Girl Scouts make SWAPS to give away to other Girl Scouts at camp, encampments, Thinking Day or any number of special Girl Scout events. SWAPS commemorate the event and serve to help girls remember both the event and girls they have met.
Some Service Units and troops may encourage girls to make dozens and dozens of SWAPS for an event, in hopes that girls can collect one SWAP from every girl attending an event. Others encourage troop leaders to keep the madness under control, and suggest a smaller, more reasonable number of SWAPS for each girl to make.
Keep in Mind Program Age Levels
SWAPS are often introduced at the Junior program age level. At this age, girls are more prepared for the "rules" of SWAPS. They are also more likely to make 30+ of the same thing without getting bored or discouraged.
Common Materials For SWAPS
Set aside one or two troop meetings to make SWAPS. This is a great bonding activity and adults can assist girls who need extra help. It's a good idea to have plenty of supplies on hand, and to know in advance of the meeting what SWAPS each girl will make so that you can be sure to have the right materials. Materials you will always need include:
- Small 1" to 1 1/2" safety pins
- Small 1" pin backs
- 2"x2" plastic zipper bags
- Glue dots
- Glue gun
- Alene Tacky Glue
One SWAP Kit Per Girl
To make it easier for your girls, try assembling a supply kit for each girl by placing all the materials she will need in a one gallon sized plastic zipper bag. That way, if you run out of meeting time to make the SWAPS, she can take her kit home to finish making her SWAPS.
- Needle-nose pliers, or specialty jewelry pliers
- Wire cutters
- Glass Beads, size "E"
- 1 1/2" safety pins
- Thin copper wire for crafting
This is a free-form SWAP made from thin copper wire, commonly found at any craft store, and inexpensive beads. Pony beads can also be used, but this example uses glass "E" beads. Cut a length of wire, approximately 8"-12" long. Make a small loop at one end of the copper wire to hold a safety pin. The wire is flexible enough to easily bend and loop into an interesting shape without tools, though you'll need pliers to make the small loop to hold the safety pin, and wire cutters to snip the wire. Add one or two E beads to the design as you go. Finish with another small loop so that the beads can't fall off. Attach a safety pin and you're done. You can also add a small fortune-cookie sized piece of paper to add the girl's name, date, and troop number if desired.
Designs to make: coils, treble and bass clefs, flowers, hearts, free-form.
Bracelet in a Bag SWAP
Troop Values Bracelet in a Bag SWAP
- Beads of different colors
- Elastic stretchy jewelry cord
- 2"x2" plastic zip bags
- 1 1/2" Safety pins
The troop values SWAP is pretty popular because it is a "bracelet in a bag" that the receiving girl can make at a later time. You can use pony beads or any inexpensive bead to make it. Make this SWAP by printing out cards with troop values that assign a desired value to each bead color.
Making, printing, and cutting the cards from card stock can be done ahead of meeting time. You can generally fit 4 to 8 "cards" per page of card stock. Cut them out using either a paper cutter or scissors, girls don't mind if the cards are not perfectly straight. Girls in the troop can each choose a color and assign a value to it. For example, a pink bead could stand for "taking care of animals" or green could stand for "respecting my parents."
To assemble, cut a length of elastic stretchy cord about 12" - 14" long and nicely coil it up. Place this in a small 2"x2" zip bag. Gather up the color beads that represent each value and place the beads into the small zip bag as well. Pin the zip bag to the "troop values" card. Note: Make one practice bracelet to make sure you include enough beads in the bag. You may need to include 2-4 of each color bead.
Halloween in a Bag SWAP
Holiday in a Bag SWAP
- Holiday confetti or beads
- 2"x2" zip bags
- 1 1/2" safety pins
There are lots of options for "holiday in a bag" SWAPS, thanks to holiday themed confetti. Also consider using holiday beads that are sometimes sold very cheaply at large bead outlets. Making the SWAP is easy and suitable for even very young girls. Just place a few pinches of confetti or a few beads into a bag, seal it, and add a safety pin to one corner. As an option, add a small 1"x1" piece of paper to the bag with the girl's name, troop number and date.
Pet Rock SWAPS
- Google Eyes
- Acrylic Paints
- 2"x2" zip bags
- 1 1/2" safety pins
- Paper cut into 1" squares
Our Service Unit had a rule that said "you can't trade rocks" as SWAPS, meaning that you couldn't pick up a rock from the ground and hand it to a girl, expecting a SWAP in return. Pet rocks, on the other hand, are very popular and acceptable. Gather small rocks ahead of time, then paint them with acrylic paints and allow to dry before gluing google eyes on them. Put one decorated rock into a zip bag, and attach safety pin. Include a 1"x1" square of paper with the words "Pet Rock" and the girl's name, troop number and date.
How Many SWAPS
Event Themed SWAPS
Girls enjoy brainstorming about what kinds of SWAPS they might be able to make that are in keeping with the theme of the event. For materials, think about what you can make with foam sheets, Shrinky Dink material, bottle caps, pompoms, mini clothespins, mini popsicle sticks, mini dowels, craft matchsticks, origami papers, chenille stems, and fabric scraps. Here are some ideas to get your troop started:
Harry Potter themed encampment SWAPS: Wand, owl face, Hogwarts crest, hat, cape, broom, mini books.
Pirate themed encampment SWAPS: Eye patch in a bag, peg leg, pirate hat, mini buried treasure map.
Camping themed SWAPS: Campfire in a bottlecap, foamy bedroll, foamy eggs and bacon in a skillet, foamy s'mores, mini dunk bag, fly swatter, latrine brush, paper tent.
Thinking Day SWAPS: Country flag (deconstructed) in a bag, mini WAGGGS symbol, mini rings of friendship, mini flag on matchstick, mini globe.