Positive learning environments

How to create positive learning for Cloverbuds

The Cloverbud Program is a child-centered program. That means the interests and needs of the children drive the program.

Thus, knowledge of the developmental and learning characteristics of K-2 children has direct implications for the way we design activities. In general, positive learning environments are created for children when programs:

  1. Provide one screened volunteer for every six children.

(Some activities require a higher adult-child ratio, sometimes one to one.) Because of variations in developmental stages, it is important to have a high adult-child ratio in learning situations so that each child receives the individualized attention needed to be successful. A parent or older youth may help to provide appropriate support.

  1. Involve the children in selecting and planning activities.

Children who help select the learning activities are more likely to maintain interest and to integrate new skills and knowledge with that they already know. Leaders should help children select from identified options.

  1. Change activities often according to the needs of the children.

Keep children interested and involved by offering a variety of learning activities, with variation in the pace and range of experiences. Keep youth actively “doing things.” Have children use all their senses. Alternate “sit-down” and “moving” activities. Avoid talking to the group for longer than 5-10 minutes at a time.

  1. Encourage children to talk and work with each other.

Children learn best when they are engaged in activities that allow them to practice, demonstrate, explain, and apply their learning. Working with peers offers opportunities for these activities and helps foster the ability to interact and work cooperatively.

  1. Include adults who are positive behavior models.

As children enlarge their circle to include the greater community, adults outside the home have increasing influence in their lives, introducing new information, new skills, and new points of view. Adults also have significant influence in helping children feel good about whom they are and what they can do. It is important that 4-H Cloverbud leaders understand the importance of their role, and represent positive models of the behavior we wish children to develop.

  1. Promote cooperation rather than competition.

It is inappropriate for children in grades K-2 to participate in contests where they’re judged. Developmentally, K-2 children need experiences that foster cooperative effort, emphasize the learning process over a product, and reinforce a positive concept of self. Competition undermines each of these needs. It is appropriate to recognize children’s efforts and to display their work. It is also appropriate to give caring and personal feedback.

  1. Use positive guidance and discipline.

Children in early childhood are learning self-control, and they need the positive guidance of adults to do so. To become socially competent, children must be taught skills for appropriate social behaviors, such as taking turns, dividing and sharing resources, and working cooperatively. Use misbehavior as a teaching opportunity to show children how to apply appropriate skills.

  1. Provide individualized learning as well as learning in small groups.

Learning activities should include a variety of experiences to accommodate the children’s varied ages, stages, interests, and needs. Parallel activities may be used to allow children at different stages to participate in a way that suits their developmental needs.


Becky Harrington, director of operations and systems, willi107@umn.edu, 612-624-7974