Welcoming 4-year-old Rainbows in Scotland

Rainbow leader Rona Kennedy shares her story

29 July 2022

Since October 2021, more than 6,500 4-year-olds in England, Scotland and Wales have started their guiding journey.

In August 2022, the Rainbow age will officially change to 4–7-years-old. We spoke to Rona Kennedy, a Rainbow leader at 3rd Ferryhill Rainbows in Aberdeen to see how she’s found welcoming 4-year-olds:

Welcoming 4-year-olds

We decided to take in 4-year-olds because of low numbers after Covid-19. We held an open evening for anyone interested in joining in June 2021. Some of the girls who came along with their parents were going into primary one after the summer but were not yet five. We decided to allow these girls to start as Girlguiding were allowing it as part of the pilot scheme.

Schools in Scotland start the school year in August, and end in mid-to-late June which is different to the rest of the UK. The school cut-off age happens in February. All 4-year-olds turning five before or in February, will start school the previous August. Any child turning five after February has to wait till the following school year. Sometimes we get 5-year-old girls joining Rainbows who haven’t yet started school.

Last year we had three 4-year-olds join. We offered a place to one 4-year-old after Easter, but the parent decided they wanted to wait until August when they would be going to school.

Challenges taking in 4-year-olds

To be honest, the 4-year-olds were less of a problem at listening and doing what they were asked than the 6-year-olds. I also think it varies very much between individual children.

We have a young 5-year-old now and sometimes when we’re standing in a circle at the start or end of the meeting, I get her to stand near an adult because she can be a bit all over the place. I think part of our general issues last year was adjusting to having 18 girls rather than the six to eight we had when meetings of any kind were allowed during Covid-19. To overcome the challenges, it helps to have an extra adult.

Including 4-year-olds in activities

The younger ones are easy pleased but may have a shorter concentration span. If you have someone to keep an eye on younger ones to check they’re okay, it helps. In general, with a lot of the Skill builders we look at see what they are and see how we can turn them into something that the younger ones can do.

4-year-old Rainbows joining in August

We’re really lucky, we’ll have five 4-year-olds joining this academic year. Two will have their 4th birthday in the summer, and three will be nearly five years old and started school in August. We have still one more 4-year-old on our waiting list and one who is four in October on our list.

What tips would you share with other Rainbow units?

Each girl is an individual so some 4-year-olds can be good and, in my experience, easier to deal with than a 6-year-old. You’ll probably, if possible, need plenty of adults or younger helpers rather than the minimum required.