Written by: Cally Worden
The scout and guiding movements in the UK often come in for a bit of stick. The mocking sound of ‘Dib Dib Dib’ hangs in the air, as supposed grown-ups snigger behind their hands. But you speak to virtually anyone who has been involved in these groups; the overwhelming response is one of enthusiasm and happy memories. Guides and scouts was a part of my life growing up, I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone who is thinking about getting involved. It isn’t for everyone, that’s true. But if your kids like the outdoors, love learning about the world and are interested in lots of different things, it could be for them. Here’s why.
The friendships made at Guides and Scouts are often long lasting. Some may be with mates you already have from school, but you also have the opportunity to connect with like-minded youngsters from all walks of life, from all over your local area. Many of the activities undertaken while attending Guide and Scouts, are activities that involve working together. Coming together over challenges creates a bond and trust that is hard to break.
The Relative Independence
Clearly, the independence stuff undertaken by Guides and Scouts needs to be age appropriate. But under careful supervision and guidance, these groups offer the chance for youngsters to gain freedoms that would never be accorded to them in day-to-day life. Romping around forests, making and cooking on campfires and learning to navigate (and get lost) are all popular activities. And they are often enjoyed by kids of 10 and, with guidance, sometimes younger too. The confidence this instils in kids is invaluable to their self-esteem.
The Fun Stuff
There is a broad structure to life in Guides and Scouts (and the younger and older versions of these groups too). There are badges to work towards, based around competencies in any activity you can imagine, from art and cooking to woodcraft and cycling. Children undertake projects of their choosing in areas that appeal to them. And beyond that, there are wider activities that the whole group engage in, such as group games, camping and trekking trips, visits to police stations and talks and taster sessions from experts in different fields. I remember a particularly fun evening learning the basics of fencing (the sword type!) when I was 15.
The Serious Stuff
Wrapping all the activities is an over-arching focus on less tangible life skills. Getting along with others, learning to compromise, being kind and supportive, doing things for others without expecting anything in return, learning to trust others, being responsible for your words and actions, and so on. The moral, personal and emotional life skills promoted by the Guide and Scouting movements, help youngsters to take a pride in themselves and to grow into thoughtful, generous and empathetic adults.
One of the key things many children take away from their time in the Guides and Scouts is a sense of personal responsibility. Kids are encouraged to be independent, make choices and be prepared to stand behind those decisions and any ensuing consequences. Young children may be offered a budget and told to go and buy food for a meal for themselves. If they choose to buy chocolate they will go hungry later. Other times they may be taught navigation, being left to find their way to a certain point. If they make careless decisions, their route will be longer than it needs to be. Older groups of kids may elect a council to be responsible for organising the group’s activities, for which their peers may hold them accountable.
There are so many ways in which the Guide and Scout movements help youngsters to grow. And you really do get out what you put in, as with so many things in life. If your children are looking for something to do with their free time, then why not see if there is a group near you that they could join.