Cub Scouts: Gift Exchange and Holiday Party Ideas (Achievements, Too!)

We are officially two days into December, which means it’s time to break out the holly and jolly, make with the merry, and find ways to bring cheer into the lives of our Scouts.

There’s that old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” By December, your Scouts might be feeling like they’re neck deep in required adventures, and though you’re keeping it simple and making it fun, they probably need a break. Each year, my den carves out one meeting for nothing but holiday fun. Over the years, we’ve found ways to check a few boxes as we go and with no one even noticing. We’ll get to that in this post, but first I want to talk about a good old fashioned gift exchange.

Switch, Freeze, Steal Gift Exchange

Here’s what you’ll need to play the Switch, Freeze, Steal gift exchange game:

Have you ever walked into a Five Below and wondered where they were when you were a kid? My Arrow of Light simply cannot walk into a Five Below without wanting everything in the store; from enormous bundles of his favorite candy to toys that are absolutely perfect for sharing with his friends. There are board games, remote control helicopters, craft kits, art supplies, books, figurines, seasonal toys, and more small (and thrifty, budget-friendly) items that won’t break the bank.

You can also find fun tactical paracord bracelets, Rayovac camping lanterns, flint and steel fire starter kits, and other fun, inexpensive gifts on (Don’t forget to visit and choose your local Council to receive your support with each qualifying purchase.)

Have each Scout wrap their gift and bring it to the meeting without a tag on it (or at least, without the name of a specific Scout on it). Everyone sits in a circle and piles their gifts up in the center. Starting with the Scout whose birthday is closest to your December meeting, have each Scout pick a gift that is not their own and hold it in their laps. Starting with your special Scout, have them roll the die. Each number will have an action associated with it; for example, if your Scout rolls a 2, they roll the dice again and everyone switches their gifts to the left that number of times.

My AOL den has 19 Scouts in it, so we let each Scout have a roll and if we’re tight on time, we stop the game. Scouts are then allowed to trade gifts if they’ve received their own. Once everyone is happy, they open their gifts up and spend the next ten minutes checking out what they received, what everyone else received, seeing who received the gift they brought, and you get it.

After that, we get right to the part where we eat and be merry!

You can even use the gift exchange to help your Webelos and AOLs work on the Aware and Care adventure. A few sets of oven mitts or blindfolds would make the game a great exercise in awareness of the challenges of blindness, visual impairments, and mobility or dexterity impairments. Similarly, the Wolves have Cubs Who Care requirements that explore living with the same impairments, like wearing mittens and tying your shoes, using a fork, playing card games, blowing bubbles, and other activities that could be incorporated into your special event.

Snacks, Activities, and Advancement

Everyone’s favorite topic! Snacks are a big part of our holiday party each year, and we’ve used the party as an opportunity to fill some of the SCOUTStrong Healthy Unit award requirements. If you encourage Scouts to bring a healthy snack or two, and provide plenty of water, they have already checked two boxes for this special award.

If you look at page 3 of that handy PDF, you’ll see a bright green box labeled “Quiz Calisthenics.” Man, whoever had this idea is truly a genius because it suits every single meeting plan from Lion to AOL, and if you play one of those games (or something similiar) for 15 minutes, you can check yet another box off on your SCOUTStrong tracker.

A healthy snack is one of our Scout Six Essentials, and making festive trail mix could be a fun activity at your party.

Tigers can use healthy party snacks to fulfill many of the requirements for Tiger Bites and Games Tigers Play, like learning about good food choices, eating fruits and vegetables, and making a good snack choice to share with your den.

Wolves learn all about balanced diets, healthy menus, and good food choices in the Running With The Pack adventure. They also need to create a shopping list for ingredients. In Finding Your Way, Wolves make healthy snacks and learn about where the ingredients come from. An International Foods holiday party would be a lot of fun and interesting for everyone!

Bears can fulfill the Bear Picnic Basket requirements by bringing a healthy treat and sharing the recipe with the den, preparing two snacks for the den, and helping to select and purchase the ingredients from the store. I always wanted to use this as an opportunity to create a den cook book, but with so many Scouts that one hour a week seemed to go elsewhere.

Webelos are even expected to prepare food for the Cast Iron Chef adventure, and if you have the ability to make it an outdoor holiday party, have Scouts make a campfire dinner (like hot dogs over an open campfire or in a fire pit) and box oven s’mores nachos. We had a lot of fun and success with box oven treats and recipes over the years. For Webelos Walkabout, they’re required to prepare and enjoy a nutritious meal. Lots of options!

The Basics

Honestly, I harp on this (and so does all of our training) because it’s super important: KEEP IT SIMPLE, MAKE IT FUN! Don’t go over the top or plan out every moment of this special, fun event. Scouts are all about fellowship and will find great ways to enjoy the time between the gift exchange, snacks, and other activities you have planned. Let your hair down, take in their happy giggles or excited smiles, and feel grateful for the joy that is the opportunity to lead such great kids. You’re doing a great job! Enjoy yourself!

Do you host a den party each year? What special activities do you plan? Have you ever tried a gift exchange? Will you try Switch, Freeze, Steal? Tell me all about it in the comments, and don’t forget to like and share this post and follow me here on Look Wider Still.

Yours in Scouting,

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Published by Look Wider Still

Rebekah is the mother of two wonderful sons, Michael and Nate. She and her husband, Mike, married in 2002 and have built their family on a foundation of adventure. Between geocaching, camping, hiking, cooking, fishing, crafting, reading, and snuggling their Irish Terrier, Bentley, they enjoy a long and happy career in Scouting. The boys come from a long line of Scouters, including Eagles on all sides. Mike has served as assistant den leader, treasurer, and Pack Committee member, and Rebekah has served as den leader and Cubmaster for Pack 521 out of Mechanicsville, Virginia.

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