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4-H animal-lovers and healthy living champions

Youth enjoying a day tubing on the slopes
Screaming for joy (and an adrenaline spike) while sliding down a snow-covered hillside.

Bundled up from head to toe in snowsuits on a wintery Sunday afternoon.

This is how you can often find members of the Cass County 4-H club, Hooves, Paws, and Claws. Snow tubing is just one of the many ways they integrate healthy living activities into their time together. Nutritional snacks along with games and activities are now the norm each time this club gathers. But that hasn't always been true.

Healthier food choices

About a year ago, 4-H volunteer Teri McAllister realized that small changes, such as healthier snack options, could make a big impact on the youth of her club. She started by adding more fruit and vegetables and skipping the chips as snack options at meetings.

"At first the youth were annoyed about the change. They thought these new snacks were unappealing," Teri shared.

But Teri kept trying. She started offering nutrition lessons during some club meetings. Hands-on cooking opportunities helped the youth feel more excited and willing to try new foods. A few of the club members have even given demonstrations about healthy eating, sharing their learning with others.

"I can see it working," said Teri. "A couple kids really appreciate getting fruit and fresh foods at our club because they may not get that at home."

Having physical fun together

Integrating activities and physical games into club meetings was a popular change from the get-go. 4-H'ers were excited to burn some energy and have fun together. The club members now go skiing, skating, tubing, and ice fishing throughout the winter. They also host gym nights for the community and invite all their friends and family to participate.

Hooves, Paws, and Claws 4-H club at an outdoor activity
Teri reflected that the youth in her club probably don't even realize they are exercising most of the time."Our kids are just having fun. There's a lot more you can do besides jump roping and running. We're moving our bodies and enjoying life together."

Although the Hooves, Paws, and Claws 4-H Club is all about animals, healthy living is now a favorite agenda item.

By Madison Muir
University of Minnesota student
Kittson County 4-H alum

Would you like ideas about adding healthy living activities into your 4-H club meetings? Check out 4th H is for Health!

Read about other ways 4-H is helping youth live healthy lives.
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