One of the most anticipated activities of my Girl Scout years was the annual SWAPS swap at my local Service Unit Spring Encampment. My troop would spend the meeting before encampment working tirelessly, putting together small tokens to trade with other Girl Scouts—my favorite tokens were the small dragonflies my mom would make out of two different colors of lanyard, a large safety pin, and a pony bead.
“Okay, that was a fun walk down memory lane, but Ellen… what are SWAPS?”
Great question! “SWAPS” is a clever acronym for “Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere.” SWAPS are small tokens or keepsakes that girls (and adults) trade with other Girl Scouts that serve as a reminder or a memory or special event. They made their first appearance at national Girl Scout Senior Roundups in the 1950s and 1960s. Historically, SWAPS are a way to provide contact information for girls to stay connected after larger events; a sort of Girl Scout business card. When I was younger, we would include our troop number rather than our personal information. Remember, safety first!
In my experience, SWAPS were used mostly at encampments and day camps. We were provided specific times during the days to “swap our SWAPS” upon arrival to the encampment or during transition times. Each girl in my troop would be equipped with about 20-25 SWAPS, prepared to trade with another Scout at any moment. It was sometimes an unspoken contest in my troop to see who could get the most SWAPS by the end of the day. One of the best things about SWAPS is that girls get to know other Girl Scouts in an easy, comfortable way—plus they are participating in an over 50-year tradition!
Some troops plan their SWAPS to match the theme of the encampment or the day camp, or some come up with ideas that show a little bit of their troop’s personality. One of the cutest swaps I have seen was a “marshmallow on a stick” that was made with a bobby pin twisted in the middle and a white pony bead on top.
How about you? Has your troop made and swapped SWAPS before? What’s the cutest/coolest/silliest SWAP your troop has collected? Have you even heard of SWAPS before?
Whether you’re brand new to this SWAP business or a seasoned veteran with a few tricks up your sleeve, I found a few websites that might be helpful if you are looking for some new SWAPS ideas—the possibilities are endless!
Ellen Voermans – Ellen is a lifelong Girl Scout who joined River Valleys as staff three years ago and is now a Troop Support Specialist. She also leads a troop of Cadettes and Seniors in the Camden Wirth Oaks Service Unit and serves on the Forever Green Breakfast Committee. Ellen graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in social work and is currently working on her master’s degree in education. Ellen loves to rollerblade and has completed four in-line skate marathons. Her favorite TV show is (and always will be) Sabrina the Teenage Witch.