Rainbows and Brownies: Everything you need to know about Girl Guiding

A Rainbow, Brownie and Ranger

by Laura Healy |
Updated on

There are so many clubs to choose from for your little one, such as swimming, gymnastics, ballet, football, or even horse riding, so it can be hard to decide what to sign them up for. However, Brownie units have been around for decades, and perhaps you were even a Brownie, or a Girl Guide yourself, in fact maybe even your own mum or Grandma was a Brownie, and you love the idea of your little girl following in all your footsteps.

Brownie Leader, Rachel Leverett, from the 3rd Henley Brownie unit, says: "I started Girl Guiding when I became a Brownie aged 7 in my local village and have never really left, I later became a young leader and then a warranted guider at this unit. Brownies was the best part of my week as a child and I never missed a session. I particularly enjoyed crafts and outdoor activities."

What is Girl Guiding?

Girl Guiding is the largest youth organisation dedicated entirely to girls. It encompasses groups for all girls from the ages of 4 - 18. Girl Guiding prides itself on inclusion and equality and wants to be a place where everyone is welcome and are free to be themselves, with an equal sense of belonging. Victoria Saint, a leader for 2nd Wargrave Brownies unit, says: "There is no judgement or pressure. Girls feel supported to have fun and learn important life skills."

Girl Guiding is aware of the gender stereotypes girls still face today and as an organisation they ensure the units are a place for girls to explore and have fun and the Girl Guiding mission is: "Girls can do anything. We help them know that."

Rachel Leverett believes there are so many benefits: "I feel that Brownies builds girls' self-esteem and encourages independence through working in a team. It's really important to instil that girls can do anything and have access to a range of opportunities. I love that to be a Brownie you don't have to be good at any one thing, unlike sports or music clubs."

What are the different groups and ages within Girl Guiding?

Rainbows: Rainbows is for the youngest members of Girl Guiding, from age 4 - 7. At a Rainbows group, girls will have lots of fun playing games, doing crafts, and earning skills builder badges which include, camping, communication and first aid. There are also interest badges for Rainbows to do at home covering topics such as book lover, animal lover and helper. Rainbows wear a cheerful bright red and white uniform, of t-shirt, leggings and hoodie, and they can sew their badges to their t-shirt or sash as they gain them. To be a fully-fledged Rainbow, your little girl will make The Promise and receive her promise badge.

Brownies: The next step in your little girl's Girl Guiding journey is Brownies, which is for girls age 7 - 10. During a Brownies meeting, girls try lots of new activities and will learn lots of new skills, while having fun. Activities include growing plants, cooking, learning to put up and take down a tent, how to light a fire, and they even go on a weekend away camping. Brownies will encourage your little one's creative side, as well as exploring the outdoors and teaching her how to take care of herself and others. Interesting badges to do at home include, inventing, performing and archaeology. Brownies wear a comfortable uniform of brown leggings, a yellow t-shirt and a warm brown hoodie.

Guides: To continue, from age 10 - 14, your daughter can join Guides. Again this is lots of fun and girls can enjoy activities such as making up a new sport, creating a perfume, cooking over a campfire, designing an advertising campaign or raising money for a charity important to them. Guides also have an opportunity to help out in a Rainbows or Brownie unit to inspire younger members and there are opportunities for trips away. Guides dress in a uniform of red and blue.

Rangers: The final age group in Girl Guiding is Rangers, for girls age 14 - 18. This really gives girls the chance to build confidence and it encourages independence. Through regular meetings with their local group, as well as trips both at home and abroad, Rangers make a difference in the things they care about. It allows girls an open and relaxed space to talk with friends, gain qualifications and work on skills such as protesting, entrepreneurship, and morals and values. Rangers wear turquoise and grey.

Regardless of age, Girl Guiding is beneficial for all girls and the experience is one that stays with girls for life. Victoria Saint says: "Everyone remembers their time within girl guiding. I have fond memories of being a Brownie and my Mum being a leader. Now my daughter has progressed from a Rainbow, then a Brownie and now a Guide. I am now the leader and it's a pleasure to volunteer on a weekly basis."

How to register for Brownies?

If you think your little girl would enjoy joining a Rainbows or Brownie unit and start her Girl Guiding journey then you will need to register her on the Girl Guiding website with your local unit. It doesn't matter what age your daughter is, you can register her at any time. There are over 300,000 girls currently registered and enjoying attending regular meetings as either Rainbows, Brownies, Guides or Rangers. When you register your child the following will happen:

Register interest: Here you will be asked for your contact details and some information about your child.

Choose a unit: The Girl Guiding website will list your local units and you can choose the three most convenient locations for you.

Wait to hear from your chosen unit: Someone from your chosen unit will contact you within 3 weeks and will go through meeting times, costs and activities.

Trial: If there are spaces available, the unit leader will arrange a trial for your little one.

Is there a waiting list?

It really depends on the unit you choose to join and how busy they are. Rainbows and Brownies are popular and have been for decades, so there is a chance there will be a waiting list. However, as soon as you decide it is something your little one would like to try you can register your interest and get them on the list.

How much does it cost to be a Brownie?

Girl Guiding aims to make being a Rainbow or Brownie affordable for all, but it isn't free and you do have to pay membership fees, or as they are called in Girl Guiding, 'subs.' The membership fee covers the cost of any equipment and hiring a meeting place and they are normally paid termly.

How often do Brownies meet?

All Girl Guiding units typically meet once a week during term time. However, there will be other opportunities for activities during school holidays and some units offer weekend camping trips or pack holidays. Victoria Saint says: "Leaders get to meet with girls on a weekly basis. We help them to grow into confident young women. They learn new skills through fun activities and have many adventures."

Can boys join Girl Guides?

No, boys cannot join Girl Guides. It is still just a space for girls and Girl Guiding say that when they asked members if they would like boys to join, they said they wanted it to be just for girls. Rachel Leverett says: "For many girls, it creates a unique girl-only space and a chance as they grow to discuss and challenge topics they perhaps wouldn't in a school class peer group."

Beavers, Cubs and Scouts - are they the same?

In the same way Girl Guiding is divided into age groups, so are the Scouts, which has the following groups:

Squirrels: Age 4 -6 years

• Beavers: Age 6 - 8 years

• Cubs: Age 8 - 10.5 years

• Scouts: Age 10.5 - 14 years

• Explorers: Age 14 - 18

• Network: Age 18 - 25 years

Similar to Girl Guiding, the Scouts meet weekly and play games, get creative and collect badges in a variety of skills such as cooking, construction, camping and performance art. They also organise weekends away. It is a great organisation for your little one to make new friends, learn new skills and have fun.

Can girls join the Scouts?

The Scouts aim to be fully inclusive and welcome all genders, races and backgrounds, regardless of physical ability. So yes, girls are able to join any of the Scout groups from Squirrels to Network.

Is there a Beavers waiting list?

Perhaps! Just like Girl Guiding, it depends on how busy your chosen unit is. Joining the Scouts is a popular choice, so it is likely there will be a waiting list, especially with both girls and boys attending, and demand can be quite high. However, if your little one is interested, then register on the Scouts website to get them on the list!

What is World Thinking Day?

Both Girl Guides and Girl Scouts have been marking World Thinking Day since 1926. It takes place every year on 22nd February as a celebration of ten million girls worldwide. It started when delegates from Guides and Girl Scouts organisations across the world decided to create a day for Guides and Girl Scouts to celebrate being part of an international movement.

What do Rainbows and Brownies do on World Thinking Day?

It is an important day for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and each year they think about important topics affecting them around the world such as poverty, gender equality and sustainability. World Thinking Day 2024 is focused on thinking about 'Our World, Our Peaceful Future,' which is about the importance of creating a sustainable and inclusive world where girls have an opportunity to thrive.

For members of Rainbows or Brownies, often they are encouraged to wear their Girl Guiding uniform to school on this special day.

About the experts

Rachel Leverett is the unit leader for 3rd Henley Brownies and started her Girl Guiding journey at the age of seven.

Victoria Saint is the unit leader for 2nd Wargrave Brownies and has been part of the Girl Guiding organisation since she was young. Her mum was a Girl Guiding Leader and her daughter is now a Guide.

Laura Healy is a Commercial Content Writer for Mother&Baby. She is a mum-of-two girls and loves writing about all things parenting, she is particularly interested in the toddler years and eco-friendly baby products, as well as children’s literature. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and has published short stories in the UK and Ireland, as well as previously writing freelance for her local paper.

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