4-H: It’s not just for young people

Families have fun and learn together in 4-H.

Dreaming of an activity that can help your children learn valuable life skills and still be fun? Wishing you could find a way to bond with your children in the process? Let me share a secret with you: 4-H benefits more than just the young people it serves. While 4-H is a youth development program focused on young people as the primary audience, parents, siblings, volunteers and communities report benefits as well!

When young people are involved in 4-H, parents and siblings will occasionally attend meetings with them and be engaged in learning the same skills as the member. These may build on skills they already have, refresh skills they had forgotten from years past, or give them an entirely new skill set. You may see them laughing together, enjoying activities and preparing projects.

Many families enjoy club outings, field trips and especially the county fair where projects are showcased and clubs and families work as teams to get the job done. Volunteering together is part of the experience and hard work turns into fun, quality time. You may see a parent and child filling out paperwork, baking in the kitchen, loading the trailer, or cleaning up after they have finished. Barn duty also offers a time to relax and share stories, visit with friends, and learn even more about your animals as you work with older members of your club. Working in a 4-H food or concession stand provides youth and adults a time to develop customer service skills, basic food handling skills, and working as a team to deliver a product.

Some 4-H’ers will not see fair as their highlight but instead enjoy Kettunen Center workshops and 4-H Exploration Days, where they develop their skills and set goals for the future. Adults and youth alike enjoy sessions in these venues that open their eyes to new careers, hobbies and adventures they had never imagined. New topics for conversations emerge and relationships with individuals from different cultures are formed as their connections expand.

It truly is an opportunity for a family experience, regardless of your family makeup. Adult volunteers serve as club, project and activity leaders and help young people grow through experiential learning. As a parent or guardian, you support the leaders by working in partnership with them. Working together, we grow 4-H’ers who become leaders for the future.

4-H is a learning laboratory for our young people and our volunteers receive training, utilize curriculum, participate in field trips, attend webinars, and grow through their experiences with their club members and their own children. So if you are looking for a family-friendly environment to engage your children and want to be involved, 4-H might be for you and your family. Interested in joining a local 4-H club? Contact your Michigan State University Extension county office today!

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