Energizing 4-H club experiences

Adding energizers to your 4-H club builds trust and allows members to feel welcome.

For decorative purposes.

An important part of building a strong 4-H club experience is making sure everyone in the group feels welcomed. Creating a welcoming space helps youth thrive and develop a sense of belonging. When volunteers and members feel welcomed, they feel more comfortable working and learning with each other. By incorporating simple energizing activities, volunteers can:

  • Add fun to the experience for youth.
  • Build comfort and trust while allowing everyone to learn how to work together.
  • Help teach communication skills, problem solving, and patience.
  • Introduce the idea of inclusion through learning commonalities and building a community.
  • Develop leadership skills in youth.

One could think energizers and icebreakers only need to happen at the beginning of the year, but these types of activities can take place all year to help welcome new members, develop a group bond, reinforce the importance of the 4-H experience being a safe environment, and establish a group identity. To help with the relationship building and formation of group identity, Michigan 4-H recommends keeping these tips in mind:

  • Set firm expectations regarding behavior to ensure safe, fun play, and prevent participants from getting carried away. Having the youth in the group help create these expectations will help with their commitment to the expectations.
  • Be clear on when instructions are being given that youth need to listen so they understand how to play, so once the activity starts everyone is on the same page.
  • Stress the importance of respecting one another’s ideas and contributions. This is just as important for the other leaders in the club or parents that may be participating.
  • Build an environment where everyone is encouraging others. Model this behavior for others.
  • In the beginning you may want to start with quieter type games as the group is getting to know one another and then move to more high energy type games.
  • Creating a level of trust is key in helping youth thrive and the usage of energizing activities helps build that trust. Trust strengthens the sense of belonging for youth and enhances the developmental relationships they have. Teams seldom thrive when trust is missing.   
  • A safe atmosphere allows members to experience healthy emotional risks to contribute and be part of the club, discover how they fit into the club, voice their opinions, and help the club achieve common goals. To build this level of trust in the club, build in games and activities once the club has built a foundation that can allow youth to stretch their comfort zone.

By building in energizers into your 4-H experiences you are creating a welcoming and inclusive space where youth can thrive and move into futures that provide them with direction and purpose. For ideas on simple and easy energizers for your 4-H experiences check out Group-Building Ideas for 4-H Clubs & Group Meetings, Icebreakers or “Spice up the 4-H Experience.” In addition check with your local Michigan State University Extension office for resources or activities to borrow, or MSU Extension news articles  for content and short activities.

For more information on helpful volunteer training information, check out the MSU Extension Michigan 4-H Volunteer Webinar Series webpage.

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