is sick.” – fosters empathy)
  • Thank the children when they show care towards you and others (positive reinforcement)
  • Make kindness and caring a foundation for your Cloverbud club
  • Listen to children and where they are at without passing judgement

We can all make our community a better place to live. It starts with our children and the Cloverbud program is great place for kids to learn and practice caring for others and kindness.

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.

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

A Long Winter’s Nap

Yaawwnnn! These cold winter days make me feel lazy and sleepy. I just want to hibernate.

Hibernate? What is hibernate?

Hibernation is how animals save energy to survive harsh weather conditions or lack of food. When hibernating, an animal’s heartbeat and breathing slows down and its body temperature drops.

We usually think of bears when we think of hibernation. They eat up during the summer, putting on the extra pounds that they will need for their winter nap. They prepare a special place to hibernate — a bed lined with leaves and twigs. When winter sets in, the bears curl up in their dens and go without eating, drinking, or exercising for as long as 100 days!

While we probably are not going to hibernate for 100 days, we can have some hibernation fun. We can “bear-ly” wait for you to try!

First, we should prepare a snack to store some energy for our body. Let’s make some energy balls.

Next step, we need to make our den. Grab some blankets and cover a table that you can fit under. Bears like cozy little spots that are not too big. Make sure the inside is dark for excellent sleeping. Put your favorite pillow and blanket in your den. You might want to bring along a teddy bear to share the fun!

We probably should do a little exercise before we go into our den. Let’s do 10 toe touches, reach up to the sky as high as you can 5 times, and of course, we must do a quick bear walk!

Although most of the time you may be sleeping, you might want to bring along something fun if you are not ready to sleep. You can even put a flashlight in your den to help you see better. Here is a coloring page for you or how about a book to read?  Can you find a book about bears?

Are you feeling sleepy yet? If not, grab a piece of paper and write the word “HIBERNATION”. Can you find the letters inside that word to make these words – bear, ate, ran, ton, not, hear, near? Can you find any other words from those letters?

Yaawwnnn! Time for that winter nap. See you this spring!

*This activity is written as a stay-at home Cloverbud activity, but creative club volunteers may want to gather supplies to have their members design a large multi bear den and complete the activities, including making the snacks.

Photo credit for Favorite Books about Bears and Hibernation graphic: pre-kpages.com

 

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.

Mindfulness for our 4-H Cloverbud Members

Whoo! We made it through the holidays!  But with all that hustle and bustle, we tend to forget to take time to check in on how we are feeling. If we, as adults, forget to check in on ourselves, imagine how hard it may be for our 4-H Cloverbud members to express how they are feeling. January is a hard month because it tends to be cold, dreary and all the holiday fun is over. This is a great time to talk to our members about ways to take care of their mental health and well-being.

Mindfulness is a way to bring connection between the brain, mind, body, and behavior.  It is easy for many of us to fall into the trap of worry and having our minds run a mile a minute and that can happen to our youth, too. There are so many demands on our children these days that it may be difficult for them to take time to be calm and quiet, and their bodies need that rest.

Find some activities that your Cloverbud members like or challenge them to come up with their own mindful activity. Maybe they will suggest coloring, writing in a journal, if they are a little bit older, or just taking deep breaths. Any of these activities are a great start to practice mindfulness.

When we can host meetings again in person, try adding one of these activities at the start or the end of your Cloverbud club meeting. If you are meeting virtually, you could take time to read a book or start the meeting with a few deep breaths. As stated in previous Cloverbud Connections, it is important for our younger members to take time to acknowledge their feelings and begin learning how to process those feelings.

A favorite activity for our members, which is easy to do and does not require any additional items, is a grounding exercise. Grounding allows us to reconnect with our surroundings and take a moment to refocus and relax. Try the following activity with your members.

Grounding Activity for Cloverbuds:

  • Advisors or Adult Volunteers can read the following script:
    • Sit in a way that is comfortable for you. This may be on a blanket on the floor, in a chair at a meeting, or outside if the weather is nice.
    • Once you have found a good spot, close your eyes, and take a deep breath in and out.
    • We are going to sit as still and as quiet as possible, take another deep breath in and out. Use your listening ears to identify all the sounds you can hear. Make a list in your mind of 3 things you hear. Maybe it is a buzzing of a fan or it is so quiet you do not hear anything.
    • Now while we are still sitting still and quiet – take a big breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take a minute to see if you smell anything. Maybe there is a smell you did not notice when the meeting started like flowers or crayons. Make a list in your mind of 3 things you smell.
    • One last time still sit as quiet and still as possible – take one more big breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Now we are going to use our sense of feel. You can put your hands on the ground next to you or out on the table. What are some things you feel like the cold floor or a rough table? Make a list in your mind of 3 things you feel.
  • Remember if you are able to model or demonstrate what you are doing that may help some members – Sometimes kids like to open their eyes to see if they’re doing the right thing or to make sure they aren’t alone.
  • Once you have read through the Mindfulness script, ask members to share what they heard, smelled, or felt. This is an effective way to reflect on the activity and create a connection between youth if they noticed similar things.
  • This is a great activity that can be modified as needed for the meeting location, group, etc. You could also offer those older members an opportunity to read the script or create their own relaxing story to share.

We hope you are learning new ways to take care of yourself and your members during Ohio 4-H’s Mental Health Month. Be sure to share any new ideas you have learned or tried so that others can use them in their club meetings or with their members. We hope you are using your health for better living this January!

For additional resources visit go.osu.edu/MentalHealthMonth or Coping with COVID: go.osu.edu/CopingWithCOVID  (“Just Breathe!,” and “Guided Relaxation”)

Sources:
https://fcs.osu.edu/programs/major-program-areas/healthy-relationships/mindful-wellness
Powers-Barker, P. “Introduction to Mindfulness”. 05/10/2016. Retrieved from: https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

Recognizing our Emotions

Many people have difficulty dealing with emotions. As caring adults (4-H advisor, parent, guardian, etc.) we should talk about emotions with the children in our care. Emotions are those instinctive reactions to one’s given circumstances. In children you might see tantrums, crying, pouting, breaking things, or the silent treatment, among others. Sometimes as parents we want to jump in and fix things just like we did when our children were babies. To build our child’s resiliency skills, we need to step aside and be the supportive person “outside their box” as they are dealing with their emotions “inside their box”.

Triggers are those actions or events that when they happen, the individual responds with a strong immediate reaction. Triggers cause a sudden change in our emotions and our body becomes overwhelmed with reacting to the event. Sometimes referred to by parents as “pushing my buttons”, these words or actions bring about an instant reaction. Personally, one of my triggers is when someone scrapes a metal fork on a glass plate. My immediate reaction is to plug my ears. Self-awareness is an important skill for parents to develop in their children. It allows them to recognize emotions, triggers, and responses.

Self-Awareness: Circle of Identification

Here is a very simple activity that can be done with crayons and paper. You might also use cardstock or light-colored paper, especially if you encourage the child to take the paper home. This activity is most effective if you have a small group of children or a large group of children with several adults (i.e. 1 adult for each 3-4 children).

  1. Preprint a circle divided into 3 equal sections on the paper. Have extra copies depending on time available, but 2-3 copies per child is recommended.
  2. Give each child one paper and share the following instructions, one at a time, allowing all children to complete each step before moving on to the next step.
    1. Explain what an emotion is (angry, embarrassed, happy). In one of the sections of the circle, instruct the children to draw a picture of an emotion they have experienced.
    2. Define a trigger and give examples. In a different section, have them draw a picture demonstrating something that might trigger the emotion they selected in the first space.
    3. In the final space, have them draw a picture of how they deal with that emotion.
  3. You can use another sheet and redo the activity using another emotion.
  4. In summary, talk with them about the value in being able to identify their emotions, identify their triggers and evaluate their reaction to that emotion. This is key to really understanding the concept of self-awareness which allows youth and adults to handle both good and bad situations in life.

As caring adults, we can model feeling words by defining the exact emotion you are experiencing at that time. Avoid reactions like foul language, yelling or aggressive physical reactions, because you are modeling these as appropriate reactions to certain emotions. We can all agree that resiliency is a vital skill for youth and adults.  Building the concept of self-awareness is a step to preparing youth (even at a young age) for future success.

Sources:

Pincus, D. (2020, September 1). My Child is Out of Control: How to Teach Kids to Manage. Medium. https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-child-is-out-of-control-how-to-teach-kids-to-manage-emotions/

Sadowski, K. (2020, August 31). 8 Tip to Help Your Child Gain Control of His/Her Emotions. Medium. https://www.nspt4kids.com/parenting/8-tips-to-help-your-child-gain-control-of-hisher-emotions/

Working with Food Allergies in the 4-H Club Meeting

Food allergies can be very serious, especially among children. With so many young children being diagnosed with food allergies, it is very important that all understand what to look for.  According to the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), one in every 13 children is being diagnosed with a food allergy and every three minutes, a food allergy sends someone to the emergency room.

FARE states that there are eight major food allergens which causean estimated 90% of all allergens.  These foods include: egg, milk, peanut, tree nuts(almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios), soy, fish, wheat, crustacean shellfish(crab, lobster, crayfish, and shrimp).  These are the allergens which typically cause the most serious food allergy reactions but there are more than 170 foods known to cause allergic reactions.

If your county utilizes online enrollment, please encourage 4-H parents to put any kind of health consideration into 4-H Online when completing their child’s enrollment.  Health forms for camp must also be fully completed.  This is the first, and sometimes only, way to find out this information. Volunteers need to be aware of any food allergies which put children at risk.

Think about club meetings and snacks.  Make sure all parents know of any foods that must be avoided.  This needs to be enforced at the club meetings so there is never a chance of an allergic reaction.

A great option would be to serve fruits or vegetables at the meeting.  Typically, these are not common allergens among children.  This would also promote healthier eating at club meetings.  Cloverbuds love to help make food. What are some snacks that are appropriate for them to help prepare?  Some fun ideas include a relish tray, fruit tray, hummus, ants on a log, guacamole, or animals made out of fruit/vegetables.  Have fun and be creative.  Don’t know where to begin?  Check the library or do a search on line.  And be mindful of serving healthy drinks as well such as water, 100% juice, or unsweetened tea.

For more information on food allergies, please visit www.foodallergy.org.

Focus your Head, Heart, and Hands on the 4th H at the Fair!

Although fairs might have a reputation for deep fried foods and rides, there are plenty of ways to make a day at the fair healthier for you and your young child.

Here are some suggestions:

HEAD

  • Plan ahead. Before you head to the fair, offer your child a healthy meal or snack.  Fresh or frozen fruit is a good choice, since it might be difficult to find at the fair.
  • Seek out healthier food options at the fair. Most fairs offer some or all of these items. Although some contain added sugar or a fair amount of sodium, they are healthier choices than corn dogs, fries, and elephant ears.
    • Corn on the cob
    • Roasted nuts
    • Dipped fruits
    • Pickles
    • Popcorn
    • Turkey leg (often big enough for the whole family!)
  • Don’t be fooled! For example, before you order a “fruit smoothie” ask if it has real fruit in it or if it comes from a mix.
  • Avoid smoking areas and ask that tobacco and e-cigarette policies be enforced so children won’t breathe secondhand smoke.

HEART

  • Getting your heart rates up by walking depends on comfortable feet. You and your child will see and do more at the fair if you both wear the right shoes.  Athletic shoes might be better than sandals, as you might need to walk through gravel, dirt, grass, straw, or even mud.
  • Help your child identify one thing he or she really loves about the fair, and spend plenty of time making the most of that experience. It might be a ride, a game, a certain barn, or a petting zoo. If it involves a sweet or fried treat, choose a reasonable serving size or consider splitting it among several people. For example, one funnel cake can serve up to 4-6 people. After the treat, enjoy some lower sugar and lower fat items at the fair.

HANDS

  • Carry a water bottle so your child can stay hydrated without loading up on sugary soda with empty calories. Save money by refilling the water bottle at the drinking fountain. For a fun beverage, order a hand-shaken lemonade with half the usual sugar.
  • Slap on a hat and spread on plenty of sunscreen to avoid getting sunburned, even when the day is a little cloudy.
  • Avoid spreading disease by not eating in the barns, washing hands (yours and your child’s) before you eat, and washing hands after touching animals. If you can’t find hand-washing stations with soap and water, use hand sanitizers.