Campers won’t settle down at bedtime? Try these four tips

Heading to summer camp or your unit’s first summer campout?ScoutingCover1950

If you’ve camped with Scouts before, then it’s likely you’ve encountered energetic boys (and Venturers, too) who have a hard time settling down at bedtime.

The woes of Scoutmaster Knott in the May 1950 edition of Scouting magazine will sound familiar. In this tale, the Skunk Patrol continues making noise “like a hog-call contest in Times Square” late into the night. His solution? Calisthenics and trash duty in the dark hours. Before he knows it, the boys drop into bed, exhausted.

The article offers four timeless tips for helping “boy-discipline in camp”:

  1. Horseplay on the first night — or any night — will not necessarily wreck the republic. (And it may make better medicine than the repressive discipline used in stopping it.)
  2. The approach is the thing.
  3. Hard work and hard play — before Taps — makes Jack a sleepy boy.
  4. Whatever your “system,” be firm, be tactful and you’ll be respected.

Anything to add to the list? What kinds of bedtime enforcement work for your troop or crew?


  1. Wear them out. Preferably long before lights out.
    Flag ceremonies just before lights out, sometimes put the scouts in a more reverent spirit.
    Separate “chatty-Cathys”.
    If they are totally out of control, call their parents/guardians and have them come pick the boys up. (This one seems to have long term impact).

  2. I sleep through almost anything (maybe a privilege of being the ASM), so I was blissfully unaware until I heard the tale over breakfast: Several boys had started a card game in their tent and had become a bit rowdy. The noise was still going around 2 a.m. and our SM had reached his limit.

    He told the boys to go straight to the bus. He further informed them that he was about to call their parents or guardians to meet us at our HQ.

    At this point, the boys became very quiet. Our SM knew that putting the bus into reverse would start the safety beeper and wake everyone at the camp site. The SM turned around and proposed a compromise to the boys (terrified of having to face parents or grandparents wakened in the dark to retrieve them). The SM offered dish cleanup for the remainder of the camping trip in exchange for allowing them to return to their tents in silence until breakfast.

    There were no complaints or discipline issues for the rest of the weekend. The food was excellent and the other boys had no problems piling the dirty dishes for the cleanup crew.

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