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Life Skills that Can be Practiced Through Disney Pin Trading

Life Skills that Can be Practiced Through Disney Pin Trading Pin Trading Lanyards Resized

During a recent visit to Walt Disney World, a very magical fellow guest generously gave both of my children a lanyard and a handful of pins to introduce them to Disney pin trading.

My husband had done some pin trading as a child, but my kids and I had never traded before. I’ve noticed guests and cast members wearing pins, as well as all of the pins available for sale throughout the parks and at Disney Springs during past visits, but I just never bothered to learn about the hobby.

Thanks to the generous gentlemen who gave my kids their first pins, we now had a reason to jump in and give it a try. My 5-year-old daughter and I approached a cast member at Epcot and asked to see her pins. My daughter found a pin she liked, and then showed her own pins to the cast member. The cast member explained that they cannot choose which pins to trade. The child or adult guest they are trading with chooses which of their pins to give in exchange for the one they want.

Similarly, if a guest doesn’t see a pin they like on a cast member’s lanyard or pin board, there is no pressure to trade. I quickly realized that pin trading, at least with cast members, is a fun and easy hobby for both adults and children.

After assisting my 5-year-old daughter with a few more trades, I also realized that pin trading had the potential to give her opportunities to practice some valuable life skills. I’m a former special education teacher, a mom, and I also work with adults with special needs, all roles that involve a lot of focus on teaching life skills. How fun to discover a unique way to incorporate life skills practice during vacation!

Below are just a few examples of the types of skills I’m talking about:

Social Interaction

Cast members are not at all pushy about pin trading. Though we did run across some who were holding pin boards and announcing they were willing to trade just so guests were aware, no cast member ever directly approached us to trade (and we were wearing the pin lanyards shown in the photo, making it fairly obvious that we were collecting pins.)

This means traders need to approach and initiate each trade with a cast member. For children and adult guests who need opportunities to work on greetings and conversation skills, pin trading offers a great opportunity to practice.

There are also opportunities to practice manners, such as saying please and thank you as they trade and, of course, to give a farewell after the trade is complete.

Waiting and Turn Taking

Cast members who have pins to trade are not just waiting for guests to approach them. They are working at various locations throughout the resort. We frequently approached cast members who were working at one of the shops or outdoor retail locations throughout the parks. We also approached cast members who were manning the Kidcot Fun Stops throughout Epcot.

This often meant we needed to wait a few minutes to initiate a trade with the cast member because they were assisting other guests. Having to wait a few minutes for the other guests or traders ahead of us is another great learning opportunity.

Waiting is an unavoidable part of the Walt Disney World experience (and life in general), and waiting a few minutes to pin trade is a great way to practice patience and the ability to wait for a turn. As an added bonus, you can arrange new pins on a lanyard or chat about recent trades while in line for other attractions to make the time go by faster.

Life Skills that Can be Practiced Through Disney Pin Trading Pin Board Resized Pin Board Resized

Handling Disappointment

As a parent, part of my responsibility is to teach my children how to handle disappointment. Disappointment is a fact of life. Things don’t always work out the way we want them to, and we don’t always get what we want. Pin trading can help with this life lesson as well.

Another trader ahead in line might get the pin a child or adult wanted from a cast member. A trader might choose to trade for a mystery pin (a pin turned backwards on the cast member’s pin display) and not be happy with the result. Finally, a trader may approach a cast member, ask to see their pins, and just not find any they like. While it’s okay for a child or adult to feel disappointed, they still need to be polite and thank the cast member for trading, or politely decline trading at all by saying “no thank you.”

Pin trading is not necessarily a hobby that all Disney fans are interested in, but for those who are, there are many opportunities to both build a great pin collection and build a repertoire of these life skills at the same time!

Do you enjoy pin trading? What additional life skills are part of the pin trading experience?

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Kristen is a special education teacher, Behavior Analyst, mother of 2, and blogger. She has had the opportunity to experience Disney as a child, as part of a couple, with a group, as an expectant mom, and now as a family. Kristen enjoys sharing her experiences to help others make their own magical memories.


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