What Can Cloverbuds Do with Animals?

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.