Today’s youth are busier than ever before. Think about your child, grandchild or another child you know and their activities over the last month – chances are they were involved in youth basketball, band, dance or a number of other activities. There’s no way around it, many kids today are involved in more clubs and activities outside of school than ever before. While these activities provide benefits for youth, the University of Missouri 4-H is unique in that the entire family is involved in the process of youth development. 4-H works to build character, confidence and skills not just for the youth, but for the entire family. 4-H accomplishes these things in many ways. 4-H youth improve their self-confidence, learn subject matter, and develop important skills including leadership, citizenship, communication and decision making – all of which they’ll need to compete today and in the future. Families are encouraged to be involved in projects and instruction together as parents become the resource. This creates a framework for youth development within the home not just in 4-H, but also in other areas.

So who can benefit from 4-H? Typically, people think 4-H is for children who live in the country, which is not true. There are actually more than 28,000 young people from all across Missouri who participate in 4-H. In fact, 20% of Missouri 4-H members reside on farms (41% come from towns of less than 10,000). The program welcomes all youth ages 5-18, from both rural and urban settings.

4-H encourages family involvement in many ways. Parents and other interested adults are encouraged to get involved in 4-H. Adults and young teens can become a volunteer leader or assistant, share a skill or some knowledge with a group, supply refreshments for a meeting, or sign up to be a project leader. 4-H has more than 150 fun projects to explore from photography to robotics to gardening and numerous animal projects. The most popular projects in this area include projects related to livestock, dog care, photography, and shooting sports.

Older teens are realizing the need for leadership skills and 4-H lets them participate in programs providing leadership to younger members and volunteering in other 4-H opportunities. They also have opportunities to travel on many leadership trips: Teen Conference, Citizenship Washington Focus, National 4-H Conference, National 4-H Congress, and State 4-H Congress. These opportunities help grow our youth’s opportunities to lead and be a part of a team – all, of course, while having a blast!

The 4-H program is a volunteer-led organization that reaches youth through a variety of programs. It provides fun, educational opportunities at the local, state, national and international levels. Missouri 4-H has over 11,000 dedicated volunteers who make 4-H programs possible.

We are currently in need of volunteers to help with various projects and our 4-H LIFE program (4-H for children of offenders). If you want to help, you can make a difference!

Parents are encouraged to contact their local University of Missouri Extension Office for more information on how to enroll their children in 4-H. Youth have fun learning with new and old friends in clubs and classrooms, and at meetings, social activities, tours, trips, camps and fairs. They learn about themselves and experience new challenges. Give them a chance to pick their own 4-H adventure that will last a lifetime. This is great time to get started as 4-H enrollment began Oct. 1. For more information on joining a club, contact your local extension office or Shaun Murphy, county engagement specialist in 4-H, at 660-646-0811, or email at

Shaun Murphy is a county engagement specialist for the University of Missouri Extension.