Your Guide To Holding Lock-Ins For Cub And BSA Scouts

Being a Cub Scout lets kids experience lots of things that they would otherwise never get the opportunity to do. Chances are you know all about camping under the night sky, but Cubs also can take part in exciting inside overnight events called lock-ins! A lock-in can be a lot of fun, but behind the scenes, there’s quite a bit of planning to be prepared for.

What is a Scout Lock-in? A Scout Lock-In is an overnight event where Cub or BSA Scouts camp inside a venue, such as a meeting room or cafeteria, engaging in various activities like games, challenges, and team-building activities. Lock-ins are an opportunity for Scouts to learn skills, have fun, and grow closer, in a more casual environment than a traditional Scout campout.

PS. This article is a guest post collaboration with Eagle Scout and AOL recipient, Jonathan K🙂

This article will be focusing on how to hold a Cub Scout lock-in, but feel free to take any of these points and apply them to a BSA Scouts, or even a non-Scouting lock-in! Lock-ins are common events in churches, youth groups, and clubs because they’re so much fun. You’ll be sure to see why in just a moment!

A good lock-in requires activities, snacks, a venue, plenty of adult volunteers, and lots of patience. Still, there are creative ways to make it easier on yourself! For instance, some packs even turn annual events like the Pinewood Derby into family lock-ins. No matter what resources you’re starting with, this guide will help make your next lock-in a huge success. 😀

Why Run A Scout Lock-In?

Lock-in events let Cub Scouts have a blast together without having to worry about “roughing it” outside. These events can help foster teamwork, friendship, and skill-building. Bringing in parent volunteers (or even older siblings) can also help strengthen the pack by getting families directly involved in Scouting!

Inspiring Example: Boy Scout Troop 505 in Naperville, Illinois ran a video game lock-in that allowed guests as a way to recruit new members!

There’s a lot of planning and preparation that goes into running a lock-in, but the end result will be worth it. In fact, most troops around the country make lock-ins an annual event! Whether you’re new to lock-ins or just hoping to make yours even better, let’s run through some tips for a rockin’ lock-in. 😉

How To Plan a Scout Lock-In

“Be Prepared” may be the BSA Scout motto, but it applies to every situation in a lock-in, and begins with the initial planning phase. A Cub Scout lock-in is a huge undertaking that requires proper planning weeks ahead of time. You need all of the following:

  • Location – An appropriate location will include plenty of space for all of the activities, follow BSA safety guidelines, and be properly reserved ahead of time. 

When choosing your venue, make sure there are accessible bathrooms and plenty of room to give each activity its own space, away from the food and drinks. Gymnasiums, school cafeterias, and church meeting halls are great picks, but they aren’t the only options — as a Cub Scout, I once did a sleepover at a science museum! 😀

  • Budget – Renting a location, buying food and drinks, and purchasing supplies for activities can add up really quickly, so developing and sticking to a budget is important. 

The costs of a lock-in can get steep, so don’t be afraid to hold fundraisers (link) or find sponsors to help out! Ask around in the community for businesses willing to donate food or supplies. I mentioned it already, but I need to say it again: once you have a budget, stick to it!

  • Objective – A lock-in is a fun event, but it should still serve the mission of the Scouts! Decide if you want it to focus on learning survival skills, or focus on teamwork with the activities. 

As fun as Scouting is, every activity should serve the mission of the organization, and lock-ins are no exception. Before you move ahead into designing activities, think about how the lock-in can help the Cubs learn and grow. Check out this video (6:02) to see how one Scouts BSA troop had a blast while helping those in need!

  • Ask for volunteers – A lock-in requires a lot of adult supervision, so ask parents, in addition to the pack leadership, if they want to take part. 

Cub Scout safety regulations require a certain number of adult leaders for each Scout, which means it can’t be just one den that is responsible. This is a great opportunity to get parents involved with the pack! Make sure you have clear areas of responsibility and instructions for each volunteer. 

Activities for a Cub Scout Lock-In

Activities for a Cub Scout lock-in will be similar to those from a Summer Camp. When coming up with activities, make sure they let lots of Scouts take part and work for different age groups. A lock-in can include Scouts that are Wolf through Webelos, so try to avoid anything that skews too old or too young. 

Some types of activities to avoid are games like Red Rover, which can result in injury, or tag, which is too loose and unstructured. If the location has a basketball court or a swimming pool, take advantage of it and let the Scouts use them during the lock-in. Field games, like the three-legged race or an egg relay, can be great if you have the space for them! 🙂

Helpful Link: Crafts are another option for an enjoyable and less chaotic lock-in activity. A Scout parent shared some fun Cub craft ideas on Pinterest, which is always a great place to go for inspiration!

Here are some other good activities for Scouts during a lock-in:

  • Four Square – Great if using a gym, recreation center, or church meeting hall, use easily removable tape to create the boundaries.
  • Archery – Only if a qualified adult is present! Remember to follow all safety guidelines.
  • Escape Room – Set up an Escape Room for groups of 6-8 Scouts. A simple one can be set up with just a table and a few chairs!
  • Obstacle Course – You can create different courses for different age groups and ability levels.
  • Bounce Houses – This is a great way to let the Scouts just have some fun in between other, more skill-focused activities.
  • Tug-of-War – Set it up for den against den!
  • Knot Contest – Test a pack’s ability to tie different Scouting knots in a series of timed contests.
  • Tie-Dye – Cheap and easy, t-shirt tie-dye stations are fun and let the Scouts leave with a small souvenir!
  • Blind Maze – Using tape or rope, set up a maze for teams of two Scouts. One Scout will be blindfolded, and the other has to guide their partner using just verbal instructions.

The Blind Maze activity is a great way to foster listening and teamwork skills. For more activities focused more on team-building among dens, check out these videos demonstrating the Snakes (2:51), Human Tic-Tac-Toe (2:47), and Cave Crawl (0:23) games! 

Also, you can check out these 11 awesome indoor and outdoor Cub Scout games for even more great ideas of things to keep your pack occupied during their next lock-in. It’s always a good idea to bring some novel activity to the table to make the night extra memorable, so I’d encourage you to get creative with it! 😀

Bringing Your Lock-In Plans To Life

When the day of the lock-in finally rolls around, attention shifts from planning to execution. You’ll need to maintain a structured yet flexible environment that keeps Scouts engaged and safe throughout the night. As with any event, something will probably go wrong, so have a backup plan ready to go. 

If you’re the primary leader of the event, make sure all of your adult volunteers know their roles. Delegate so that everyone maintains order in their assigned sections. This leaves you free to walk around during the night and keep an eye on the activities, stepping in only if needed. 🙂

Finally, make sure to manage transitions between activities. If you’re using a round-robin style, consider a using microphone or bullhorn to let everyone know to rotate. You can also plan a looser framework and have leaders use a den-meeting structure to provide Cubs with activities according to their unique interests and ages!

Conclusion: Lock-Ins Bring Scouts Together!

A lock-in takes some work, planning, and coordination to pull off, but it’s 100% worth it! These events allow Cub Scouts to experience a fun and unique overnight activity, without having to wait for summer camp or camping trips. Best of all, a lock-in will bring the entire pack together to have fun, learn, and grow their friendship! 

Pack events like lock-ins, community recruiting events, and the Blue and Gold Banquets also allow Cubs to get their families involved. You can even allow younger siblings to participate in a few lock-in activities! Taking the time to put on these events — and doing them well — is sure to strengthen your pack.

Thanks so much for dropping by, and for being an awesome part of the Cub Scouting community! If you enjoyed learning about how to run awesome Scout lock-ins, I’d highly recommend also checking out any of these related articles if they spark your interest:

That’s all for now! I truly hope you now have some great ideas for your next Scout lock-in. Come back to ScoutSmarts again soon and, until next time, I’m wishing you and your pack nothing but the very best! 😀


I'm constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making our world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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