Building assets in children through their participation in a livestock project

When showing livestock, children gain much more than money, a trophy or how to place your hand on a halter. Children that show livestock whether through a 4-H, FFA or a jack pot program learn valuable life lessons.

Search Institute has identified the following building blocks of healthy development—known as Developmental Assets—that help young children grow up healthy, caring and become responsible adults. As a parent, we sometimes wonder what we can do to help our children gain some or all of these 40 development assets. One way to increase these assets and to learn new life skills are to involve our children in showing livestock.

Parents of children who show livestock were asked, “what do your children learn from showing livestock.” The answers were about so much more than money, a trophy or how to place your hand on a halter. According to Michigan State University Extension, children that show livestock whether through a 4-H, FFA or a jack pot program learn valuable life lessons. A skill is a learned ability, while life skills are those competencies that assist people in functioning well in the environments in which they live. Parents identified these life lessons learned by showing livestock include:

Lesson #1- Dedication: Children must be dedicated to the project that they choose. They must walk, feed and learn about the project before it ever enters the ring.

Lesson #2- Responsibility: Children learn to have a sense of responsibility when they have chores they must do every day. It’s up to the child to understand the different needs of animals, but they all require daily attention even when it is field day at school or your friends are waiting.

Lesson #3-Work ethic: Children that show animals learn that quality and quantity of work is a direct reflection of personal character and integrity. A child with strong work ethic takes the time to produce a quality project and also takes pride in their project. A child must work with the animal on halter breaking, washing and clipping. They also learn that although cleaning out the barn its hard work, it is definitely worth it.

Lesson #4-Confidence: Children that show animals must be able to show their animal in front of a crowd and talk to the judge about their animal.

Lesson #5-Sportsmanship: Children that show animals must be able to lose with grace. Congratulating the winner and thanking the judge are all part of being a great sportsman. Children learn to always do their best whether they win or lose and do so graciously.

Hard work and perseverance always pay off.  Children who learn life skills through a show halter will never forget the pride in a job well done. These are skills that develop children into capable, competent and caring adults as well as being taught desirable habits and attitudes. By helping themselves, children will also learn the importance of helping others.

To learn more about your local 4-H programs and other family programs, visit MSU Extension.

Related Articles