Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Identifying Service: A World of Badges

Guiding has been renowned for having badges as part of their programme, designed for specific ages – Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers, and up-to-date themes. They began as proficiency badges and then became interest badges, encouraging girls to take up new hobbies and interests, some of which led to life-long interests and the potential of acquiring skills to include in job application forms. Proficiency badges grew to involve working to a required standard.

Girl Guide Badges on old uniform sleeve
Old Girl Guide Badges

The first Handbook for Girl Guides 1912 had syllabuses of approximately thirty badges. The rules for testing were very prescriptive and for each test 80 out of 100 marks was a pass.

Tests for proficiency badges from the first Handbook for Girl Guides in 1912
First Handbook for Girl Guides 1912: Badge Descriptions 2

The range of badges is fascinating, from Clerk (including being able to use a typewriting machine) and Cook (including skills in skinning and cleaning a rabbit and knowing how to  wait at a table) to Electrician (understanding connection of bells and telephones) to Flyer (make an aeroplane to fly 25 yards or have a certificate for driving an aeroplane).

Page From Handbook for Girl Guides
First Handbook for Girl Guides 1912

Badges for War Work

Guiding also produced badges to acknowledge war work that Guides did during both world wars. The syllabus of the War Service badge was very challenging and included the following:

  • 21 days of recognised voluntary war service, or
  • 100 hours of recognised agricultural work, or
  • the making of 15 specified garments including a pair of pyjamas, 4 pairs of socks and 2 shirts.

Separate dated badges were issued for each year, as shown.

Girl Guide War Service Badge 1914
Girl Guide War Service Badge 1914

Girl Guide War Service Badge 1918
Girl Guide War Service Badge 1918

Badges Today

In modern times, there are badges designed nationally for all of the age groups, called interest badges, skills builders, theme awards and Gold awards.

The youngest group, Rainbows, can earn badges now too; this is a new development since 2018. These include such topics as Family tree, Storyteller, Healthy mind, Agility, Recycling and Construction.

Over the past thirty years many leaders and girls have wanted to create and produce their own badges to use as fundraisers, challenges, to mark special occasions or events, and to give as gifts, awards or thank yous. Some badges have made lots of money and continue for many years as new girls come along and want to have an attractive badge to add to their collection. It’s very special to design a badge and then see the real thing! The girls themselves decide how the money earned through the badges is to be spent.

This whole process teaches many useful life skills and lots is learnt in the process. Design, marketing, creating clear instructions are all invaluable entrepreneurship skills practised for real!

It’s a fun way to learn that badges with sparkle and an interesting shape sell better than others.

Badges may be sewn on uniforms initially, but then often are transferred onto campfire blankets when the uniform is no longer worn.

Campfire blankets become the story of the wearer’s guiding heritage, and encourage many hours of reminiscing.


Blanket With Girl Guide Badges sewn on
Blanket With Guiding Badges


Spotlight on the Cupcake Challenge Badge

The cupcake challenge badge was designed and tested by Guides of South Walsham in Norfolk. The first badge was produced in 2011 and more than 1200 groups across the UK and indeed the world took up the challenge and achieved the badge. Funds raised from badge sales have helped fund trips to Switzerland and NorJam, an international Scout and Guide Jamboree held in Norfolk, the girls making decisions about how the money should be spent.

Girl Guide Cupcake Challenge Badge
Girlguiding Cupcake Challenge Badge

One of the latest badges to be launched is the glittery Time Traveller badge which encourages girls to explore guiding history and traditions but also to have fun bringing the past to life and looking to the future.

Colour photograph showing a grey, purple and blue swirl design with music notes, a camera, scissors and an envelope around the outside.
Girl Guide Time Traveller Badge

Badges are advertised on appropriate social media groups and websites and people are grateful for the back-up resources that challenge packs include.

Homemade Girl Guide Badge
Homemade Girl Guide Badge


The 'badge bible'

The ‘badge bible’, a catalogue and list of badges was produced in the 1990s and updated with a centenary edition in 2010 and contains over 1840 items. It illustrates the story of badges over the past 100 years and is invaluable to badge collectors but is in constant need of updating!

Front cover of a Girl Guide book showing a range of different badges
Catalogue of Girl Guide Badges

The badge bible also tells the social history story of guiding and how it kept up with the times, and how it is often trend-setting to encourage girls to be continually moving forward and grasping opportunities.



Brownies - is about trying new things that teach girls aged 7 to 10 about themselves, their community and their world.

Girlguiding – the current name of the movement for girls and young women, led by volunteers. It has been called The Guide Association, the Guide Movement and Girl Guides in the past.

Guides - have an exciting and varied programme designed to inspire and challenge girls from 10-14. Girls aged 14-18 join Rangers. It's all about taking the lead and finding new challenges.

Rainbows – a fun and exciting programme for girls aged 5-7.

Uniforms – a regulation outfit that members of Girlguiding wear; they vary according to the age.