How to prepare for the Pinewood Derby right now

Scout and leader prepare for the Pinewood Derby

Ask a Cub Scout about his or her favorite memory in Scouting. Then, ask the same question to an adult whose Scouting days are long passed.

The answer is almost always the Pinewood Derby.

And there’s a reason the race sticks in the minds of both Cub Scouts and grown adults alike. That little car they created with their families is a tangible representation of the effort, the suspense and the thrill of working toward a goal and seeing it come to life. For many kids, the Pinewood Derby offers a first chance at this kind of pursuit.

That’s why for leaders, parents and Scouts, cramming Pinewood Derby preparation into the days just before the race doesn’t do anyone’s experience justice.

If your pack holds a race in mid to late winter, now is the time to start shaping this lifelong memory for your Scouts.

If your pack holds its race later in the year, the key takeaway is that preparation can start early.

For most pack leaders and parents, however, keep reading to learn how you can get ready for a successful winter race!

For leaders: How to prepare for Pinewood Derby

Initiating the launch into Pinewood Derby season relies on Cub Scout leaders. Your new Scouting families aren’t thinking about the race until you remind them to start crafting cars and to mark their calendars for the race day.

Here are our suggested tasks for leaders to tackle before we head into the new year:

  • Hand out car kits before the holiday break. Many packs use the Pinewood Derby kit as a holiday gift to Scouts at their parting meeting for the year. If your final meeting for the year has passed, it’s not too late to let parents pick up car kits from a leader before the year ends (or send them to the Scout Shop if your pack doesn’t provide kits). This is important, as many Scouts and parents have free time over the holidays to start planning and building. Plus, the more time kids and their families dedicate to building their cars, the more invested they’ll be in not only the race but also the Cub Scout program.
  • Make sure everyone knows the rules. This should be easy. At that final meeting of the year, make sure you walk your pack through the rules of your race. You can also communicate these digitally so parents have access to the rules over the break.
  • Advertise the race date. Remind your Scouts and their parents of the race date (and car check-in day, if it’s on a separate day) early and often!
  • Ensure you’ve got a race space lined up and reserved. Double check that you’ve got your race space locked down. If you haven’t reserved a space yet, it’s time to find one. Think of gyms, community centers, your charter organizations facilities, churches, school cafeterias, etc. We’ve even seen some awesome outdoor races when and where weather allows.
  • Assign your volunteers tasks now. Figure out who is handling set up, decor, food, prizes, weigh-ins, on-the-fly car adjustments, officiating and announcing now. This doesn’t all need to be finalized yet. But letting parents know you’re counting on their help will aid them in clearing their calendars accordingly.
  • Get a build day on the calendar. If possible, find a day when your families can pool resources and talents to share tools and ideas. This allows parents who don’t have access to building supplies to get help from those who live for firing up their power tools. And remember, Cub Scouts should never user power tools. They can, however, advise an adult on how they’d like their car cut and shaped.
  • Plan to use Pinewood Derby to introduce more youth to Scouting. With tools like the Pinewood Derby campaign kit, you can use your preparation and race day as opportunities to show off the fun of Pinewood Derby to kids who aren’t yet Scouts.

Scout sands car

For parents and Scouts preparing for the big race

Over the holiday break, Scouting families can accomplish so much on the car-building front. This #CubChatLive provides the basics new parents need to know about the race. Below the video, check out a few tasks you can check off before the year ends to prepare for the Pinewood Derby.

  • Ask leaders questions about rules now. See if you can get a digital or hard copy of your pack’s race rules before you build. Before your Scout pours time into a car, make sure he or she is following the guidelines needed for race eligibility.
  • Head to Scout ShopIf you don’t have a Pinewood Derby car kit yet, you can snag a very affordable one at your local Scout Shop (or online). But even if you already have a kit, there are so many additional cool tools your Scout can use to upgrade and decorate his or her car. It’s all at your local shop. Plus, the people working there will likely have some awesome tips for you as you embark on the build.
  • Help your Scouts build their cars over the holiday break. This is simple. Get those wheels turning. Literally. Read a few articles from Scout Life to get the basics on what makes a car fast. Check out some design inspiration from real Scouts. And get your Scout designing their car.
  • Offer your talents to make race day awesome. If you’re great with power tools, share those skills with parents who have never touched one. If you love to bake, offer to bring cookies to race day. If you can volunteer in any capacity at the Pinewood Derby, let your den and pack leadership know — they’ll be happy to have your help.

Cub Scouts participating in Pinewood Derby race; standing behind track admiring cars

How else are you prepping for the Pinewood Derby now?

New and seasoned parents and leaders, chime in! What else should we do now to prepare for the big race? Let us know in the comments. And add to our conversation on the philosophy behind Pinewood Derby.

About Gina Circelli 48 Articles
Gina Circelli is the Digital Editor for Scout Life. She loves sharing news about Scouts who shake up pop culture or contribute to their communities in big ways.