Extension Review by Virginia Delvaux Last week I shared with column readers two more of the Character Counts program pillars "responsibility" and "fairness," and several techniques that parents and child care providers can use to teach preschool age children about the concepts. This week I would like to share the last two pillars "caring" and "citizenship." Children imitate and learn from adults, so it is very important that youth learn about the concepts the six pillars promote at an early age.
So how might one implement citizenship with infants and toddlers? Caregivers and parents can take infants on walks around their neighborhood so as to expose them to the world around them. Bringing an infant to the table or to circle time in an infant carrier helps them feel connected to others and the area around them.
Toddlers also enjoy the same experiences that we use with infants. Adults can expand the walk or circle time experiences by sharing what they are seeing, doing, and explaining what is going on around them. By explaining what community helpers do, children learn at an early age the importance of citizenship and caring for ones community.
Preschool age children can learn simple rules such as putting litter in a trash can, putting things back when you are finished using them, or voting on simple choices such as which book to read. Adults can also involve preschool age children in recycling projects or to handle toys, equipment and materials appropriately so as not to hurt someone or to damage an item.
The "Caring" pillar is the last pillar I will review. With infants it is important to hold and play with them making sure you make eye contact. Keep your voice calm and gentle and use soft touch to let the child know you care about them. It is very important for adults to continue the caring techniques through out the child's life. Adults can help toddlers put their feelings and the feelings of others into words. Patience, consistency and the willingness to repeat oneself over and over is necessary to help reinforce the caring pillar.
The preschooler becomes more independent and it is very important for adults to set aside individual time for each child every day. Getting down to the child's eye level and talking and listening to them helps them learn about caring for others. One can also read stories about kindness and caring for others and ask them how they might express their feelings to others.
What we model for youth today will set the scene for our next generation to model for their children. Hopefully some adult can model the six pillars and make a difference in every child's life.
All of 4-H is celebrating, because Oct. 6-13 is National 4-H Week. 4-H week recognizes the accomplishments of 4-H youth during the past year while realizing the benefits for families. 4-H is the largest out of school youth program in America. In South Dakota, the S.D.S.U. Cooperative Extension Service conducts the program in every county.
4-H helps youth develop leadership skills, public speaking, citizenship and interpersonal skills. There are over 80 projects that youth can become involved in. If you know of a youth between the ages of 8 and 18 that might be interested in joining, please contact the Clay County Extension Office at 605-677-7111, and we will put you in contact with one of our local 4-H clubs.