A Guide to 4-H Written by Someone Who is Still Figuring it All Out

By Rachel Hoverman, Program Coordinator, 4-H Youth Development

Perhaps your child brought home 4-H promotional items from school or has befriended someone whose family has been in 4-H for generations and now they want to get involved. The information that came home is confusing to you and your child’s friends’ parents aren’t helping. Now what? Are you hoping the papers get buried and your kid forgets about it? Let me try and sort some things out for you.

What the heck is 4-H?

4-H is the largest positive youth development organization in the country. 4-H welcomes ALL young people, empowering them to create positive change in their communities. In 4‑H, kids complete  hands-on projects in areas like health, science, agriculture and civic engagement where they receive guidance from adults and are encouraged to take on leadership roles.

To break it down, 4-H members join a club, attend meetings, choose a project, attend an interview and show off their project at the county fair.

  1. Joining a club: Ask you county professional for a list of 4-H clubs. Read it over. Find a club that meets near your home, in your child’s school or church or one that has an adviser that you like. Your child can join any club you want within the county. If you want them to join a club in a different county, there’s some paperwork that you’ll have to do.
  2. Attend meetings: Most clubs hold meetings once or twice a month. Meetings have four parts: project work, business, recreation and social activities and special interest programs (a guest speaker or field trip).
  3. Choosing a project: Someone might ask your child what project she wants to “take”. This is what they will work on, on their own, for that 4-H year. They can literally do anything they are interested in. Your adviser will order a coordinating project book that will be your child’s manual. Over 200 projects are listed in the Family Guide publication.
  4. Attending an interview: For your child to complete their project, they will have to attend an interview session. We call it “judging”. Your child will make a poster-board display explaining their project or bring something they made. Your child will talk with an adult about their project and the adult will ask a few questions. Interviews last 10-15 minutes. Your child may win a ribbon or be selected to take their project to the state fair.
  5. County Fair: 4-H members will display their completed project at the county fair and receive a small cash prize for doing so. The county fair is the end of the 4-H year for most members.

So that’s the basics, here’s the answers to a few more questions you may have:

  • When should I sign my child up? The deadline to get signed up for 4-H is April 1st (You might start to receive promotional materials in February and March). By April 1st, your child should be signed up with a club and have picked a project.
  • How much is this going to cost me? Project books usually cost around $6.00, the club may have dues (usually around $10.00) and you may need to buy supplies for your poster-board display for the interview. If you’re not sure you can manage these costs, I can help you get them covered.
  • What ages can participate? Basically children 8-19 can be 4-H members. (Officially, they need to be 8 and in the third grade or 9 and in any grade, when it’s time to get signed up). Your 4-H membership ends December 31st of the year you turn 19.
  • Can younger children get involved? Children 5-8 (and at least in Kindergarten) can participate as “Cloverbuds”. This just means that they don’t do the competitive side of 4-H, like the judging or taking an animal to the fair. They still attend meetings but are given some different things to do.

This is a pretty basic guide to an organization that has many facets. As your child gets older, they might want to attend 4-H camp or join a specialty club. You get to choose the level of involvement you’re comfortable with. Whatever you decide, 4-H is a great way for your child to learn more about something they are interested in, in a low-cost, hands-on, social way.

Are you wanting a little more information? Please fell free to call your county 4-H professionals. We love to talk about 4-H and what we think it does for kids! You can also pick up a state and county Family Guide and visit the state and county 4-H websites. http://vanwert.osu.edu  or www.ohio4H.org. We also have an app and a Facebook page!