Top 10 reasons to join 4-H

As families continue to search for resources and support for their children amid COVID-19 uncertainty, 4-H is ready to help youth learn the skills needed to thrive, according to Karla Deaver, County Engagement Specialist in 4-H Youth Development with University of Missouri Extension.

“Now more than ever, families need the flexibility that 4-H provides,” said Deaver. “4-H can be tailored to each individual child’s needs. We provide a safe environment where youth can learn about subjects that interest them, have fun, make friends, and participate in new experiences. 4-H connects youth with caring adults who guide them in these experiences,” Deaver said. So, with a nod to David Letterman, here are the top 10 reasons to join 4-H.

10. 4-H opens doors to new experiences. Youth can try out different interests in projects to see what they might like to pursue in greater depth. There is even a project called Exploring the Treasures of 4-H that allows them to try activities from several different projects at the same time.

9. 4-H is not just for youth. While membership is for youth ages 5-18, the entire family is encouraged to be involved. Parents and grandparents can serve as project and club leaders. Family memories are made working on projects and exhibits, going to fairs, and participating in club and group outings.

8. 4-H provides a great way for children to explore different careers. By experiencing different projects, youth can try out their interests. Children interested in becoming a veterinarian can enroll in the Veterinary Science project. Maybe they are interested in science and technology. Enrolling in robotics or aerospace allows them to learn more about those careers.

7. 4-H believes in learning by doing. Activities are hands-on and experiential. This type of learning engages children more effectively, allowing them to develop fine motor skills and engage multiple areas of the brain. Hands-on learning frequently results in better knowledge retention. Through the process of reflection, children learn to apply concepts they have learned to other areas of their lives.

6. 4-H is a safe place to fail—and succeed. In the experiential learning process, youth practice decision-making and problem-solving. When an approach fails, they can try a different approach until they get a more desirable outcome and ultimately succeed. They can experience failure and success with the guidance of a caring adult to help them process those outcomes and learn from them. This process of trying, making mistakes, and trying again, enables youth to master skills.

5. 4-H teaches practical skills. Projects like sewing, woodworking, welding, food preparation, gardening and more provide knowledge of skills youth will need throughout their lives. By learning these skills, youth gain confidence and independence.

4. 4-H teaches kids to be self-reliant. Building on #5, practical skills, 4-H provides knowledge of essential skills youth will need in adulthood. Concepts such as money management and budgeting can be learned through financial literacy projects or serving as a club treasurer. Time management, setting priorities and taking care of one’s personal belongings are learned at camps and conferences.

3. 4-H members practice giving back to their communities. As one of the pillars of 4-H, enrolled youth are four times more likely to be engaged in community service and service learning than their non-4-H peers. A wide variety of service projects are available to youth. Most clubs search for service projects that suit members’ interests. This allows the service to be more meaningful to the involved youth.

2. 4-H members make life-long friends. Friendships are forged during shared experiences such as county fairs, camps, trips and more. Many 4-H alumni talk about the friendships made in 4-H and how they maintain those friendships into adulthood.

1. 4-H prepares youth for life by teaching the skills needed in adulthood. These life skills are woven into the fabric of each and every 4-H activity. Youth learn skills in knowledge, reasoning and creativity; personal and social skills; vocational and

citizenship skills; and health and physical skills. By using experiential learning to teach these skills in fun ways, youth learn how they can apply the skills they learn in 4-H to other aspects of their daily lives.

4-H helps prepare kids for life. 4-H members from across the country tell us they have developed skills in leadership, public speaking, self-esteem, communication and planning through their 4-H experiences.

These are just a few of the many reasons why families get involved in 4-H. The new 4-H year begins October 1. Whether you agree with these reasons, or have your own, the important thing is to get involved. Take the steps to connect with a 4-H program near you.

As America’s largest youth development organization, 4-H offers youth, families, and adult volunteers of all ages many ways to engage, grow and serve—through clubs, camps, contests, conferences, special interest groups, in-school and afterschool programs, and more! It’s about young people making new friends and memories while preparing to be future leaders—from both rural and urban areas. For more information on how to get involved in 4-H, visit the Missouri 4-H website at