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Girl Scout Swaps - the What, Why and How.

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What is a Swap?

A swap is a small handmade craft that scouts exchange with each other. Usually handmade, they include a pin for storage and often include information about the givers troop or location.

A swap by definition stands for Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere.

According to the Girl Scout website, exchanging swaps is

‘the tradition of Girl Scouts exchanging keepsakes, started long ago when Girl Scouts and Girl Guides first gathered for fun, song, and making new friends.’

The exchange of Girl Scout swaps dates back to the first round-ups in the 1950s and 60s as a way to create international friendships. A round-up, a gathering to show off the best of international Girl Scouts occurred every three years. The first round-up was held at Highland State Park, Milford, Michigan on June 29, 1956. 5,000 girls attended the Americana-themed event. The swaps were intended to encourage correspondence with someone from another state or country. Today swaps are exchanged at the council, service unit or troop events, day camp, neighborhood events, and national conventions.

Here are the areas that will be covered:

  • Swap guidelines
  • Origins of swaps
  • Swap etiquette
  • Swap storage
  • Endless possibilities

Pretzel Swap

Pretzel swap made from brown pipe cleaner and glued on tiny beads.

Pretzel swap made from brown pipe cleaner and glued on tiny beads.

Swap Guidelines

As a general rule Swaps should be about one to two inches in length, include a safety pin and have the scouts name and troop number attached. Girls usually take a theme, either about themselves or the event they are attending and create a swap using a variety of materials. Swaps should be portable, handcrafted, and often made from recycled or donated materials.

Halloween Themed Ghost Swap


Origins of Swaps

Most sources link the origins of swaps to the Native American tradition of Potlatch.

Merriam – Webster dictionary defines potlatch as

'A ceremonial feast of the American Indians of the northwest coast marked by the hosts lavish distribution of gifts or sometimes distribution of property to demonstrate wealth and generosity with the expectation of eventual reciprocation.'

'To give (as a gift) especially with the expectation of a gift in return.'

The ceremony would often include speeches, songs, dance, games and food. It celebrated births, marriages, deaths and the coming of age of community members.

The first recorded making of scout swaps was in England in 1924. During the Imperial Jamboree held at Wembley of that year, there was a group of boy scouts that could not attend as they were hospitalized. Lord Baden Powell the founder of boy scouts challenged them to make Mafuzziwog, a swap that they made from items they found around the hospital. The best were displayed at the Jamboree.

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Camp Themed Fire Swap


Swap Etiquette

There are several etiquette guidelines when participating in swaps, the main one being that it is considered rude to refuse a swap. This is even more important as the focus has become more about collecting different swaps as well as about building friendships.

Other etiquette rules include –

Accept swaps politely, always say thank you.

Swap face to face.

Avoid sharp objects and glass in swaps.

Avoid using food products.

Some councils have rules that all swaps pinned on hats/vests are off limits. Others that swaps on hats can be traded, but not those on vests. Another alternative is to provide the girls with a separate brown bag to place their swapped items away from circulation during an event.

Smore Swap


Swap Storage

There are a variety of ways girls can store their swaps, the inclusion of pins makes the possibilities endless. Pinned on a hat, scarf or blanket, on a lanyard or tote bag even a specially decorated storage box enables girls to display their swaps creatively. Other ideas are banners, swap trees and swap sashes. There are even commercially produced storage solutions available today from a variety of sources.

Ernie the Worm Swap


Swap Ideas

Endless Possibilities

The swap possibilities are endless, whatever materials are at hand can be made into an object to commemorate a trip, event or celebration. Girls love to collect, make and display swaps and they become keep sakes for years to come!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Ruthbro


Ruthbro (author) from USA on October 11, 2014:

Thanks, that is one of my favorites!

Dianna Mendez on October 11, 2014:

I love the s'mores memory gift. How sweet! (no pun intended.) Great way to keep the good times in mind and build friendships.

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