This story originally appeared in the November-December 2000 issue of Scouting magazine.
After nearly a decade of leadership in a large suburban pack, a Cubmaster prepares to move on as his child ages out of the program. To help his successor, he hands over a file box containing notes on how to run a Pinewood Derby, organize a blue and gold banquet, and divide territory for the annual Scouting for Food campaign. Then, with a smile, he carefully adds his most valued pack possession: an old stuffed sock on a rope.
Veteran Cubmasters know how to have fun in low-stress ways that require little preparation or money. And the Sock on a Rope game, a favorite with our former Cubmaster, Skye Schell of Pack 1533, Fairfax, Va., is a perfect example.
Stuff one old sock into another one, then tie the sock to one end of a 12-foot rope (clothesline or thicker). The Cub Scouts form a circle around the leader, then try to jump over the sock and rope as the leader swings it around at an ankle-to-shin level, slowly at first, then faster. The last player touched by the sock or rope wins. (It’s even more fun when parents take a turn.)
Packs across the country have found that the best games for Cub Scouts are often those that are the least complicated, use inexpensive materials, have rules that take less than a minute to explain and require minimal setup.
“Marbles are my favorite,” says veteran Cubmaster Dwight Havens of Pack 428 in Arizona’s Grand Canyon Council. “They’re so easy to play as a gathering activity game. Every kid can participate, and it keeps them busy at one end of the auditorium while we set up at the other end.”
One common ingredient for all popular pack games is involvement. The ideal game should include everyone, with nobody left out to invent alternative activities in the back of the meeting room. If the Cub Scouts need to play in shifts, make sure the game is as much fun to watch as it is to play.
Past Cubmaster Jerry Franks of Olathe, Kan., understands all about large group management: His Pack 3288 had more than 130 Cub Scouts.
“We made sure all the dens were represented in our games,” he says. “That way, all the kids had someone to cheer for during the action.”
One reason the Sock on a Rope game has such appeal was that it kept the attention of all Cub Scouts, even after they had been eliminated. Much like spectators watching the progress of a tightrope walker, they just had to see how the Cub Scouts who remained would continue to fare in evading the spinning sock.
Make it fun for everyone
To ensure that everybody has fun, you must remember that every Cub Scout is different. If your featured game one month is physically rigorous, appealing to the best jumpers and runners, consider a game for quick thinkers for the following month.
Another of Cubmaster Schell’s favorites was Memory Game, a variation of the classic Kim’s Game, a testing of visual recall.
Den leaders bring objects from home that relate to the month’s theme and spread them on a table in front of the seated Cub Scouts. A child from the first den comes to the table, picks up and names an object, then puts it down. In order, the kids from the other dens follow, each holding up and naming a different object. However, each Cub Scout must also pick up and name each previously selected object in the correct order. The winner is the one who can name all the objects in order — quite a memory feat.
“The game helped the Scouts improve their powers of concentration, kept the noise level down, and, best of all, reinforced something important from our theme,” says Schell. “If we were talking about camping skills in advance of the parent-son weekend, the objects could all be things a Scout should remember to put in their pack: extra socks, mosquito repellent, flashlights and canteen. And the suspense really grew as the list of objects to remember expanded to 25 or 30.”
Too unwieldy? Try it!
These ideas sound like fun, you might say, but your pack is just too large and unwieldy for them.
Such concerns about keeping order in a crowd of 100 Cub Scouts and their families can cause some Cubmasters to opt instead for a monthly meeting filled exclusively with skits, songs and awards. But there is a place for everything, especially games, no matter how big the pack. Even if you offer only a 10-minute game and follow it with a calming song, you’ve given the Cub Scouts some fun to remember.
And, in an age of high-priced toys and glitzy electronic entertainment, Cubmasters can remind families of the great times they can have without spending a dime.
That’s a pretty good deal.