Scott D. Scheer, State Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development, Preadolescent Education
Who Are These K-2 Children: Characteristics and Abilities
There is so much to say about the developmental characteristics of 5 to 8 year old children that this will be an overview to serve as a guide as we work with children in this age group. Children develop in many ways: physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. All of these components influence each other and do not act alone but together to make up the whole developing child. Children do not grow and develop at the same rate; each child is unique and matures in their own time and way. For children to increase the five life skills of the Cloverbud program (self-esteem, getting along with others, physical mastery, decision making, and learning to learn) it must be carried out at the age appropriate level of the Cloverbud children. If activities are too easy or too difficult we cannot help them improve on these life skills. Therefore it is essential that we are aware of the children's developmental characteristics and abilities.
How to Use Cloverbud Curriculum
When planning lessons for 4-H Cloverbuds, it is important to remember the learning level of the group of children. Five year olds need more guidance and assistance with the activities in the lessons. Most five year olds rely on picture recognition instead of written instruction. Remember this group is kindergarten age, and most kindergarten children begin to read short three word sentences at the end of their kindergarten year. Children this age are learning to write their names and the alphabet, which means written activities should not be included or children will become frustrated. Parental involvement is encouraged and can be done in a variety of ways. Asking a parent to take a turn helping for one session or having one parent as a volunteer for all the meetings are a couple of ideas. The other end of the Cloverbud age spectrum is the eight-year-old child. Children in this age group can accomplish written tasks.
There is no specific order in which the curriculum lessons should be taught. However, keep in mind these points:
- Children identify with the activity if it is applicable to their lives or experiences such as one of the citizenship lessons before 4th of July or Flag Day.
- Try lessons from as many of the different subjects as possible. Instead of focusing on all of the Personal Development lessons, use lessons from some of the areas, like Science and Technology or Healthy Lifestyle. This allows children to explore different subjects of interest. All children are not interested in the same subjects or materials.
Keeping Cloverbud Attention
Young children have short attention spans, especially if there are distractions around them (Enns & Akhtar, 1989). Cloverbud aged children have a difficult time focusing their attention on one thing while ignoring other things that might be going on at the same time. As children get older their ability to focus and filter out undesirable stimuli improves.
Suggestion One: Conduct the activity in a room or outside where other groups are not present that may be distracting (i.e., the older 4-H Club).
Suggestion Two: Have only materials needed for the activity out and available for the children to help them keep focus.
Suggestion Three: Kindly remind them to pay attention if they begin to wonder mentally and physically away from the activity.
Suggestion Four: If the children are engaged and interested in the current activity, let them continue in an unhurried manner.
Source: Enns, J. T., & Akhtar (1989). A developmental study of filtering in visual attention. Child Development, 60, 1188-1199.
Coping with Cloverbud Kids in Conflict
Children at one time or another will have conflict with each other (sharing materials or play space) or with themselves (understanding material or having difficulties participating) when involved in Cloverbud activities. Conflictual experiences can hinder the development of self-understanding and social-interaction skills when not handled properly. When working with Cloverbud youth, we can help them by using the following conflict resolution techniques:
- Approach children calmly—a peaceful, calm, adult demeanor will help them sort through the problem to reach a solution.
- Acknowledge their feelings—simply state the feelings you observe. Such a statement helps children identify and understand why they are having feelings of frustration or anger.
- Gather information about the problem—listen to each child's point of view. This will help you understand the situation as the children see it and to discover with them what to do next.
- Restate the problem—repeat what the children have said to convey that their point of view has been heard; it also allows more time for emotions to settle.
- Ask for feedback and ideas to solve problems—open a dialogue with the children to consider various solutions to the problem; help them consider the consequences of their suggestions.
- Give support—be there to help the children carry out the solution (Graves, 1996).