Extracurricular programs can be exciting and rewarding for the individual child. However, sometimes it can be a balancing act on the rest of the family. Allowing and encouraging troop tag-alongs can mean a boost in attendance. It also creates an opportunity for scouts to be role models for their younger siblings. With very little planning, you can include tag-alongs without making major changes in your troop activities.
Where to Start
If you choose to allow tag-alongs in your troop it is important to have a plan of action. First off, come up with a few simple rules that you can share with your parents. In my troop, parents are made aware of the following rules before their younger child can attend.
- Respect: Younger siblings should be expected to be quiet when an adult is speaking. This might mean that their parents will have to sit next to them to help with this. Younger children shouldn’t be a distraction to the rest of the group.
- Follow rules: Every program has their own set of rules. In my troop we have omitted snack time. So, any troop tag-alongs are not allowed to eat during our meetings either. This minimizes distractions and really makes them feel like they are a part of the group. I promise, all children can survive an hour without eating.
- Participate: Participation might look different for each child and that is okay. Parents and leaders both should welcome all levels. Some children are outgoing and would like to be hands on. While other might be more passive and hang back and watch. Having a welcoming environment will help each child decide in which level they would like to participate.
- Supervision: Parents must supervise younger children. It is important to make this clear. Opening up your activities to younger children is great, but it can become overwhelming if parents don’t hold up their end.
The Youth Squad® Program
It can be frustrating for younger children when they are expected to sit back and watch their siblings have a great time without them. They can become disruptive very quickly and become a problem at your meetings. Finding a way to meaningfully include them is a surefire way to address this issue. The Youth Squad® Program has wonderful activities that will help to include younger siblings in your meetings. Younger siblings can work on the “Helping Hands” level that keeps them engaged with age appropriate activities. By working on “Helping Hands” projects, these children get early access to being part of a community and being engaged in real topics.
The Youth Squad® program has a multitude of activities that fit right along with scouting, making it easy to incorporate them in meetings. Another advantage is their detailed Patch Program®. The “Helping Hands” level is designed specifically for 3 and 4 year olds. These children can earn patches alongside their older siblings. They are not just passing the time with busy work. Instead they are engaging in activities that are showing them how they can make a difference just like their siblings.
Troop Tag-Along Activities
Helping our environment is a hot topic in every organization. However, it can be difficult finding ways to keep little ones engaged when we start discussing water regulations or types of pollution. Having to research activities for younger scouts for each topic you are addressing with your troop can also become time consuming. The Youth Squad® program has this already planned out for younger scouts. The Clean Water Helper Badge in a Bag® was created with younger children in mind. The great thing about the Youth Squad® program is that they have taken out all of the leg work for leaders and come up with a purposeful program that will teach younger siblings to become empowered by actively participating. It’s not just a simple coloring sheet, these kits include age appropriate activities to teach them about early community involvement.
Including troop tag-alongs helps younger children gain confidence and self-esteem, which enables them to feel comfortable and happy with who they are. It takes a little bit of planning but with the right tools it can be done and the results are wonderful. Families will appreciate having activities where everyone is involved.
A variety of Badge in a Bag® kits for your tag-alongs are available through the Youth Squad®’s partner site MakingFriends®.com. Areas of interest include Animal Welfare, Environmental, Outreach and Community.