Fairs and cloverbuds: A great place to develop life skills

Help 4-H Cloverbud members have an enriching fair experience by being intentional about recognizing their developmental needs.

Fair experiences can be a memorable and impactful experience for 4-H Cloverbud members without competition. Youth ages 5 to 8 years are at an active, bright, inquisitive stage in their lives. Teen and adult volunteers can capitalize on Cloverbuds’ inherent nature during the fair season in some pretty strategic ways. Noncompetitive animal science programs that are designed for youth ages 5 to 8 will enrich their overall 4-H in many positive ways.

Iowa State University Extension highlights several developmental stages youth in this age range experience. The following are a few that are very applicable to Cloverbuds at fairs.

  • Youth learn best if they are physically active. Providing activities that are physical in nature will help them learn about caring for and managing animals, such as barn duty activities, which allows youth to be physically active and have a very important role in the barn.
  • Youth are learning how to be friends. Having activities that include youth from all ages and project areas is a great way to allow youth to meet and make new friends. Ag Olympics, a 4-H Service Day or a 4-H Dance are great ways youth can mingle and make new friends and be able to practice maintaining those friendships throughout the fair.
  • Youth are sensitive to criticism and don’t accept failure well. Setting Cloverbuds up for success is always a great strategy. Situations that foster cooperation and teamwork rather than competition help youth build their self-esteem in a safe and supportive environment. A group scavenger hunt can help youth learn about cooperation and teamwork.
  • Youth are moving from depending on parents to depending on other adults. 4-H volunteers and teen leaders can support Cloverbuds by helping them or taking them to various activities during the fair without their parents. Parents should always know where and with whom their child is going, but having that time of separation with safe people is important for a Cloverbud’s development.

The mix of supportive adult volunteers and eager teen volunteers offers a great environment for Cloverbuds to explore different projects, complete various tasks and develop relationships with others while at the county fair. We should celebrate and foster these developmental milestones in the fun and exciting environment of fairs.

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