Skip Navigation

Table of Contents - 4-H Cloverbud Policies C.3.

Print Friendly

What is a Cloverbud?

Cloverbud is a term used to identify 4-H members who are 5 through 8 years old. Any Maine youth between the 4-H ages of 5 and 8 years old may join the 4-H program.

Participation, safety, personal development, learning, and fun in a cooperative, non-competitive setting are the priorities of the Cloverbud program. Cloverbuds experience programs that are developmentally appropriate, activity-oriented, involve cooperative learning, and are focused on learning activity skills and life skills through a wide variety of topic areas. Participation in activities is available at the club, county, and state level.

This policy has been created for the protection of our youth and our volunteers and staff.  The policy will help us make sure that our programs for our youngest members are safe and developmentally appropriate while offering guidance on the many ways that young 4-H members can participate.  This policy, which complies with the national Cloverbud policy, insures that volunteers who are following the policy will be covered by University liability coverage.  Volunteers acting outside the policy cannot be assured of this coverage.

C.3.1  Cloverbuds in clubs

  • Cloverbud members may participate in multi-age clubs or in clubs that are limited to members 5 through 8 years old.  Counties and volunteers may decide what kinds of clubs they would like to offer.
  • No matter what the club format, 5 through 8 year old activities must meet the requirements of the Maine Cloverbud policy.
  • When 5 through 8 year old members enroll, their project area (on the back of the enrollment sheet) should always be listed as 60074 “Introduction to 4-H Projects” FD
  • Programs for Cloverbuds should consist of introductory level (“sampler”) activities that build skills in a variety of 4-H project areas. (Fact sheets with information and ideas about these activities will be available soon.)
  • When 5 through 8 year olds participate in multi-age club activities, activities should be modified or another activity substituted if the activity is inappropriate for the age group for safety, skill level, or attention span reasons.
  • In any setting, the adult: youth ratio for this age group should be 1:6.  Adults working with the youth should be VOLT trained or working under the direction of a VOLT trained volunteer.
  • While Cloverbuds may not hold elected club offices, they should have a chance to learn about club leadership roles.  Assigning short term officer roles by random drawing or rotation or shadowing older officers are ways for Cloverbuds to learn about club officer jobs.
  • Business meetings involving Cloverbuds should be brief and run by adults or older teens with the focus on learning about planning, decision-making and leadership skills.
  • Cloverbuds may not handle money.  They may be involved in club fundraising events with the direct supervision of an adult or older teen.  They may not go door to door to raise funds.

C.3.2  Cloverbud Activities

  • The purpose of the 5 through 8 year old program is to introduce young 4-H members to the full range of 4-H project areas.  Cloverbud “sampler” activities let them learn a variety of topics and skills that provide immediate positive feedback.  Curriculum resources specifically for Cloverbuds will be available through your county office.
  • A Cloverbud activity focuses on developing a skill or concept related to a short term experience.  4-H project work, a long-term planned course of study in one subject area, is designed for 4-H members 9 and older. The skills Cloverbuds learn from their activities will prepare them for project work later.
  • The 5 through 8 year old years are the time to build habits and skills to safely participate in 4-H projects independently as older 4-H members. An adult or experienced older teen should provide direct one-on-one supervision of Cloverbuds who are using potentially harmful tools such as scissors, knives, needles, hammers, etc.  Cloverbuds may not independently operate power-driven equipment such as sewing machines, power drills, small engines, clippers, etc. By learning a progression of skills under careful supervision of an adult or experienced teen, Cloverbuds should begin to master the skills needed to use this equipment as an older 4-H member. Portions of activities requiring the use of items such as rotary cutters, hot glue guns, power tools, roto-tillers and other tools with high potential for injury should be carried out when Cloverbud members are not nearby.
  • Cloverbuds must use appropriate safety equipment such as helmets, life jackets, safety glasses, hard toed shoes, etc as required.
  • Cloverbuds should have the opportunity to be introduced to simple record keeping skills using an age appropriate method such as the Maine 4-H Cloverbuds Activity Record.

C.3.3  Cloverbuds and Fairs

  • While Cloverbuds may not participate as competitive exhibitors in any 4-H events, they are encouraged to participate in fairs and other county events on other ways.
  • Cloverbuds are encouraged to exhibit their activities in 4-H Exhibit Halls.  As exhibitors, they should receive a standard participation ribbon or other small token as designed or chosen by each county/fair.  Cloverbuds may not receive premiums. However, a small honorarium may be paid to the club or the member in an amount to be determined by each county/fair.
  • Although Cloverbud exhibits are not ranked or scored, it is important for the children to receive feedback on their exhibits.  They may participate in a “show and tell” activity about their exhibit or receive written feedback that includes positive encouragement and constructive suggestions for growth. (A fact sheet “Cloverbuds and Fair Participation” will be available.)
  • Each county/fair may determine how Cloverbud exhibits will be displayed, either in a separate area, within each club’s area, etc.
  • Cloverbuds may not show any animals competitively in 4-H classes at Maine fairs or other 4-H events.
    • 8 year old members may participate in a non-competitive “demonstration show” with one-on-one supervision with a rabbit, dog, poultry, kid goat or non-market, lamb, piglet, or small calf. (Volunteers should insure that the calf is small enough to be handled safely and controlled by the adult or older youth.
    • 5 through 7 year olds may participate in a clinic, skill-a-thon or other educational activity with one-on-one adult supervision with adults or older teens with at least 3 years experience maintaining primary control of the animal. This activity may occur in a show ring or other public area that is small enough to allow for good control of the animals being used.
    • Cloverbuds may receive standard participation ribbons or other identical tokens for participation in these events as determined by each county/fair. Premiums are not permitted.  A small honorarium in an amount to be determined by each county/fair may be provided to the club or the member in an amount to be determined by each county/fair, but this should not be comparable to premiums received by older youth showing in competitive 4-H shows.
  • Any Maine Agricultural Fair age participation rules more restrictive than those of this policy take precedence.

C.3.4  Cloverbuds and Animals

  • The national 4-H policy states that for safety and developmental reasons, 5 through 8 year olds may not have animal projects, but recognizes along with Maine 4-H that engaging 5 to 8 year olds in activities with animals builds long-term interest in working with animals.  Therefore, carefully structured, well supervised activities with animals are encouraged.
  • Cloverbud animal activities are designed to introduce 5 through 8 year olds to various kinds of animals and to develop safe basic care and handling skills.
  • One-on-one supervision by an adult or experienced older teen who maintains ultimate control of the animal is required any time a 5 through 8 year old is working with any animal regardless of size.
  • The focus of Cloverbud animal activities is on learning through activities other than livestock showing such as clinics, skill-a-thons, and pairing up with older 4-H member “animal buddies”  to learn about the care and training of the animals.
  • Because Cloverbuds do not do projects, they do not have project animals and are not permitted to have Animal Approval Forms.

Cloverbud animal activities are designed to introduce 5-8 year olds to various kinds of animals and to develop safe basic care and handling skills. In order to insure the safety of both the child and the animal, whenever 4-H Cloverbud members have direct contact with animals, the contact must take place with direct one-on-one assistance from a responsible parent, volunteer, or experienced older teen who has ultimate control of the animal.  The parent, volunteer or teen must be with the child at all times when the child is in contact with the animal regardless of the size of the animal. (A good developmental resource about the skills needed to work with animals is the North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks Best Practices for Animal Care, which is available at some county offices.

Key Components of Cloverbud work with animals:

  • The focus of Cloverbud animal activities is on learning through activities other than livestock showing. Activities should be planned within the context of the eight 4-H curriculum areas (Plants and Animals, Citizenship and Civic Education, Healthy Life Styles, Personal Development, Science and Technology, Communications and Expressive Arts, Family and Consumer Sciences, and Environmental Education/Earth Sciences) and should offer experiences that address all of these areas.
  • All Cloverbud activities should build positive self image, cooperative and social skills, excitement about learning, and strong relationships with caring adults and older youth.  Any Cloverbud animal activities should be carried out with these goals in mind.
  • The animals that Cloverbuds work with should be small and young enough that the children can establish dominance and allow their skills to grow with the animal.
  • Activities that involve measuring, observing, physical activity, and that stimulate immediate positive responses from the animals are appropriate for this age group.
  • The animals used should be used to being around people and other animals and to distractions such as noise and sudden movement.
  • Children’s clothing and footwear should be selected with safety in mind.  Hard shoes or boots should be used.  Long sleeved shirts are important when working with smaller animals that might scratch.
  • As children are introduced to grooming, they may only use sharp or power equipment such as clippers under the direct supervision of an adult who controls the equipment.  As skills increase, the member may have increasingly more control over the tool, but direct supervision continues to be required.

Standard safety skills that children need to master over the period of years they are in Cloverbuds include:

  • The ability to approach animals from the side, not behind, without startling.
  • The ability to be cautious about opening and closing gates and entering an animal’s space.
  • The ability to place a halter on animals requiring this.
  • The ability to identify safety hazards such as broken boards, uneven ground, and animal behaviors that indicate that an animal is fearful.
  • The ability to respond safely to unpredictable animal behavior

With closely supervised contact, Cloverbud members can:

  • Learn to feed, water, and do basic grooming of very small calves
  • Learn feeding, watering, basic grooming, and hand milking of dairy goats
  • Raise and train rabbits, cavies, other small pets, very young poultry, a young lamb, kid goat, or feeder piglet, or very small calf under one-on-one adult supervision.
  • Learn basic care and simple obedience commands with safe, well-socialized dogs. Puppies take time to become developmentally ready for obedience lessons, may require lots of extra help for Cloverbuds to manage, especially in a public situation, and so may not be the best choice for some Cloverbud activities.
  • Ride horses with the assistance of an adult or older teen who is on the ground holding the halter and lead.  4-H Cloverbuds must wear ASTM approved helmets for all Cloverbud horse experiences.

Because Cloverbuds do not have project animals, they do not have to own or lease the animals they work with and do not have to fill out animal approval forms.  Sharing an animal with an older ”animal buddy” is a great way for Cloverbuds to learn about animal care and future projects.

C.3.4.a  Cloverbuds and Animal Activities — Participating In Public Events

Cloverbuds may not participate in competitive show situations.  Five to seven year olds may participate with an animal in a clinic, skill-a-thon or other educational event as long as they have one-on-one assistance from a knowledgeable adult or older teen who has ultimate control of the animal.

These experiences might include:

  • Learning to lead the animal,
  • Following directions,
  • Watching the judge, and
  • Attempting to set or pose animals in position

Eight year olds may participate in a demonstration show situation which allows them to do the activities expected in an animal show, but that is not ranked competitively.

In all cases:

  • One-on-one supervision with an adult or older teen maintaining ultimate control of the animal is required,
  • Cloverbud participants will receive identical forms of recognition.

All events should take place in an area large enough to make sure all participants and their animals have room to move around without bumping into each other, but small enough to contain the animals if they should get away.  This area should be located away from anything that would distract the child or scare the animals.  Large show ring areas should be made smaller by using portable fencing. If the group is too large for each child to have a safe space, the group should be divided up.

Sales and auction activities are not appropriate for this age group.

In some cases, fairs and other non-4-H organizations may offer activities for 5 to 8 year olds which are not consistent with Maine Cloverbud policies.  Participation in these events is the decision of the member’s family and is not considered a Maine 4-H Youth Development activity.  It is important for the sponsoring unit to take every possible precaution to insure the safety of the child.  Parents and volunteers must understand that liability for an accident may rest with the sponsoring agency and individuals who allowed the child to show.

C.3.4.b  Cloverbuds and Animal Activities — Suggestions For Cloverbud Club Animal Activities

These are some of the suggestions for safe, non-competitive animal related activities to keep kids engaged and excited about future animal projects submitted in responses to the Cloverbud survey sent to volunteers in 2006. Remember the guidelines about safety and supervision discussed above as these activities are planned and carried out.

  • Dog- “younger members enjoy outings, simple fund-raising and creating toys or treats for their dogs”
  • Meeting working dogs-service, search and rescue, therapy and approved types of fundraising to support their work
  • Dairy- visit a farm, learn how milking is done, make a food using dairy products
  • Sheep- learn body parts and about fleece, play games
  • Have younger children observe the older children and have them become comfortable with being around the animals. Watching the older kids to learn ‘what I can do when I get bigger”
  • Pet show and tell at the fair
  • Club could feature an animal each year – learn about taking care of the animal, do drawing and painting activities etc. around that type of animal – have a special display at the fair with all the related projects
  • Kids with similar animals could make a group project like a calendar
  • Dress up pets and do photography projects
  • Make story books about their pets and how to care for them
  • Make foods or projects from their animal products (eggs, milk, wool etc)
  • Have a mini-show to practice showing skills
  • Field trips to farms, veterinarian offices to learn about animal care
  • Pair younger children with older teens or adults to help the child raise a small animal and then they pair up to show the animal without premiums
  • Educational workshops for younger members
  • “At the very minimum, being present at livestock activities is helpful – to observe what older members are doing, how they handle their animals, prepare for show, act in and out of the show ring will give them a feel for the event”
  • Learn to identify poisonous plants, make first aid kits for outings and barns
  • Posters, notebooks, scrapbooks,
  • Parade of animals, shown a few at a time with one-on-one adult or older youth in control of the animal-everyone gets a ribbon
  • Chance to be in the show ring with help to learn how to show
  • Interactivity is key – things where they can learn, repeat back and share with others quickly solidifies their enthusiasm and learning
  • Teach general things about the animals-children will find their special interest and will want to be specific from there

As 4-H Cloverbud volunteer leaders work with youth, they will develop many ways to incorporate animal activities into Cloverbud activity areas.  Here are some suggestions.

Plants and Animals

  • Identifying species, breeds, parts and tracks of animals
  • Identifying plants that animals eat
  • Recognizing differences between animals

Citizenship and Civic Education

  • Welcoming visitors to shows at the fair, doing opening flag ceremonies at livestock shows
  • Doing community service for an animal shelter or rescue group
  • Developing rules for behavior around animals

Healthy Life Styles

  • Playing active games pretending to be animals
  • Exploring what animals eat, learn how good animal nutrition parallels good nutrition for them
  • Identifying food products from animals

Personal Development

  • Learning to make a family decisions about getting animals
  • Recognizing ways that animals are alike and different (appreciating diversity)
  • Learning about good character related to animal care and exhibiting

Science and Technology

  • Selecting and identifying equipment
  • Observing animal behavior
  • Learning livestock terms
  • Determining an animal’s age

Communications and Expressive Arts

  • Make posters, story books, or models of animals
  • Sing songs about animals
  • Act out animal characteristics or animal care and showing activities
  • Help create photo or video stories about animals

Family and Consumer Sciences

  • Cook with products from farm animals
  • Sew items that can be used by animals, i.e. blankets, halter bags,
  • Create simple budgets for animal care

Environmental Education/Earth Sciences

  • Learn the significance of locally raised foods
  • Learn ways that animals benefit the farmers and the earth – manure, clearing brush and eating weeds, sustainable fibers
  • Use recycled materials to make items for animals

C.3.4.c  Cloverbuds and Animals — In Conclusion

The over-arching priority for the Cloverbud program is first and foremost safety for Maine’s 5 to 8 year old members and secondly that these members receive programming that fits their stage of development. Maine’s Cloverbud program provides fun, participation, love of learning, the experience of success, an introduction to all of the 4-H curriculum areas, and a chance to develop on-going relationships with adults and older teens beyond the family.  Volunteers and parents should keep firmly in mind that while animal activities are an important tool to help achieve these goals, they are just that, a tool, and as such must always be used to promote the key goals of the Cloverbud program.


Back to Table of Contents