A Beginner’s Guide to Cub Scouts for Parents

A Beginner's Guide to Cub Scouts for Parents

My son became a Cub Scout, and not a single leader welcomed us to the pack. Nobody called us to explain what to buy, what to expect, or where in the world all those darn badges are supposed to go!

I hope this is never anyone else’s experience, but even with the best of leaders, you might have some questions you really need to be answered! I’m not only a Scout parent, but my husband and I have also been Scout leaders as well. I’m not an expert, but I have learned a lot along the way.  

A Parents’ Guide to Cub Scouts:

1.  What do I need to buy, and where do I get it?

A Beginner's Guide to Cub Scouts for Parents

Before you buy a bunch of stuff, check with your new pack to see how strictly they follow the uniform regulations.  Some packs go all out, and others are happy with a shirt and neckerchief.  Keeping that in mind, you’ll need to visit the Scout Shop (pictured above) in Cedar Rapids and purchase the following:

  • Uniform (as required by your pack)

    • Tip- buy a shirt that will fit your child for the whole 3-4 years he or she does Cubs.  You won’t want to buy a new one and re-sew all those patches!  Yes, he will look slightly silly in a huge shirt as a Tiger Cub, but it is worth it!
  • Patches

    • Council patches- Scout store employees can help you find the ones you need.
    • Pack Numbers
    • World Crest
    • American Flag
    • Some packs do individual den patches- check with your pack
    • Tip- you can buy shirts with some of these patches pre-sewn on the shirt.  I think it’s worth it but totally up to you!
  • Scout Book for age level

    • Each den (Tiger, Wolf, Bear, and Webelo) has their own book of requirements.  Every scout needs his own book as he will write in it and keep track of his progress.
    • Tip- I highly recommend getting the spiral-bound book.  It’s more expensive but it is easier to use and lasts longer!
A Beginner's Guide to Cub Scouts for Parents
Complete Scout uniform (minus patches)

2. Can’t I just shop online?

Sure, you can shop on scoutstuff.org, and you can even buy some items on Amazon or eBay.  But for a first visit, I recommend visiting the store in person, if you can.

3. Where do all the badges go? Do I HAVE to sew them on?

Here’s my favorite handy guide for badge placement, including pictures.  If you don’t want to sew them on, I recommend Badge Magic, which you can purchase online or at the Scout Store.  DON’T use Badge Magic if you plan on reusing the same shirt with other children as the badges are really hard to get off and leave an ugly residue behind.

Another option is to purchase the plastic pouch for the ranks.  It is removable and a great option if everything else will be the same for multiple kids.

4. What’s our District? Do I need to know?

Your Council:  If you live in Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn, or Washington counties, you are in the Hawkeye Area Council

Your District:  The Hawkeye Area Council has four districts.  You will need to know your district when registering for events.  

  • The Old Capitol Valley District serves Iowa, Johnson, Washington, and Cedar counties
  • The Red Cedar District serves Linn and Benton Counties.  This includes the communities of Atkins, Belle Plaine, Blairstown, Cedar Rapids, Fairfax, Garrison, Hiawatha, Keystone, Luzerne, New Hall, Norway, Palo, Shellsburg, and Vinton.
  • The Three Rivers District serves Alburnett, Anamosa, Center Point, Central City, Clarence, Coggon, Lisbon, Lowden, Marion, Mechanicsville, Monticello, Mount Vernon, Springville, Stanwood, Troy Mills, Urbana, Walker, and Wyoming.
  • The Trailblazers District, an Outreach Scouting initiative, exists to make sure no youth is unable to participate in Scouting due to real or perceived barriers to their participation in a traditional Scouting Program.

5.  Den, Pack, Webelo….What? Help!

Cub Scouting can be a whole new language if you’ve never been part of it before.  Here are some things you might need to know:

Den vs. Pack:  A Cub Scout Pack includes all the children in your group.  Packs meet all together with their families once a month at Pack meetings.  Dens, on the other hand, are smaller groups organized by age and rank level.  Dens meet regularly to complete activities in the Scouting handbooks. They include the following groups:

  1. Bobcat – This is the first rank for all Cub Scouters regardless of age.  They will earn their Bobcat rank before earning any other achievements.  Each handbook details requirements for earning the Bobcat rank, but Scouts only need to do it once.
  2. Lion- This is fairly new (as of 2018) and includes scouts beginning in Kindergarten.
  3. Tiger – Tiger scouts are 7 years of age or in 1st grade.  Not all packs do Tiger and Lion scouting. Make sure you check with your local pack to see when Scouting begins.
  4. Wolf – Wolf scouts are 8 years of age or in 2nd grade.
  5. Bear – Bear scouts are 9 years of age or in 3rd grade.
  6. Webelos – (stands for We Be Loyal Scouts)  Webelos are 10 years of age or in 4th and 5th grades. It is meant to be a two-year program.

It’s important to understand that various packs run things differently. Most packs start in the fall with a new school year and will have children that are in the same grade together in the same den. These dens usually aim to achieve rank by the end of the school year. But, some follow age instead of grade level.

6. Realistically, what is our time commitment?

As I said above, your child will meet with his or her den weekly or bi-weekly for about an hour. The Pack Meeting takes place once a month for 1-2 hours and replaces that week’s den meeting.  Occasionally there will be extra activities such as hikes, trips to local events or activities, and possibly day camp in the summer or an overnight camp.

Parents may be asked to help chaperone trips or help run den meetings from time to time. By joining Scouts, parents can volunteer to be registered members of the Cub Scout Committee. Plan to attend monthly committee meetings if you can, and offer your opinion on upcoming plans for the pack!  

7. What does my child do at Cub Scouts?

To earn their rank, scouts complete Cub Scout adventures. Some are required to earn the rank, while others are elective, or optional. Each rank does require one “elective” adventure. The requirements for each rank are listed in the front of the Scout book, or you can view them here. Many of these adventures will be passed off during weekly den meetings. 

8. The book is huge! Will my child really pass off ALL these requirements?

The quick answer is yes! It’s actually easier than ever to pass off the requirements.  Your Scout leaders know the requirements and will keep track of your Scout’s progress. 

Many adventures also ask Scouts to complete requirements at home.  Your Cub Scout will not earn rank without your help. Cub Scouts is meant to be a collaboration between the scouts, Pack and Den leaders, and parents.

9. What kind of recognition will my Scout get?

When your Scout passes off all the requirements for an adventure, he/she will earn a belt loop.  These belt loops will be awarded at the next Pack Meeting.  He should receive the loop and a card.  Some boys keep all the cards in a special book. Many don’t. See what others in your pack do. Once a loop has been earned, boys can wear it on their belt to Den and Pack meetings.

A Beginner's Guide to Cub Scouts for Parents

Webelo Scouts earn pins instead of belt loops.  When your child becomes a Webelo, you will need to purchase a shoulder ribbon, which he will use to collect all of his earned pins.

10. What kind of special events should I expect?

Pinewood Derby

Each year, Cub Scouts have the opportunity to design and race wooden cars. This is the highlight of the year for many Cubs. If your pack doesn’t provide you with cars, you can purchase the starter kits at the Scout Store, online, or at local hobby stores such as Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. They also sell many upgrades and accessories.  

  • Boys should be in charge of the design and as much of the actual making of the car as possible, with adult help and supervision when necessary.
  • Often parents get over-involved and you will see some pretty fancy cars.  
  • There is plenty of help online for building the perfect car.

Raingutter Regatta

Similarly, many packs race boats in the same fashion.  Again, you can purchase kits and find plenty of help online to build the perfect boat.  

Blue and Gold Banquet

Each year in February, Packs celebrate the Cub Scouting birthday with a themed dinner for all Cub Scouts and their families.  Often ranks are awarded at this special event, and parents are usually involved in planning and carrying out this activity.

Cub Scout Day Camp

This is held in the summer.  Packs usually organize registration for this, and parents are expected to help out with chaperoning and carpooling. The three main districts hold a 4-day camp, but Cub Scouts can attend whichever one works for their schedule. Some included activities include BB guns, archery, crafts, cooking, nature hikes, games, and other Scout skills.  This is a great way to pass off some of those required adventures!  See your Cubmaster for more information.

Whew!  That’s a lot of information. I hope I answered your most burning questions. If you still need help, please reach out to your Scout leaders – that’s why they are there!  Remember, Scouting is a fun-filled adventure that will impact your child’s life in many different ways.  Have a blast!

Your turn!  What are your tips for new Scouting families?  

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