Etiquette for Girl Scout SWAPS

Girl Scouts SWAPS
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Girl Scouts have all sorts of fun and interesting traditions. One of those is SWAPS, which stands for “Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere” or simply “Shared With A Pal.”

SWAPs are small tokens of friendship that girls exchange with other Girl Scouts they meet. They come in handy when you meet a lot of different troops during events like World Thinking Day, summer camps, and when you travel with your girls.

These little goodies don’t have to be complicated or expensive. Instead, they should be hand-made and have a connection to your girls and your troop. They don’t have to look perfect, but they should have personality. Most importantly, they should be fun to make, give and receive.​​

SWAPs are a great way to celebrate new and existing friendships. They are a memento of the friends your scouts make along the way. Encourage your scouts to make and share them. They’ll be glad they did down the road when these little “Special Whatchamacallits” help them remember new friends and fun travel experiences.

SWAP-Making Etiquette

While there isn’t really “etiquette” for making SWAPs, there are some things to keep in mind.

Don’t spend a lot of money on SWAPs. Part of the Girl Scout Law is to use resources wisely. Consider whether you can use recycled items such as bottle caps or bread tags. Look through your stash of materials left over from prior crafts. You may have pony beads, craft sticks, or chenille stems that can be repurposed.

Although many SWAPs have safety pins and are designed to be pinned to vests or sashes, SWAPs don’t have to be a pin. They can be necklaces, bracelets, patches, or other small items.

Ideas for What to SWAP

SWAPs should be handmade. Your Girl Scouts can brainstorm what they would like to make. They may want their SWAPs to match the theme of the event. For a campout, your troop may want to make camping-themed SWAPs such as this bedroll or campfire

You can find plenty of suggestions and instructions for SWAPs online (Pinterest is a good resource). Simply search for “Girl Scout SWAPs.” To find themed SWAPs, add a keyword such as “Girl Scout SWAP hiking” or “Girl Scout SWAP World Thinking Day.” You can also narrow your search to look for SWAPs that are easy, inexpensive or made from recycled materials. 

Other Girl Scout troops are another great source of SWAPs ideas. You don’t want to copy their SWAPs exactly, but they may inspire your girls as they are deciding what they want to do. 

If you are short on time, there are websites that offer SWAP kits for sale. These typically include all the supplies you need, instructions and a completed SWAP as an example. The supplies are often pre-cut. While this is a great time-saver, the girls might not be as invested in these since there is less work they’ll need to do.

Don’t include any kind of food on your SWAP. It will attract bugs and possibly other animals. Food can’t be kept very long, so girls won’t be able to keep your SWAP.

Weather can be unpredictable, so make sure your SWAP is weatherproof. It would be a shame to have all the girls’ hard work go to waste if the swap disintegrates during a rain shower. 

It’s a good idea to attach a little note with the Girl Scout’s name, the troop number and possibly even the location and date of the meeting. This will make it easier for your girls to remember down the road what SWAP they received where. But be cautious with the girls’ personal information. Don’t include their full names or home addresses. 

SWAP Swapping Etiquette

When Girl Scouts swap SWAPs, there are certain norms that should be followed so that all girls can enjoy the experience. 

SWAPs intended for trading that are taken to a meeting or event should be in a box or baggie. SWAPs pinned to the hat or vest are usually considered off-limits unless a Scout offers it to you.

Basic rules of politeness apply when it comes to swapping. Remember, part of the Girl Scout Law says that “I will do my best to be… friendly and helpful, considerate and caring,” and the other girl put her best effort into making the SWAP.

Use the Golden Rule and treat the other girl like you would want to be treated.

  • Don’t pin your SWAP onto the other girl. Allow her to do that.
  • Don’t refuse an offer to swap. It’s considered rude.
  • If you see a girl with few pins or nothing to trade, offer to simply give her a SWAP.
  • Never say anything negative about a SWAP you receive.
  • Say a heartfelt “thank you” when you receive a SWAP.
  • When you are passing a SWAP, make sure the pin is closed so that no one gets stuck.

Remind your girls that if they receive a SWAP they don’t really like or one they already have, they can swap it with other Scouts. The Girl Scouts should accept each pin offered with a smile and can decide what they want to keep and what they want to trade later.

Swapping Through the Mail

It is also possible to exchange SWAPs through the mail. It’s a fun way to make a connection with a fellow Girl Scout troop across the country or even in a different part of the world.

Troop leaders should find out how many girls will swap and agree on a number of SWAPs to be made. Keep the crafts light and small to avoid paying a lot of postage.

Don’t forget to include your troop’s information when swapping. You could even encourage your girls to write letters to their fellow scouts. Some pictures of your troop working on the swap items are another fun addition to the package.

Above all, have fun swapping SWAPs and use them as another way to make great Girl Scout memories.

By Sherry Smothermon-Short
Sherry Smotherton-Short is an active Cub Scout volunteer and den leader, and created Cub Scout Ideas to share her knowledge with other parents.