Making the transition from Cub Scouts to Scouts BSA doesn’t need to be hard. In fact, if you trust and follow the Scouting path, it should be an amazing and rewarding experience! As a Cub and BSA parent myself, I did a little research to see what other former Cub parents would recommend during this time period — and found many common themes among their helpful tips.
PS. This article is a guest post collaboration between Cub Scouting volunteer Jaci H and Cole 🙂
My son started Cub Scouts when he was in the first grade. Now he’s working on his Eagle Scout project! It’s been a wonderful journey. We are proud and happy that he has kept interested and stayed involved until this final important stage!
In this article, I’ll share with you four vital tips for making that transition from Cub Scouts to Scouts BSA. I’ll also include things you should know, words of wisdom for parents and youth, and even share a quick and helpful vocabulary list. If you need to refer to it while you’re reading, please look at the end of this article. 😀
Tips for Parents Making the Transition to Scouts BSA
In researching and talking to parents, four main points came up again and again. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll understand those four themes for transitioning from Cub Scouting to BSA Scouting, and why they’re so important. I’ll also interject some advice and explanations from other Scout leaders across the country!
Theme 1) Back off as a parent. Scouts BSA is designed to prepare youth for life. They will learn how to lead, how to live independently, how to act, and how to be an overall good citizen. Simply continue to support these ideals by being a good role model for them. 🙂
Theme 2) When you are tempted to help your Scout, don’t! The Scouts have to learn through failures as well as successes. That is part of life. Some of our greatest lessons come from our failures. If you continue to hold your child’s hand, they won’t be able to function independently.
Theme 3) Let your Scout progress at their own pace. There is no race! If they are involved, active, and engaged, they will make strides toward the Eagle rank, if that is their goal. Scouts achieve incredible things and learn many wonderful life skills for each rank they earn.
“Don’t ever turn Scouts into a ‘checking the box’ type of activity. We had kids in our troop with that mindset and it was challenging. They didn’t engage in events like the other kids and didn’t, honestly, seem to have as much fun because they were just trying to complete a list.”Scoutmaster Brian H. from Santa Clarita, CA
Theme 4) Support the Scouts BSA troop in any way you can. It is so important for every family to contribute what they can. Obviously, some roles are a lot more involved than others, like Scoutmaster. Other roles, like driving to a campout, don’t take as much time but are extremely important too. If your Scout sees your commitment to the troop, it will help drive their efforts!
“Even though the troop is Scout-led, they do need a strong presence of adults to guide them on their journey through Scouting. We have a lot of small jobs to make sure the Scouts have the resources they need to be successful in their outings and advancement.”Troop committee chair Shawna M.
There are only a few jobs that are required for a troop to exist. However, having a strong volunteer framework might not be as difficult as you think. Don’t be afraid to get on-the-job training to fulfill one of the key positions! 😛 I would advise you to have the following roles filled at a minimum:
- Assistant Scoutmaster(s)
- Committee chair
- Charter organization representative
My son’s Scoutmaster had been in the role for years — through two sons attaining Eagle rank. As much as he loved to be involved and would continue to be, it wasn’t fair for him to donate his time in that role. Although feeling unqualified to replace someone with so much experience, my husband stepped up. He took the training required and has done his best to lead the troop, with great support from the previous Scoutmaster as well as other veteran leaders and parents!
In an ideal world, several more jobs would be filled by different parent volunteers so that the work is shared and everyone is invested. The roles listed below are great to have. That said, our troop is not big enough to fill all of these roles — some parents take on multiple roles, while other roles are not filled.
- Recruitment chair
- Advancement chair
- Fundraising chair
- Equipment chair
- Records coordinator
- Board of review coordinator
- Eagle Scout coordinator
- Event coordinators
- Campout drivers
- Outdoor chair
Helpful Links: I found a couple of other troops that had great descriptions about adult volunteers that I wanted to share. This list includes even more roles than I did above! Meanwhile, this troop’s site has more of an overall look at parent volunteers.
When Do Scouts Transition From Cub Scouts to Scouts BSA?
The transition to Scouts BSA really begins with Webelos in the fourth grade and continues through Arrows of Light (AOLs) in the fifth grade. The Scouts should start interacting with troops and attending events to get to know what they are like so that they can choose the one that fits their interests and personality! 😀
It’s important to be familiar with the Cub Scouting ranks and the grade levels associated with each one, so be sure to check out this Guide To Cub Scout Ranks and Advancement!
How Does Cub Scouts Help the Transition Happen?
The AOL structure is set up similarly to Scouts BSA to help the younger Scouts with the transition that is approaching. It’s really a transition in and of itself. David H., Assistant Scoutmaster in Austin, TX and author of the book “The Unofficial Scout Parent Handbook,” explained:
“In one sense, AOL Cubs are already prepared to transition to Scouts BSA because they will have the correct uniform (patches and shoulder loops change), and will already know the Scout Oath and Law, along with the motto and the slogan. Many Cubs will also know the Outdoor Code.”
Helpful Tip: David H. recommends that Scouts aim to get to First Class within a year of joining their troop. This is very achievable, he says, because the AOL/Webelos program prepares them to fulfill the requirements for their first Scout rank right away!
For the smoothest transition, AOL Cubs should operate in more of a patrol-like fashion (unlike the traditional den). Again, David H. does a great job explaining this idea. I have no doubt that his book is full of more valuable tips! I only just met David while writing this article and he’s provided a wealth of information.
“Being used to the Patrol Method makes the transition to an actual patrol in the Scouts BSA fairly seamless. The Patrol Method is one of the key elements of Scouting and learning that gives the AOL Cub a real leg up,” he said.
What Should a Parent Do During AOL Years in Cub Scouts?
While AOL Cubs are gaining independence, it is important that parents encourage this transition by letting them make more decisions and backing off from doing things for them. I really love the phrase one Vermont parent used to describe this: “Give the Scouts the freedom to fail — or thrive — on their own.”
As a parent, avoid reminders, helping, and rescuing when they’ve forgotten something. I’ll be honest: you, yourself, are likely to fail in this quest many times. I can certainly recall a few times (but only a few 😉) that I have! The point is to have the intention and to keep trying.
Scouting Tip: To be more successful, parents should discuss these expectations with their Cubs. If the Cub understands that the parent is going to do less and remind less, they will pay more attention, or possibly learn through those moments of failure. For example, they might forget to take something to a meeting or even forget to wear the proper uniform. Trust me, the other Scouts will let them know!
If you’re interested in hearing even more about the Scout transition, check out this Cub Chat video (31:39). (I know it’s lengthy, but it might be something you can listen to and learn from while making dinner or performing some other household chore!)
What Should a Scout Do During AOL Years in Cub Scouts?
As we’ve seen, AOL Scouts get to showcase their independence. Some will be ready to do this from the get-go, just like when they were a toddler telling you, “I want to do it myself.” Other Scouts will be more hesitant and nervous about the transition. Rest assured, neither scenario is wrong. 🙂
In Scouts BSA, the Scouts lead the troop instead of the parents. (The parent committee offers needed support with things like finances and transportation!) The more opportunities there are for the AOL Scouts to lead something, the better the experience and practice.
If you think about all that you and other parents do for your Cub Scouts, I bet you can come up with ideas to facilitate this. You might especially find opportunities at pack meetings. For example, if chairs are set up and taken down for each meeting, the AOL Cubs can certainly handle that responsibility!
What Uniform Will My Scout Need for Scouts BSA?
As David H. alluded to earlier, when the Scouts transition to Scouts BSA, they will already have their uniform and will undergo only a few changes. The AOL patch, placed below the left pocket, is the only patch that will remain from Cub Scout days.
New troop members will have to add the troop number to their sleeve, of course. The Scouts then will keep the same uniforms for years and only replace them when they have outgrown them or worn them out. Many troops keep a stash of old clothing that can be passed on to younger troop members, so be sure to ask about that! Check out this article on Scout Uniforms for more info!
Scouting Experience: I remember when my son joined his Scouts BSA troop, his class A uniform was a bit big on him. I purposely bought it that way because I knew he would be wearing it for a while. I actually only bought a new one about four years ago! The pants are another story — they have had everything from paint to grease spilled on them. He is on his third or fourth pair, but keeps the old beat up ones that still fit for appropriate Scout-related occasions!
How Do You Find a Scouts BSA Troop?
As your Scout approaches the transition, be sure to watch for free Scouts BSA troop events and attend as many as you can. I’d suggest using the BSA troop locator. If you have several troops nearby, be sure to look into all of them! Your Scout should choose a troop based on interests, troop size, location, and the overall culture of the program.
In addition to meeting the interests of your Scout, you will want to find a troop that has other characteristics your child is comfortable with. Some questions your Scout should think about include: How do the Scouts act? How do they get along? What is the overall vibe?
Scouting Experience: I still remember attending a Roundtable for a troop and talking to the man who would become my son’s Scoutmaster. He was very friendly and described a troop that had a diverse range of activities, which even included geocaching. That sounded great to both me and my son! You will find that different troops have different focuses, from camping to backpacking — your Scout will decide what works for them.
As much fun as troop events can be, it may be even more helpful to attend one of the troop’s regular meetings. One parent described how that was the opportunity to see the “real troop in action” versus at a special event where the troop was trying to “woo” new members. 😉
Scouting Tip: Steven R., a former Cub Scouts leader and now BSA troop leader, from Forest Park, IL said he took his group of Webelos to meetings of Scouts BSA troops for three months before the crossover. He said, “It worked really great and my Scouts were ready for their first camp, which was only a couple of weeks after Blue and Gold.”
Another important thing to look at when choosing a Scouts BSA troop is size. Small troops can be challenging because there are fewer volunteers to share the work. At the same time, they are more intimate and family-like. Also keep in mind that with really large troops, it can be hard for the kids to attain the required Scout Positions of Leadership.
You might also look for a Webelos weekend for your Scout to attend. The cost for the weekend is usually minimal — and sometimes free — to the Webelos and AOL Scouts. Troops often create flyers with different themes and try to entice Webelos to join them!
Scouting Experience: My son’s troop used a fun Sasquatch theme a few years ago. The flyer advertised: “Sasquatch is very real and Troop 303 invites you to a weekend of celebrating Sasquatch and learning all the outdoor skills needed to be more like him. Join us for archery, BB guns, hiking, Leave No Trace, outdoor cooking skills, first aid, and the most epic Bigfoot Hide and Seek ever!”
The final thing to consider when looking for a troop is overall convenience. You’ll want a troop that meets at a time that fits your family’s schedule and is located within a reasonable driving distance. Even the best troop won’t be enjoyable for your Scout if they can’t get there!
Scouting Tip: Cub Scout parent Patricia W. shared an idea that I found brilliant. In addition to visiting troops, it’s a great idea to ask them to visit you. Her pack did just that! They invited Scouts BSA troops to show a “highlight reel” and answer questions at one of their meetings, helping the Cub Scouts decide which troops to visit.
What Happens When All the Other Cubs Are Going to a Feeder Troop
It’s tough when the Scouts almost unthinkingly transition to a specific Scouts BSA troop, but it’s also quite common. You feel like you don’t want to offend anyone and yet you’re not sure that it’s the right decision for your Scout. It’s also tough when your child and their friends may not be going to the same place!
I remember seeing the feeder troop when my son was approaching the transition. I tried to block it out, honestly! We attended a local Roundtable where we met representatives from different troops, and then attended events with at least four of them. Finding the right fit was more important than following the crowd.
Scouting Experience: I asked my son today if he remembered why he chose his troop. He said he was won over by the overall environment — a lot of laughter and fun. It seemed to be the right one, for sure, as now he is working on his Eagle project!
What’s Different in Scouts BSA?
It will be helpful to talk about some of the things that will be different for your Scout before they transition. If you set up the expectations ahead of time, you will have fewer challenges and they will have fewer surprises. In addition to troop structure and uniforms, camping, and merit badges are two additional changes.
Scouting Tip: While I do encourage you to be an active leader with your child’s troop, I also recommend that you give your Scout space to learn without you. Our son was very anxious to be on his own and we did our best to give him those opportunities!
Camping is one of the situations that will be different in Scouts BSA. Camping is not as frequent in Cub Scouts, and it’s usually done as a family. This begins to change during the Webelos and AOL years, when the Scouts may camp on their own or join a troop outing.
In Scouts BSA, camping becomes a central part of the Scouting experience. The Scouts will sleep in tents within certain age ranges. For example, the bunking Scouts cannot have more than a two-year difference. In addition, the only adults on a camping trip will be registered leaders.
Scouting Experience: There was one year that no leaders were able to attend summer camp and it was on the verge of being canceled for those seven boys. I stepped up, along with one other mom, and made arrangements to go. I told my son, who was then 13, that I would keep my distance — though it wasn’t easy! Meanwhile, I took the adult COPE class and had a fantastic time.
While in Scouts BSA, the Scouts will plan, shop, prepare, cook, and clean up after themselves. Parents who are supervising the campout will do the same with their own menu and within their own campsite. Everyone has to set up tents too. The youngest troop members will find that they are no longer bossed around by parents, but by older Scouts!
There’s a great article describing all of the differences between Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA right here on this website. It covers structure, activities, leadership, rank advancement, and learning methods. It’s a great source of information for those making the transition!
While in Cub Scouts, Scouts follow fairly strict requirements to earn each rank. In Scouts BSA, Scouts have so many options and paths to follow. Outside of the core merit badges they have to complete in order to become an Eagle Scout, they have the chance to explore many new topics.
Helpful Link: This BSA website describes the merit badge process and provides a list of what is available–more than 137 badges!
Any parent can — and should — sign up to be a merit badge counselor for as many topics as possible. Having merit badge counselors within the troop is a tremendous timesaver and helps the Scouts. Learn more about being a merit badge counselor by checking out the link!
Helpful Cub Scout and Scouts BSA Vocabulary
- AOL: While in the fifth grade, Cubs work on their Arrow of Light (AOL). They may begin it sooner if they’ve completed their Webelos rank.
- Board of review: An event (typically held after a weekly meeting) in Scouts BSA where two adult leaders interview a Scout in order to confirm and complete their new rank.
- Assistant Scoutmaster: These individuals support the Scoutmaster. While there is only one Scoutmaster, there can be multiple assistants.
- Bridging or crossover: These terms are used to describe when Cub Scouts transition to a Scouts BSA troop.
- COPE: The acronym stands for Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience. COPE involves brain games, team building activities, and physical challenges.
- Feeder troop: This term is used to describe a Scouts BSA troop that traditionally receives the Cubs from one or more packs.
- Patrol: While Cubs are in the smallest group called a den within a Cub Scout pack, older Scouts are in patrols that make up the troop. Check out our article about each Scouts BSA leadership role!
- Patrol leader: This Scout is the leader of their patrol. Elections are held throughout the year so that different Scouts can gain leadership skills.
- Roundtable: As defined by Scouts BSA, Roundtables “exist to provide and capture information, offer current training programs, and provide networking opportunities.”
- Scoutmaster: As a Cubmaster is to a Cub Scout pack, a Scoutmaster is to a Scouts BSA troop.
- Senior patrol leader: This Scout, usually referred to as the SPL, is the main youth leader of the troop.
- Troop: When in Cub Scouts, youth are in a large pack made up of dens. When in Scouts BSA, they are in a troop made up of patrols. Check out this great organization chart for troops!
- Webelos: Webelos is always plural and signifies “We’ll Be Loyal Scouts.” Scouts start the first of two Webelos years while in the fourth grade, although in the second year they earn AOL.
- YPT (Youth Protection Training): This training program is required annually for all adult volunteers in the troop. It involves watching a video with important information about keeping youth safe.
Congratulations on reaching this amazing milestone and transitioning from Cub Scouts to Scouts BSA! This is truly a rewarding time for Scouts and their families. I personally loved the adventures I’ve been on through each stage of Scouting, and it’s been incredible watching my son grow into a confident, capable young man.😀
Can you recall those four tips from the beginning of this article? They’re very important, so I’ll recap them for you! Remember to let go as your Scout practices independence and gains skills to become a productive citizen. Don’t rescue them. Let them learn through successes and failures! Encourage Scouts to explore new adventures (via the numerous merit badges). Support the troop as best as you can and let your Scout witness your commitment to it!
Thanks so much for dropping by! If you enjoyed learning about the transition from Cub Scouting into BSA Scouting, I’d highly recommend also checking out any of the following articles:
- The Biggest Benefits Of Cub Scouting (For My Child) (Also by Jaci H!)
- Scouting Costs in 2023: Fees, Gear, Uniforms, and More
- Everything To Know Before Joining Scouts BSA
- How To Succeed In Scouts BSA (And Rank Up Reliably)!
- 99 Epic BSA Activities: Scouts Share Their Favorite Troop Adventures
I hope this article helps you out a ton! Be sure to share it with the other Cub Scout families who are transitioning over from pack to troop, if they could use a hand. Also, come back to ScoutSmarts again soon for more helpful advice to make the most out of Scouting. Until next time, I’m wishing you all the best on your Scouting journey!