Category Archives: Brownie meetings

Snowmen and Jelly Babies

snowmen (10) - Copy.jpg

First night back at Rainbows, and we made snowmen with toilet roll tubes (which has made a good dent in my stash), cotton wool, and bits of fabric, paper and stickers – and lots of PVA glue.

An hour or so after Rainbows finished, it actually snowed, for the first time this winter, more heavily than expected. I felt pretty smug that I’d accidentally chosen a timely activity!

Then we played the Christmas Card Game. It’s my go-to activity for the first meeting after Christmas with any section (for example, I did it with Rainbows last year and Guides in 2014). You need a big pile of old Christmas cards and some teams of girls. You call out something to find (like a snowman, a robin, some glitter) and one girl from each team runs and tries to find it on a card. The first one to find it gets a point for her team.

It was a pretty quiet evening, with only 11 out of 16 Rainbows there. We had two new girls, who both have friends in the unit and settled in so well I hardly remembered they were new.

I stayed on to help with Brownies and Guides (all together tonight), and they did a Jelly Baby-themed evening in sixes and patrols:

  • A game where a leader called a word and the girls had to do an action – after a while, the girl who did it last/did the wrong action/wasn’t in a group of the right size was out and joined the judges
  • A relay quiz: each group stood in a line with one leader, who had a question sheet and pen. The leader read the first question to the first girl in the line, she ran to the middle of the room to find the answer on a packet of jelly babies (for example, one question was “What is the sell-by date?” The girl ran back and told the leader the answer, then the next girl got a question. When the first team finished, everyone stopped and marked the answers
  • Each group designed a new jelly baby and presented it to everyone

Then I took the Guides and the oldest Brownies off separately and we brainstormed what they’d like to do this term. Most of their ideas were big and outside the meeting place, so then we had a brainstorm of how they could raise money to do them. I collected the ideas, so now I need to sit down with the other leaders and work out a plan.

I found I was surprised at how well-behaved and generally pleasant the Brownies were (ok, they went a bit crazy when it started snowing, but let’s face it, it is THE MOST EXCITING THING when you’re 8). This made me realise how tired and hyper they (and we leaders) were getting towards the end of last term, though I didn’t notice at the time.

So this is encouraging. I’m refreshed, the Brownies are quite nice actually, and things are looking up for this term.

Brownies, alleys, beaches and chips

brownies beach

After Rainbows, I went off to join the Brownies. I knew they were somewhere in the town doing a trail, so I cycled around the back streets. It didn’t take long to find them in those hi vis jackets.

They were going around in Sixes finding all the little alleyways between the high street and the sea. There are more than I realised, some with very colourful names.

The Six I joined up finished quickly. We had a bit of time before we had to be at our final destination, so we went down to the beach for a few minutes, then took a trip to the public toilets. Oh the adventure.

We ended up at a takeaway owned by a Brownie’s parents (who are family friends of Brown Owl), where we all had chips and a drink in the garden. All in all a lovely evening, helped by the glorious weather.

Bilingual Brownies


The Brownie Law: A Brownie Guide thinks of others before herself and does a good turn every day.

Happy International Mother Language Day! In honour of my favourite awareness day, here’s a languagey post.

A couple of weeks ago I read this post from the Girl Guides of Canada about running a bilingual unit. It reminded me of my own experiences in a (sort of) bilingual unit a few years ago.

(Incidentally, I love the word bilingual because it describes itself.)

In 2011-12 I lived in deepest darkest Wales for a year while I was doing a Master’s course, and I helped at a Brownie unit. We had lots of good times, and looking back on it I learned a lot as a leader that year. Here are my jumbled thoughts on the languagey things I learned.

My Brownies were a cross section of the local community. Some went to Welsh-speaking schools and others went to English-speaking schools – it was roughly 50/50. At home some spoke only Welsh, some only English, some a mixture of both, and some a mixture of English and Arabic or Urdu.

The leaders only had limited Welsh. Three of us had moved there from England, and the fourth came from a not-very-Welsh part of Wales. It was a challenge which I’m sure many other units share. We wanted to be inclusive, to let the Brownies use whichever language they felt comfortable in, but we spoke to them and wrote letters to parents almost entirely in English, because we are Sasenach oppressors that was the only language we felt comfortable enough with.

To some extent it affected the activities we did. Early on when we were doing some writing, I noticed some Brownies, even almost 10-year-olds, made spelling “mistakes” that monolingual English children wouldn’t think of: when in doubt they operated by Welsh rules. One I remember was gini pyg for guinea pig. It brought it home to me that my Brownies at Welsh schools might have very little literacy in English – I think they didn’t start English lessons until the last few years of primary school.

After that I consciously planned activities that didn’t involve a lot of reading or writing, which I think is good practice anyway: guiding isn’t school. If there was writing, I tried to make it bilingual (like the Brownie Law mice in the photo – the English version is on the other side). I didn’t always succeed. We offered new Brownies a choice of which language to make their Promise in. (They all chose English in my time there.)

When some new 7-year-old Brownies joined later in the year, I noticed one in particular wasn’t confident speaking English. Well, why would you be when you never use it at home or at school? For example, when they lined up in order of their birthday and we asked them to call out the month they were born, most said it in English but this Brownie called “Tachwedd”. Cool, we know which month that is (November) so you’re in the right order, next please. I think she was happy, she had friends and their older sisters there so she wasn’t isolated.

My guess is that the Welsh-speaking Brownies get more bilingual as they get older, but I wasn’t there long enough to see it happen. Sadly, I’d also guess that the English-speaking Brownies don’t get more bilingual. They just don’t need to in day-to-day life. It’s a tricky issue.

It’s well-known that there are a gazillion advantages to being multilingual, and in the grand scheme of humanity it’s strange and unnatural to only have one language. The obvious advantages for my Cymraeg Brownies were:

  • they had a secret language to communicate in that the leaders could barely understand. When I was that age I loved secret codes, secret diaries etc. I’d have gone wild for a whole secret language.
  • they got to teach us leaders bits of Welsh and encourage/laugh at our efforts to learn. When you’re 7/8/9 years old it’s not often you’re better at something than an adult. With the right attitude from leaders, it can be really good for girls to be the experts for a change. Of course this applies to all girls in all sorts of things, not just languages.

I’ve lost touch with most of my leader friends from Wales, but I hope they and my Brownies, whichever languages they speak, are doing ok. Fingers crossed some of them are Guides and Senior Section now.

Christmas party

For the last Rainbow meeting of term, we had a joint party with the Brownies and Guides who meet on the same night, plus parents. Lucky we have a big hall!

After a welcome from the Commissioner, the girls and parents got into groups and played Christmas tree beetle. Roll a dice to make a Christmas tree from bits of laminated paper – you have to get a pot first, then a tree, then you can add the other bits in any order.

1=star 2=bauble 3=bauble 4=bauble 5=tree 6=pot

When we’d played that for a while, we had nibbles and mulled fruit juice. Last week Commissioner warned the Rainbows that there’d just be a few bits of party food, not a proper meal. My expectations were greatly exceeded: there was lots of festive party food! I was a bit worried there’d be lots left over, but then the Guides arrived and helped us out with that.

Then a lady came to play the piano and we sang some Christmassy songs: Away in a MangerJingle Bells, that sort of thing that most people knew to join in with. We might have had more joining in if we’d moved all the chairs round near the piano before we started, but as it happened it was nice and relaxed: those who wanted to join in came and sat near the piano to sing, while a few parents and girls (and leaders) who wanted to chat and play at the back of the hall did that.

To finish off, we sang the goodbye songs for the various sections and gave the girls presents as they left. It was a good evening for bringing the different ages together and reminding everyone that guiding is more than just our unit. I spoke to a few leaders that I hadn’t before, and met one of my Rainbows and her mother for the first time, as she hadn’t been to the last few meetings.

So that’s my first half term over, and after Christmas I’ll be getting involved in running the unit. Exciting-stroke-challenging! Come to think of it, I’m not sure which date we’re going back. I should probably find that out…

Campfire night at Brownies

A couple of weeks ago, I went along to the Brownie pack that meets just before my Guides, to be a qualified leader when their Brown Owl couldn’t make it.  This was the pack that I took on holiday back in February, so it was nice to see them again, and meet the new Brownies who have joined since.

They were having a campfire-themed evening.  First, each Six made a log out of a kitchen roll tubes, coloured paper, scissors and sellotape.  We showed them one that a leader had made earlier, and let them work out how to copy it without many more instructions.  When they were done, we put all the logs together in the middle of the room to make an indoor “fire” (with a bucket of water next to it, of course!).

Brown Owl had left us things to make edible fires – chocolate biscuits, matchmakers and strawberry laces – as well as tealights and mini marshmallows, but we decided to skip the construction and just let the Sixes toast the marshmallows on the tealights and make fancy s’mores with the rest of the food.  I don’t think I’d ever toasted mini marshmallows before, only big ones, but I liked it as they were ready within seconds!  Another advantage was that there are lots in a packet, so each Brownie got at least 10 or so.  The Brownies were happy to spend quite a lot of time doing this, experimenting with different techniques and finding out what happens when they toast other things, like strawberry laces…and wooden skewers!

Finally, we all sat in a circle around the “campfire” and sang a few songs.  It was a fun evening, and nice to spend time with a unit that is smaller (in numbers and in girl size!) and younger and even a bit quieter than my Guides.

This is the way we brush our teeth

In the run-up to Pack Holiday, I helped at a couple of Brownie meetings to get to know the girls, as I’m not normally their leader.

This meeting ticked off a couple of boxes in my residential qualification book about making sure the girls know about food hygiene and staying healthy on holiday, and it also counts towards the Brownie Skills badge, which the girls are all working on whether they’re going on holiday or not.  Oh, and these skills are generally useful in life…

We started by putting paint on the Brownies’ hands.  First we did a role play of how paint (i.e. germs) can easily spread from one person to the next.  Then they washed the paint off wearing blindfolds, to see if they were washing as thoroughly as they thought.  The first few Brownies missed spots like their thumbs and wrists, but after that they got wise and actually most hands were pretty clean!  It took a while to get through everyone, even with two handwashing bowls on the go, but a lovely leader did some songs and games with those who were waiting/had finished.

After that, we did tooth brushing!  The Brownies stood round a table in Sixes.  Everyone had a beaker of water, and each table had a spit bowl (nice, I know).  First they chewed on disclosure tablets to see how plaquey their teeth were.  They also noticed their tongues turned purple, which was a good opportunity to remind them to brush their tongues as well.  Then they brushed their teeth, and they had to guess when 2 minutes was up and stop brushing.  I was surprised how patient they were: the first Brownie stopped around 1:40, a couple were very close to the 2 minute mark, but most stopped at about 3 minutes.  I called a halt at 4 minutes, when a few enthusiastic brushers were still going!

After we’d tidied the toothy things away, there was just time for a bit of drama.  Each Six was given a pack holiday scenario, and they had to act out first what they thought would be the wrong thing to do in that situation, and then what they thought would be the right thing to do.  I’d prepared 8 options, though we didn’t use all of them:

You are washing up and one Brownie accidentally breaks a plate.

It’s bedtime. Some Brownies want to sleep, but others want to stay up and play.

It’s bedtime and one Brownie in your bedroom feels ill.

One Brownie in your Six is teasing another because she thinks her slippers are silly.

You are helping in the kitchen. A leader is explaining what to do, but one Brownie is not listening.

You have been outside and your shoes are wet and muddy when you come in.

You have been doing crafts and now the room is in a mess with paper and pens everywhere.

Your Six can’t agree what to do for a performance. Some Brownies want to do a song and others want to do a dance.

We only gave them about a minute to prepare, and then whizzed through the performances, with a little bit of discussion about the situations.  Generally they all seemed to understand and choose a sensible course of action!

That took us to the end.  I did enjoy going to Brownies, as it’s been about 18 months since I was a Brownie leader in another town.  It’s always interesting seeing what’s similar and different between packs – for example, this pack doesn’t sing “We’re Brownie Guides” at the beginning of meetings, but (like all Brownies I’ve met) they love wink murder and Chinese whispers.  I’ve been able to put a few names to faces – maybe a third of the pack? – which is a start.  Roll on pack holiday!

What about breakfast at Brownies?

Before I did my Brownie holiday licence, I helped at a couple of Brownie meetings to get to know the girls as I’m not usually their Leader.  These were also meetings where they were doing things to get ready for the holiday.

At the first one, everyone came in their pyjamas (always a hit!  And a chance for onesie one-upmanship) and had breakfast.  Each Six sat at a table and tried various foods in turn: fruit juice, cereal, toast, and eggy bread.  It was quite flexible, with the Leaders helping them to get their food ready, sorting out refills of juice, supervising the frying of eggy bread and so on.  I found it a good chance to go round the tables and chat to the Brownies and learn their names.

For such a simple thing, breakfast kept them entertained for almost an hour (we might have to be a bit quicker on holiday!), then they played wink murder (of course) and I asked them for ideas for holiday Six names.

When I was getting ready for bed that evening, it took me a second to work out why my pyjama top smelled like frying oil!  Rest assured, that one went into the laundry basket…

Wishing you all a very happy Thinking Day tomorrow, however you’re celebrating!