When you’re a new scouting parent, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It may not help that there are currently 130 merit badges scouts can earn. Where to begin?
First of all, recognize that boy scouts is different from cub scouts in that boys should (and will) take more responsibility for their own progress. Much will be done without you, and that’s a good thing! Keep in touch with the scout leader to find out what support they may need you to offer.
Second, understand how blue cards work and why it’s so important to keep track of them. You may leave this in the hands of your scout, but it’s not uncommon for parents to make sure completed blue cards are in a safe place. For more about blue cards, how merit badges work, and how to avoid becoming the next blue card horror story (seriously), see my post here.
Now, on to the point of this post. With so many merit badges, which ones are on the must-do list?
1. Family-Oriented Required Merit Badges:
These are required for Eagle (see #2 below) and have requirements scouts must fulfill at home. Offer encouragement as a parent but let them be in charge as much as you can.
Personal Fitness (this could be done with the troop, but a parent will need to arrange the doctor exam to fulfill requirement #1)
2. Eagle Required Merit Badges
Scouts must earn these required merit badges to earn their Eagle, and will work on a number of these as they advance through Star and Life. They’ll do many of them with their troop or at camp, but as a parent, it’s good to be aware of this list.
In addition to Family Life, Personal Management, and Personal Fitness (above), Eagle-required merit badges are:
Citizenship in the Community
Citizenship in the Nation
Citizenship in the World
Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling
Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving
3. Whatever Merit Badge Interests Your Scout
Merit badges are a GREAT way for scouts to explore new interests. Let him go with what interests him, not what would interest you. If he chooses a topic not likely to be covered in his troop or at camp (say, Aviation) get a hold of the merit badge counselor list for your area and hook him up with a counselor. His scout leader or the office of your council can get you the list. (Don’t be afraid to call the council office. They’re there to help.)
Before your scout works on any merit badges independent of his troop, check with his scout leader. The troop may already have plans to work on one or more of these in the near future, there may be upcoming merit badge clinics (hopefully good ones and not the dreaded merit badge mills), or there may be certain merit badges that are good to work on during scout camp (such as Environmental Science or First Aid).