Building and practicing life skills in a 4-H club setting: living

4-H clubs provide an important learning experience for youth to build and practice life skills. Learn how 4-H club leaders can help youth gain skills in the “living” life skills category.

Michigan State University Extension 4-H programs provide youth ages 5-19 a structured out-of-school experience where they can explore a variety of interest areas through hands-on learning. Many of the learning experiences provided in 4-H are centered around 4-H projects of specific interest to the youth—whether it be animals, science, arts, culture or any of the other topics offered through 4-H.  In addition, 4-H members gain leadership, citizenship, and life skills through their involvement.

Throughout the 4-H experience, one important learning environment that is often overlooked is the 4-H club. This series of articles will utilize the Targeting Life Skills Model to explore how 4-H clubs can integrate learning experiences that promote life skill development into 4-H club culture. In particular, this article will focus on the life skills category of “Living.”  The life skills identified under living include healthy lifestyle choices: stress management; disease prevention; and personal safety.  Following are examples of activities or experiences that 4-H clubs could implement to promote development of living life skills.

Recreation Activities
Recreational activities such as ice breakers and energizers during club meetings can be used to promote physical activity amongst 4-H members.  Physical activities that are conducted in a game atmosphere are often perceived as fun by members.  Recreational activities could be offered for 15-20 minutes at the beginning or end of a meeting to promote fellowship amongst members or shorter activities could be incorporated into the middle of the meeting if members need to take a break from sitting or working on a project.  Get ideas to incorporate in your club setting in the “Group Building Ideas for 4-H Club & Group Meeting” Handbook.  An additional resource for promoting physical activity and health is the “Healthy Habits! A Leader’s Guide to Helping Children Reduce the Risk of Cancer” curriculum.     

Preparing a snack during your 4-H meeting is a great way to help your members promote better health.  The snack can be used as a catalyst to discuss nutrition and healthy choices.  The act of preparing the snack will also provide an opportunity to learn about food safety and safety in the kitchenMSU Extension can provide you with educational materials to teach nutrition, including the “Jump into Foods and Fitness” curriculum.  This resource is specifically designed to be used with youth 8-11, and can be taught by older teens in the club to build their leadership skills.

First Aid & Safety
It is important to be aware of the safety of those attending your 4-H club meetings and have a plan in place to eliminate or minimize risks.  Safety should be the responsibility of everyone, including volunteers and youth.  Get youth involved by having them spend time as a group brainstorming what the possible risks of an activity are before starting; this helps them to be more aware of the dangers involved and how to minimize accidents.  A risk management checklist can be obtained from county 4-H staff and you can learn more about risk management in 4-H clubs here

The club should also have a first aid kit available during the meeting; and a copy of the medical authorization form for each member and volunteer.  In addition, first aid training could be held as an educational program during one of your club meetings; some clubs even offer first aid training for working with animals. Check out the “First Aid in Action” curriculum, which provides activities for teaching first aid and safety in your club setting.

Michigan State University Extension values the safety of all program participants.  All volunteers who are working with youth or vulnerable adults on behalf of MSU Extension and 4-H programs must complete the screening process and orientation before beginning the volunteer in their role.  At the club level, it is important the safety of youth is the top priority and clubs follow policies for selecting and enrolling new volunteers.  You can learn more about this policy at

As you can see, life skills development can be accomplished through nearly every aspect of 4-H, including the club experience.  In this environment, 4-H club leaders play an important role in helping guide members of the club through the learning process.  The Experiential Learning Model provides leaders with a process for helping members make the connections between the learning experience, the knowledge and skills gained, and relevance of the life skills in their future.  Many of the 4-H curriculums and resources available to clubs will provide questions and discussion topics for sharing, processing, generalizing, and application that club leaders can facilitate with their 4-H club members.  More information on teaching life skills can be found at the MSU Extension Bookstore or additional articles in this series, including:

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