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Healthy Living Club Activities For 4-H Members and Volunteers

Youth preparing healthy dish.Healthy Living is one of the 4-H’s.  While your club may not specifically focus on what is traditionally considered to be “healthy living” activities, you might be surprised about much your 4-H club is contributing to the mental and physical well-being of youth members. After we recognize that all our clubs have a role to play in implementing healthy living strategies across the county 4-H program, we can start to consider ways to be intentional in how we incorporate healthy living into 4-H activities and projects.

What does a 4-H Healthy Living program include?  A 4 H Healthy Living program or strategy is any activity or program component that can help youth lead lives that balance physical, mental, and emotional health.

According to the National 4-H Council, 4-H Healthy Living programs include objectives that can help “empower youth to be healthy – body and mind – with the skills to make healthy decisions and lead healthy lifestyles. Having the confidence and skills to lead healthy lifestyles not only improves overall well-being; it enables youth to tackle life’s challenges today and become leaders in their lives, careers, and communities as they grow into responsible adulthood” (National 4-H Council, 2021).  Your club focus might fit into one of the following program areas: mind, body, leadership, or mentorship.

As a club leader, you may encourage your youth to adopt goals and projects that will cover multiple program areas. Introducing healthy living during club meetings is another way to incorporate these concepts and help youth develop healthier habits.

With so many possible topics to consider, it may seem overwhelming to choose a starting point. In this article, a few suggestions will be explored.

Sleep

It may be surprising to learn that youth, like adults, are not getting enough sleep.  Regularly missing hours of sleep or experiencing poor sleep quality can contribute to a variety of issues for youth.   The Sleep Foundation is one resource to use for tips on how to encourage our 4-H members to adopt better sleep habits (Pacheco, 2021).

Some ideas for helping your 4-H youth learn about the importance of sleep and how to develop better sleep habits include the activities and lessons listed in the links below this paragraph.  Consider challenging your youth to set healthy sleep goals for one month. Discuss the potential benefits during your goal setting activity.  At the end of the month, discuss how youth felt on days when the sleep goals were met and how they felt on days when they did not meet their goal.

Activity for Teens (Intermediates and Seniors)

University of Wisconsin Extension. 2007. “4-H Get Fit, That’s It. Lesson 2: Are You Getting Enough Sleep.”  Link to activity: https://api.ag.purdue.edu/api/DepotWS/File.ashx?t=f&i=98730

Activity for Elementary School Age (Juniors 4-H Members)

The Nemours Foundation. 2015. Sleep. Kids’ Health in the Classroom.

https://classroom.kidshealth.org/classroom/3to5/body/functions/sleep.pdf

Hydration

One way to incorporate a healthy living strategy into your 4-H program is offering water at all your meetings and limiting the inclusion of other beverages. A 4-H lesson on hydration can include STEM principles as youth can calculate their daily water needs based on their body weight. A fun way to encourage water consumption is to personalize reusable water bottles as a club activity and to award points to youth who remember to bring their bottles to meetings and activities.

All Ages Lesson and Activity

National 4-H Council.2020. How Much Water Do You Need? 4-H Healthy Living Activity Guide.

https://4-h.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/4H-Healthy-Living-Activity-Guide.pdf

Other Ways to Incorporate Healthy Living into Your Club Programs

Activities designed to improve sleep and hydration are only two of many possible ways to incorporate healthy living into your 4-H program. Healthy Living activities can incorporate exercise, nutrition,  and ways to improve and maintain mental health.

Resources

Caruso, L.; Shelnut, K.; Kauwell, G. 2017. Hydration Myths. UF/IFAS Extension. Retrieved January 16, 2022 from https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/FY1409.

National 4-H Council. 2021. Healthy Living.  Retrieved January 16, 2022 from https://4-h.org/parents/healthy-living/.

Pacheco, D. 2021.  Children and Sleep.  The National Sleep Foundation.  Retrieved January 16, 2022 from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep.

University of California 4-H Youth Development Program. 2022. Sleep for Better Living. Retrieved January 16, 2022 from https://4h.ucanr.edu/Projects/HealthyLiving/Sleep_for_Better_Living/

Keep Mindfulness through the Holiday Back To School Transition

The holidays are a joyous and wonderful time of year, but can also be very busy time, and at times, overwhelming. Now that we are back it is time to Children shift into the organized, orderly school day from that unstructured holiday break schedule. As a result, it is inevitable that children may feel some degree of stress from these transitions.  Children and teens are still learning to regulate emotions, making them more susceptible to change’s resulting in stress.

Mindfulness is the act of creating awareness of your surroundings, emotions, and physical self in the present moment. It helps you connect to the world around you, while providing cognitive, social, and emotional benefits. Practicing mindfulness is not just for adults. Children can reap a multitude of benefits from learning and practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness equips children with the ability to adjust and deal with conflict encountered in their daily lives. It can also help children foster an optimistic outlook in life, react to stress in a healthy way, and develop a positive self-concept.

The practice of mindfulness is foreign to some adults, making it tricky to teach and model for young children. The best thing to do is keep the message simple and focus on modeling the behaviors. Being taught by an adult that models mindful behaviors daily will assist youth in mastering the techniques. Below are a few mindfulness activities you can do at home as a family or in a group learning environment, such as a 4-H club meeting.

Enjoy Nature

Going on a mindful walk is a simple way to help clear your mind and restore your focus. Taking a nature walk around your neighborhood or park is an easy way to exercise your mindfulness skills and enjoy nature. You can make it exciting by telling them you are going on a “mindfulness safari” and the goal is to see how many different birds, insects, and animals you can find on your journey. Below are some tips for going on a mindful walk:

  • Start at a slow pace and gradually increase as the walk continues.
  • Pay attention to the feeling in your legs and feet as you take each step. Then, notice how your arms and torso feel as you walk.
  • Notice any smells around you.
  • Listen to the variety of sounds around you. Notice if the sounds are close or far away.

    Youth on a nature walk

    Talking a walk in nature is a simple way to practice mindfulness Photo by Allison Leo

Meditate

Contrary to what you may think, you do not have to sit silently on the ground with your eyes closed to mediate. You can meditate while you are walking, eating, or doing household chores. The goal of meditation is to slow down and be in the moment. Guided meditation led by a family member are a way to relax and help reduce stress. Below is guided meditation titled “Relationship Fingers” from the University of Minnesota Extension.

Relationship Fingers – Start by holding out your hand with your thumb pointed towards yourself. Take a breath. For each finger we are going to be focusing on a relationship we have with someone. There is no ‘right’ person so don’t worry about who you choose.

  • Start by holding your pinky finger and think of someone who is far away from you. Take a breath for them. Really look at that relationship. What do you notice?
  • Next focus or touch your ring finger. Think of someone who is leaning on you right now or who may be more vulnerable in this moment. Take a breath for them. Really look at that relationship. What do you notice?
  • Hold or focus on your middle finger and think of a leader in your life. Take a breath for them. Really look at that relationship. What do you notice?
  • Focus on your pointer finger and think of someone who is close to you. Take a breath for them. Really look at that relationship. What do you notice?
  • Last, hold or focus on your thumb. Consider the relationship you have with yourself. Take a good look. What do you notice? What are you committed to? Take one last breath and shake it out.

Gratitude

When we feel and express gratitude to people in our lives, it creates loving connections, builds trust, and makes us feel joyful. Gratitude can be shown by giving someone a hug or telling them how much you appreciate them. Gratitude journals can easily be made at home or you can print off a pre-made template. This version is simple and is a great start for kids: https://researchparent.com/gratitude-journal-for-kids/.

  • What’s the best book you’ve ever read? What did you like best about the characters?
  • Name one thing that makes you smile every time you hear or see it. Why?
  • Describe one thing that made you feel cozy today.
  • Who is the one friend you can always rely on?
  • What are five things you are looking forward to next year?
image of page with questions to help kids be mindful

Gratitude Journals are a simple mindfulness activity kids can complete every day

Walker, K., Sharpe, K., Anderson, M., Caines, T., Johnson, C., Kennedy, D., Nguyen, K., Odendahl, S., & Santl, K. (2021). Social Emotional Wellbeing: A Guide to Support Youth Thriving. St. Paul: Regents of the University of Minnesota.

Back to School Family Guide

It’s hard to believe it is time for a new school year!  The past couple of years have been unusual to say the least, but we have curated some of our top tips to help parents, grandparents and caregivers set their youth up for success. Check out the articles below to plan for a safe and stress-free return to school:

  1. Strategies for Back to School Savings– one of our most popular posts about teaching financial management and consumer skills while shopping for back to school
  2. Tips for a Successful School Year– a planning checklist to set your child up for success
  3. Preparing Your Child Emotionally for a New School– if your child is attending a new school this fall, this article will help you prepare him or her emotionally
  4. Out of the Box Lunch Ideas– Healthy but not boring lunch ideas for school (and work too)!
  5. Control those Germs Gathered at School- this post was written pre-pandemic, but the tips are especially relevant now!
  6. Setting up a Homework Center– A homework center can help young people stay focused and organized, and is not difficult to set up.
  7. Setting up a Home Communication Center– When kids start participating in sports, 4-H and other extracurricular activities, a home communication center can help streamline schedules and keep everyone on the same page.
  8. 4-H Opportunities at School– Many schools and afterschool care centers in Florida offer 4-H programming; check out this post for information about opportunities to extend your child’s 4-H experience!

 

National Freezer Pop Day- How to make Freezer Pops

Summer is upon us and so is the heat in the Florida Panhandle. Schools are out and the kids are at home needing activities to do together. Homemade Freezer Pops are an excellent source of fun! These popsicles can be secretly healthy and taste absolutely delicious. They don’t have to just be for the kids either, adults of all shapes and sizes can enjoy them too. In this article we will discuss what freezer pops are, how to make them, and a few tips for maximum enjoyment!

What are Freezer Pops?

A freezer pop is a frozen treat that generally comes in a clear, plastic tube. Freezer pops, not to be confused with popsicles which are typically consumed off a wooden popsicle stick, are found in grocery stores in unfrozen liquid form, ready for the consumer to pop them into their freezer at home! Once frozen solid, the consumer picks their flavor of choice, cuts open an end of the plastic tube, and simply squeezes or pushes the sweet ice out of the packaging.

Many of us know these sweet and fruity slushy pops as Otter Pops or Fla-Vor-Ice. These nostalgic treats are simply made from sweetened, colored, and flavored water.  With little nutritional value coming from the store-bought version, homemade freezer pops can be much more nutritious.  Keep following along to find out how to make these tasty treats!

How to make Homemade Freezer Pops

Freezer pops are super easy to make and are a healthier alternative to the nostalgic treat. Before you get started, you will need all the necessary supplies.  Supplies commonly found at home would include a freezer and a blender. Supplies that can be bought at the store are Zipzicles (a freezer pop reusable plastic bag) or silicone ice pop molds, fruit of your choice, and a natural sweetener like honey.

Step 1: Wash your hands! Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from spreading germs. You should wash hands before, during, and after preparing your food. To wash your hands the right way, first wet your hands with warm, clean, running water.  Then turn off the tap and apply your soap.  Lather your hands (make lots of white foams/bubbles) by rubbing them together with the soap. Make sure you lather the back of your hands, between your fingers, under your nails, and palm of your hands.  Scrub for about twenty seconds.  (Don’t know how long 20 seconds is? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from the beginning to the end twice!)  Finally, rinse your hands well under warm, clean, running water and either dry with a clean towel or air dry. (1)

Step 2: Gather your ingredients to be blended. There are lots of  fruits  that make great homemade ice pops: watermelon, orange, pineapple, mango, raspberry, honeydew, cantaloupe, and strawberry! (3)

One of my favorite recipes for freezer pops uses 10 ounces of ripe berries, ~½ a cup of water, and 1-2 tablespoons of honey. If the fruit  you use is very juicy, you may not have to use as much water but remember, the more water that you use, the icier the pop will become in the freezer. You can also use either lemon or  lime juice to add a little flavor boost!. (3) The amount of sweetener needed varies as the sugar content of the berries can vary. If the berries are ripe and sweet, use a little less sweetener. If the berries are not as ripe, simply use a little more sweetener. Then blend all the ingredients together completely, until smooth!

Step 3: Fill individual baggies of your choosing. Make sure to not over fill the bags.

Step 4: Freeze the freezer pops for ~ 2 to 4 hours before enjoying. If you consume them around 2 hours, they may not be as solid as they will be at the 4-hour mark.

Step 5: Enjoy a refreshing treat!

Tips for Homemade Freezer Pops

  1. The sweetness of the chosen fruit will be muted  once frozen. Make sure to use over ripe fruit or added sweetener to keep the treat sweet.
  2. Use a funnel to fill your freezer pop bags. Using a funnel will keep you from making too much of a mess, and will also help you mind the “maximum fill line” on the bag. If you keep the contents you are pouring into the bag under the line, it will be easier to seal! \
  3. Just about anything that can be blended or pureed can be used for a freezer pop! Leftover smoothies, various fruit juices, and even sodas make for easy  treats! Check out the image below to see flavors others have created!  (4)

For National Freezer Pop Day, July 8th, 2021, enjoy making  homemade freezer pops  with your family! With a snip of the scissors, you’ll produce smiles with every sip. (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Hydration Day- Tips for Staying Hydrated

glass of waterIn the Panhandle of Florida, we are starting to get into the heat of the summer. With temperatures soaring, your sweat is going to start pouring. It is extremely important  to replace the fluids lost through sweating. In this article we will cover what hydrated versus dehydrated means, why it is important, and tips on how to stay hydrated in the Florida heat.

What is Hydration, and Why Does it Matter?

Hydration is the process of introducing our body to additional fluid (i.e. water). Dehydration is when you have used or lost more fluid that you are taking in. Your body is unable to continue functioning properly without fluids. Staying hydrated may seem like a difficult task, but it is extremely important for us to stay hydrated for optimal health and performance throughout the day. “Drinking enough water each day is crucial for many reasons: to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Being well hydrated also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood.” (1) Without staying hydrated, we can seriously harm ourselves. Whether you are considered youth or an adult, you can still lose approximately 40 percent (2) of your body’s water during hard work or exercise.

How to Stay Hydrated

  1. Drink lots of fluids:   Don’t wait till you are or feel thirsty to drink. By the time that you feel this, you are already slightly dehydrated. It is important to drink fluids, preferably water, throughout the day. During the summer, while it is hot, it should be a top priority to replenish fluids lost in our body. A good way to start the day is by drinking a glass of water when you wake up and get your body going. Fluids are fluids, but some fluids are better for us than others. When replenishing the fluids that we have lost through sweating, make sure that it is mainly from water. Some of the fluids can also be from flavored water, tea, or coffee. Try not to consume as many sugar-sweetened beverages, as many of them act as a diuretic. The sugar found in these drinks tends to draw the water out of your cells, making you feel thirsty a short time after drinking it. The sugar drawing the water out of cells will also make you need to urinate more quickly, therefore losing even more fluid. Something “punny” for this National Hydration Day: No matter how much soda I drink, I’m still so thirsty… I must be “soda-hydrated!”
  2. Eat Fuel Foods: Make sure that you are fueling body with the appropriate foods. Certain fruits and vegetables contain a large amount of water. Examples of water-rich fruits are: watermelon (its in the name!), strawberries, peaches, and pineapples. Some examples of vegetables with a high water content are: Cucumbers, leafy green (i.e. lettuce), celery, and tomatoes. Foods that are highly processed tend to be dehydrated and have lots of sugar or salt, which dehydrates you more.
  3. Look at the Weather: Stay inside when it gets too hot outside and when it is extremely humid. The sun is at its peak between 10 am and 2 pm every day, meaning that that is when it will be hottest outside. Plan necessary outdoor activities for the early morning or later in the evening. The higher the humidity, the more you are going to sweat.
  4. How to Dress: Make sure that you dress for the weather, appropriately. Loose fitting clothing allows your skin to breathe, keeping your body cooler. Lighter shades do not absorb the heat like dark colors. Wear a wide brimmed hat to keep your head cool. Also, use plenty of sunscreen. Getting sunburned is not just uncomfortable, it can also increase your skins’ temperature, making it hard to stay cool.

Signs of Dehydration:  Be aware of the signs of dehydration. As stated in number one, do not wait for the signs of dehydration to begin drinking fluids. Some of the signs of dehydration include but are not limited to: dark or smelly urine, vomiting, bad breath, dry mouth, irritability, confusion, and fatigue.  If you are dehydrated or have lost a lot of fluid through sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea please seek medical attention.

Some Tips for Staying Hydrated

I have a hard time getting myself to drink plenty of fluids, so below are a few tips that I try to follow to keep myself properly hydrated.

  1. Keep a bottle or glass of water by your bed. While you are sleeping, your body is not receiving any fluids, so it is becoming slightly dehydrated. Having water close by the bed means you do not have to get up and disrupt your sleep.
  2. Purchase a reusable water bottle. If you have a reusable glass or metal water bottle, you can keep it with you all the time. If you have easy access to water, you are more likely to drink it.
  3. Flavor your water. Plain water can become boring if you drink it all the time. Flavor your water with some fresh fruit or a flavoring packet.
  4. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of “good” fluids every day. Water is extremely good for you, but you can also consume clear broth, tea, coffee, or sports drinks. This will help prevent water from becoming boring. Just make sure that you limit the intake of caffeine and alcohol.
  5. Check the color of your urine. Believe it or not, this can be an good indicator as to whether you are hydrated or not. The paler, or more clear, your urine is, the more hydrated you are. If the urine you pass is darker, yellow or even orange, you are more than likely dehydrated.
  6. Download an app. There are apps on our phones for everything now-a-days. There are apps that can send you notifications to drink more water. Some of these apps are also capable of recording how much you drink.

Staying hydrated is extremely important, especially now that we are facing the “dog-days” of summer. Drink lots of fluids, but do not wait till you feel thirsty. The more that you sweat, the more fluids you need to take in. Download this hydration tip sheet to remember to stay hydrated!

Sources:

 

Celebrate National “Take a Kid Fishing” Day with 4-H!

photo of a girl with a fishing pole and fishIf you need a good reason to go fishing, we’ve got you!  Today is National Take a Kid Fishing Day, and we can’t think of a better reason to promote our 4-H fishing project. Our 4-H fishing project connects youth to the great outdoors and is an opportunity for youth to learn about:

  • Important angling skills, like casting and retrieving your line.
  • Different types of tackle and how they are used to catch fish.
  • How to take proper care of your rod and reel.
  • Cleaning and cooking your fish.
  • Ecology of aquatic and marine environments.
  • How to identify the different types of sportfish and how to catch them.
  • What it means to be a responsible angler.

Youth also learn about careers related to fisheries and wildlife, and their importance to the Florida economy. Florida is often called the fishing capitol of the world because the state holds more record fish catches than any other state or country! Fishing is important for many different reasons. Recreational fishing is a major economical driver in the state of Florida.  The sunshine state has approximately 4 million anglers that contribute $13.8 billion to Florida’s economy supporting over 120,000 local jobs.

If you have a passion for fishing and the environment, please consider sharing your skills and knowledge with youth. 4-H can customize volunteer roles to fit your interest and

group of youth and adult after fishing

Group of 4-H youth, volunteers, and agent enjoying the wonders of the outdoors

schedule so you can inspire the next generation of anglers. Contact your local UF IFAS Extension office to discuss how you can contribute to “making the best better” in your community.

If your child or grandchild is interested in participating in our fishing program, check out our Sports Fishing Project page, or reach out to your local 4-H agent. The University of Florida school of Forestry, Fisheries, and Geomatic Sciences sponsors a program called “Fishing for Success.”  This program includes several family fishing days where they provide everything you need to fish and have fun!