Welcome to SWAPS4Free,
where you can make them yourself, using my tips, tricks, printables, patterns, and detailed instructions.
So, what exactly are SWAPS?
SWAPS started as a way to break the ice between scouts, to spark conversations and help make new friends. They were widely exchanged at national Girl Scout Senior Roundups in the 1950s and 1960s. They have since regained popularity and now, while SWAPS do still foster friendships, they are also considered collectibles with scouts hoping to gather as many different ones as possible. They make great mementos from special occasions. SWAPS can also be included with thank you notes to sponsors, volunteers, and others as a nice, personal touch from the kids.
Swaps are small items or crafts, usually only an inch or two, usually with a pin attached. (They don't have to be pins. Bracelets and necklaces are acceptable as well.) The variety is endless. SWAPS can be cheap and simple or expensive and complex, but it isn't necessary to spend a lot of money to make something amazing! They can be made out of many recycled or natural materials, or just about anything else. Your imagination is your only limitation, and if you can't think of anything, there are a million ideas out there already just waiting for you to put your own spin to them.
SWAPS often tell something about the giver themselves or the area they come from, their community, or local council. They are also made to fit special themed events or activities. SWAPS usually have a tag attached with the givers name and troop number, their city and state, and sometimes even their email address, so that new friends can stay in contact. Including the event name and date is also recommended, so SWAPS can be identified later on.
These highly collectible items are typically worn on hats or camp shirts, but are also often proudly displayed on tote bags or on a banner that can hang in the scout's home or in their troop's meeting place. They can also be kept in keepsake boxes, the decoration of which can be a troop activity. Shadow boxes are a great idea, too, especially for your favorite and most original SWAPS!
SWAPS should be handmade, if at all possible. It isn't how fancy your SWAP is that's important. It's the smile with which it's given and the value of a new friend made that matters.
Never refuse to SWAP with someone, even if their SWAP isn't the most exciting. Be courteous and polite. Not everyone's skills or resources are equal and it's the thought that counts.
Never give away a SWAP someone has given to you.
Always say thank you!
If possible, bring extra SWAPS when going to an event where swapping will occur. Some people might run out or even forget theirs altogether, and it is always a Girl Scout "good turn" to give to those who have few or none.
Carry the SWAPS you want to trade separately from the ones you want to keep/have received.
Make sure each of your scouts has a different kind of SWAP and that they bring enough for the event. Try to have enough for each event participant and staff member. Even the grownups love SWAPS. The more unique the better, so don't be afraid to personalize and embellish existing ideas to make them your own.
Keep your scouts involved in the decision making process. Let them help decide what SWAPS they want to make.
If the SWAPS are to include a scout's contact information, make sure to check with their parent/guardian first for permission. If they are uncomfortable with this, you can use initials or just your troop number on your tags, in addition to the event name and date.
Try to make your SWAPS something you would like to receive.
Use the right glue. This is a big one if you want to avoid frustration. I recommend craft/tacky glue for most SWAPS, unless otherwise indicated for items that require hot glue. School glue is very rarely recommended as it is thinner, dries more slowly, and doesn't create a strong bond the way craft/tacky glue does.
Don't spend a lot of money. Found/recycled items along with cheap craft supplies are enough to make amazing things. The dollar store is your friend!
Ask friends and family to save bottle lids and any other items on my Things You Should Never Throw Away list that you think you might find useful.
Make sure you leave yourself enough time for assembly. Remember to take drying time into account. Sometimes things need to be allowed to dry between steps.
Keep all your SWAPS craft supplies, including The Essentials, in one place.
Do not use glass or other sharp objects in SWAPS, pins excluded of course. Fold in the ends of pipe cleaners to avoid pokey ends. Use common sense and don't include anything dangerous.
Avoid using food in your SWAPS unless it is individually wrapped, so as to not attract bugs. Food items also can't be kept as keepsakes, so it is best to avoid them as much as possible. Also, keep food allergies in mind. Peanut shells are not recommended.
Avoid flimsy construction. Take your time and let things dry properly. You don't want your SWAPS to fall apart!
Don't make the SWAPS for your scouts. The scouts should make them themselves so they're excited to share something they created with their own hands. Prepping is fine: gathering supplies, pre-cutting things, painting/spray painting if necessary; especially for the younger scouts, but make sure they get to assemble them on their own.