Michigan 4-H Participant Age Policy to change September 1

Eight-year-olds and their parents will have the opportunity to enjoy the full 4-H member experience with Michigan 4-H in the 2018-2019 program year.

Eight-year-olds and their parents will have the opportunity to enjoy the full 4-H member experience with Michigan 4-H in the 2018-2019 program year. Beginning September 1, Michigan 4-H, the youth development program of Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, will lower the beginning age for 4-H members to age 8.

Currently, Michigan 4-H is open to youth ages 5 to 19, and children ages 5 to 8 are considered 4-H Cloverbud members. This exploratory category helps children enjoy activity-based, noncompetitive, educational fun. Youth ages 9 to 19 take part in the 4-H member experience, which offers both competitive and noncompetitive activities designed to develop and improve skills in multiple areas. However, starting September 1, 2018, children who will reach their eighth birthday by Jan. 1, 2019, will take part in the full 4-H member experience. The 4-H Cloverbud experience will remain available to children ages 5 to 7.

“We are excited to be welcoming 8-year-olds into the full 4-H member experience this fall,” said Jake DeDecker, acting state 4-H leader for Michigan 4-H and associate director of MSU Extension’s children and youth programs. “The current Cloverbud 4-H age policy was put into place more than 10 years ago. As a part of our ongoing commitment to provide research-based youth development experiences, we decided to reevaluate the policy.”

DeDecker points out that National 4-H defines 4-H membership as open to all youth beginning at age 8 or fourth grade, and several other states’ 4-H programs have similar 4-H age policies. With this in mind, DeDecker and a team of early childhood and 4-H youth development staff began to review current research, best practices of other youth-serving organizations, and policies at other land grant universities. An in-depth literature review, conducted in partnership with the MSU Institute for Study of Youth Sports, helped the team gain insight into competitive readiness and relative age effect. In addition, the committee also found that many other youth development organizations, such as the National Alliance for Youth Sports, open up competition to youth starting at age 8.

“After reviewing this information and consulting with an array of MSU Extension early childhood and youth development staff, we decided to align with National 4-H and our counterparts in other states by adjusting our 4-H membership age to 8,” said DeDecker. “This will allow us to offer children an array of exciting and engaging experiences, while ultimately allowing parents and caregivers to make the decision of what is best for their particular child.”

Despite the policy change, age appropriateness and safety will remain a top consideration for all 4-H programming areas. As a result, Michigan 4-H will continue to support minimum age limits for certain learning environments that may not be appropriate for younger children. Additionally, individual county 4-H programs will also retain their right to determine the beginning age for 4-H involvement within that county, as long as the minimum age of participation is no lower than age 5.

To learn more, view the Michigan 4-H Participant Age Policy. To learn more about Michigan 4-H, visit 4h.msue.msu.edu or contact your local MSU Extension office.

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