Tiger, wolves and bears: oh my! If you're a parent of young boys, the idea of Cub Scouts can be daunting. The jargon alone is plentiful and bewildering, let alone the uniforms and patches.

Soon after my oldest son started scouting, I was asked to be a den mother. At first, I wore the scout shirt with a grimace. I wondered how I'd learn the program and corral a bunch of little boys around my kitchen table. When I noticed their enthusiasm and realized how much they enjoyed Cub Scouts, my attitude changed.

The benefits of Cub Scouts are vast. Because Cub Scouts can seem strange to non-scouting families, the following is a primer of what the program entails and the excellent benefits it provides young boys. Incidentally, some of the Cub Scout organization is patterned after Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book."

The dens: Tiger, Wolf, Bear and Webelos

At age 7, or while in the first grade, boys can join Cub Scouts. Their first den, or group, is called Tigers. The den leader, an adult called Akela, holds weekly meeting and helps the boys earn the achievements detailed in their books. Supplies typically needed to get started include a blue Cub Scout shirt, blue and orange neckerchief, neckerchief slide and book. To find a Cub Scout pack in your area, visit scouting.org.

Eight-year-olds or second graders advance to a Wolf den, don a yellow neckerchief and work from a Wolf handbook. Nine-year-old boys join Bears, wear a blue neckerchief and use the Bear handbook. The boys complete achievements to earn their patches, and then electives for arrowpoint patches.

Webelos, an acronym for "We'll be Loyal Scouts," is a two-year program for 10 and 11-year-old boys. Webelos earn pins (sometimes called badges) that they pin to their "colors," or ribbons attached to the shoulder of their uniforms. Webelos are distinguished by their plaid neckerchiefs.

Once a Webelo earns his Webelos patch, he works toward the Arrow of Light patch, which is the highest award in Cub Scouts. What's next? Boy Scouts.

The pack

The Cub Scout pack includes all of the dens, or age groups, in your area. Pack meetings are held monthly under the direction of a Cubmaster. Awards and advancements are normally disbursed, and an activity and treat are part of pack meetings, as well. Monthly themes, values such as honesty, are emphasized at pack meetings, but the meetings are meant to be silly and fun, too.

My first few experiences with Pack Meetings were eye-opening. My concept of scouting as serious and military-like changed when I saw how goofy Pack Meetings were. Funny skits, cheesy cheers, and rowdy activities cater perfectly to young boys.

The benefits

So, why bother with Cub Scouts? Sounds like a lot of time and work, right?

Actually, scouts isn't that time consuming. The time involved is a small tradeoff for the values and teachings Cub Scouts provides. Cub Scouts harnesses the energy of squirmy young boys. It helps them gain values and skills as they learn about their world. It teaches:

  • How to be a good citizen

  • How to develop character, honesty and integrity

  • Physical fitness

  • Skills and knowledge about woodworking, engineering, the sciences, first aid and safety, cooking, etc.

  • How to set and achieve goals

  • Camaraderie and good sportsmanship

  • How to have good, clean fun

If you're a parent of boys, you simply can't go wrong with Cub Scouts. It's a worldwide program that provides a solid foundation for life. It also places boys on the trail to earning the Eagle award, the highest achievement for Boy Scouts.

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