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Chapter 3.1: Understanding Healthy Development in Girls

Just being attentive to what girls are experiencing as they mature is a big help to girls. So take some time to understand the likes, needs, and abilities of girls at difference ages.

As you listen and learn along with girls, you may find it useful to review the highlights of their development. What follows are the developmental abilities and needs of girls at various grade levels. You’ll also find these listed in the adult guide of each leadership journey, along with tips for how to make the most of them as you guide and partner with girls. Of course, each girl is an individual, so these are only guidelines that help you get to know the girls.

 

Girl Scout Daisies

 

At the Girl Scout Daisy level (kindergarten and first grade), girls . . .

This means . . .

Have loads of energy and need to run, walk, and play outside.

They’ll enjoy going on nature walks and outdoor scavenger hunts.

Are great builders and budding artists, though they are still developing their fine motor skills.

Encouraging them to express themselves and their creativity by making things with their hands. Girls may need assistance holding scissors, cutting in a straight line, and so on.

Love to move and dance.

They might especially enjoy marching like a penguin, dancing like a dolphin, or acting out how they might care for animals in the jungle.

Are concrete thinkers and focused on the here and now.

Showing instead of telling, for example, about how animals are cared for. Plan visits to animal shelters, farms, or zoos; meet care providers; or make a creative bird feeder.

Are only beginning to learn about basic number concepts, time, and money.

You’ll want to take opportunities to count out supplies together—and, perhaps, the legs on a caterpillar!

Are just beginning to write and spell, and they don’t always have the words for what they’re thinking or feeling.

That having girls draw a picture of something they are trying to communicate is easier and more meaningful for them.

Know how to follow simple directions and respond well to recognition for doing so.

Being specific and offering only one direction at a time. Acknowledge when girls have followed directions well to increase their motivation to listen and follow again. 

 

Girl Scout Brownies

 

At the Girl Scout Brownie level (second and third grade), girls . . .

This means . . .

Have lots of energy and need to run, walk, and play outside.

Taking your session activities outside whenever possible.

Are social and enjoy working in groups.

Allowing girls to team up in small or large groups for art projects and performances.

Want to help others and appreciate being given individual responsibilities for a task.

Letting girls lead, direct, and help out in activities whenever possible. Allow girls as a group to make decisions about individual roles and responsibilities.

Are concrete thinkers and focused on the here and now.

Doing more than just reading to girls about the Brownie Elf’s adventures. Ask girls questions to gauge their understanding and allow them to role play their own pretend visit to a new country.

Need clear directions and structure, and like knowing what to expect.

Offering only one direction at a time. Also, have girls create the schedule and flow of your get-togethers and share it at the start.

Are becoming comfortable with basic number concepts, time, money, and distance.

Offering support only when needed. Allow girls to set schedules for meetings or performances, count out money for a trip, and so on.

Are continuing to develop their fine motor skills and can tie shoes, use basic tools, begin to sew, etc.

Encouraging girls to express themselves and their creativity by making things with their hands. Girls may need some assistance, however, holding scissors, threading needles, and so on.

Love to act in plays, create music, and dance.

Girls might like to create a play about welcoming a new girl to their school, or tell a story through dance or creative movement.

Know how to follow rules, listen well, and appreciate recognition of a job done well.

Acknowledging when the girls have listened or followed the directions well, which will increase their motivation to listen and follow again!

 

Girl Scout Juniors

 

At the Girl Scout Junior level (fourth and fifth grades), girls . . .

This means . . .

Want to make decisions and express their opinions.

Whenever possible, allowing girls to make decisions and express their opinions through guided discussion and active reflection activities. Also, have girls set rules for listening to others’ opinions and offering assistance in decision making.

Are social and enjoy doing things in groups.

Allowing girls to team-up in small or large groups for art projects, performances, and written activities.

Are aware of expectations and sensitive to the judgments of others.

Although it’s okay to have expectations, the expectation is not perfection! Share your own mistakes and what you learned from them, and be sure to create an environment where girls can be comfortable sharing theirs.

Are concerned about equity and fairness.

Not shying away from discussing why rules are in place, and having girls develop their own rules for their group.

Are beginning to think abstractly and critically, and are capable of flexible thought. Juniors can consider more than one perspective, as well as the feelings and attitudes of another.

Asking girls to explain why they made a decision, share their visions of their roles in the future, and challenge their own and others’ perspectives.

Have strong fine and gross motor skills and coordination.

Engaging girls in moving their minds and their bodies. Allow girls to express themselves through written word, choreography, and so on.

Love to act in plays, create music, and dance.

Girls might like to tell a story through playwriting, playing an instrument, or choreographing a dance.

May be starting puberty, which means beginning breast development, skin changes, and weight changes. Some may be getting their periods.

Being sensitive to girls’ changing bodies, possible discomfort over these changes, and their desire for more information. Create an environment that acknowledges and celebrates this transition as healthy and normal for girls.

 

Girl Scout Cadettes

 

At the Girl Scout Cadette level (sixth, seventh, and eighth grades), girls . . .

This means . . .

Are going through puberty, including changes in their skin, body-shape, and weight. They’re also starting their menstrual cycles and have occasional shifts in mood.

Being sensitive to the many changes Cadettes are undergoing and acknowledging that these changes are as normal as growing taller! Girls need time to adapt to their changing bodies, and their feelings about their bodies may not keep up. Reinforce that, as with everything else, people go through puberty in different ways and at different times.

Are starting to spend more time in peer groups than with their families and are very concerned about friends and relationships with others their age.

That girls will enjoy teaming-up in small or large groups for art projects, performances, and written activities, as well as tackling relationship issues through both artistic endeavors and Take Action projects.

Can be very self-conscious—wanting to be like everyone else, but fearing they are unique in their thoughts and feelings.

Encouraging girls to share, but only when they are comfortable. At this age, they may be more comfortable sharing a piece of artwork or a fictional story than their own words. Throughout the activities, highlight and discuss differences as positive, interesting, and beautiful.

Are beginning to navigate their increasing independence and expectations from adults—at school and at home.

Trusting girls to plan and make key decisions, allowing them to experience what’s known as “fun failure:” girls learn from trying something new and making mistakes.

 

Girl Scout Seniors

 

At the Girl Scout Senior level (ninth and tenth grades), girls . . .

This means . . .

Are beginning to clarify their own values, consider alternative points of view on controversial issues, and see multiple aspects of a situation.

Asking girls to explain the reasoning behind their decisions. Engage girls in role-play and performances, where others can watch and offer alternative solutions.

Have strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and are able to plan and reflect on their own learning experiences.

Girls are more than able to go beyond community service to develop projects that will create sustainable solutions in their communities. Be sure to have girls plan and follow up on these experiences through written and discussion-based reflective activities.

Spend more time in peer groups than with their families and are very concerned about friends and relationships with others their age.

That girls will enjoy teaming up in small or large groups for art projects, performances, and written activities. They’ll also want to tackle relationship issues through both artistic endeavors and Take Action projects. Alter the makeup of groups with each activity so that girls interact with those they might not usually pair up with.

Frequently enjoy expressing their individuality.

Encouraging girls to express their individuality in their dress, creative expression, and thinking. Remind girls frequently that there isn’t just one way to look, feel, think, or act. Assist girls in coming up with new ways of expressing their individuality.

Feel they have lots of responsibilities and pressures—from home, school, peers, work, and so on.

Acknowledging girls’ pressures and sharing how stress can limit health, creativity, and productivity. Help girls release stress through creative expression, movement, and more traditional stress-reduction techniques.

Are continuing to navigate their increasing independence and expectations from adults—at school and at home.

Trusting girls to plan and make key decisions, allowing them to experience what’s known as “fun failure:” girls learn from trying something new and making mistakes.

 

Girl Scout Ambassadors

 

At the Girl Scout Ambassador level (eleventh and twelfth grades), girls . . .

This means . . .

Can see the complexity of situations and controversial issues—they understand that problems often have no clear solution and that varying points of view may each have merit.

Inviting girls to develop stories as a group, and then individually create endings that they later discuss and share.

Have strong problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, and can adapt logical thinking to real-life situations. Ambassadors recognize and incorporate practical limitations to solutions.

Girls are more than able to go beyond community service to develop projects that will create sustainable solutions in their communities. Be sure to have girls plan and follow up on these experiences through written and discussion-based reflective activities.

Spend more time with peers than with their families and are very concerned about friends and relationships with others their age.

Girls will enjoy teaming up in small or large groups for art projects, performances, and written activities. They’ll also want to tackle relationship issues through artistic endeavors and Take Action projects. Alter the makeup of groups with each activity so that girls interact with those they might not usually pair up with.

Frequently enjoy expressing their individuality.

Encouraging girls to express their individuality in their dress, creative expression, and thinking. Remind girls frequently that there isn’t just one way to look, feel, think, or act. Assist girls in coming up with new ways of expressing their individuality.

Feel they have lots of responsibilities and pressures—from home, school, peers, work, etc.

Acknowledging girls’ pressures and sharing how stress can limit health, creativity, and productivity. Help girls release stress through creative expression, movement, and more traditional stress-reduction techniques.

Are continuing to navigate their increasing independence and expectations from adults—at school and at home—and are looking to their futures.

Trusting girls to plan and make key decisions, allowing them to experience what’s known as “fun failure.” Girls learn from trying something new and making mistakes.