What to pack in shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child

What to pack in shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child

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Have you heard of Operation Christmas Child before? It is an amazing program that sends Christmas presents to children around the world. The gifts are packed in a shoebox and then delivered to over 100 countries around the world. It is a wonderful program to do with your friends and family or with a church group. I wanted to make a list of what to pack in shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child to give you some great ideas!

So what exactly is Operation Christmas Child?

Operation Christmas Child is hosted by Sanitarian’s Purse. The program began in 1993 and has delivered millions of shoeboxes filled with presents around the world. Samaritan’s Purse ships the boxes outside of the US to children who have been affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease. The shoeboxes are delivered to over 100 countries.They also send boxes to children living on Native American reservations within the US.

They try to deliver the gifts by Christmas so shoeboxes are usually due each year during the middle of November.

Check out this clip below (from their official YouTube) for more about Operation Christmas Child. You can even watch a group of children unwrapping their gifts!

Who can build and donate shoeboxes?

Individuals, families, groups, or churches can all donate shoeboxes. We chose to do shoeboxes together as a family project this year.

Where do I send the shoeboxes once I’m done?

You can check out the list of drop off locations to see what drop off location is closest to you.

Where to get Operation Christmas Child boxes

Here’s a list of the options to get boxes:

There are a lot of ways to get boxes for Operation Christmas Child. You can use adult size cardboard shoeboxes, order special boxes from them (you can order the boxes through the link above), or use plastic shoe boxes.

What age group is most needed for Operation Christmas Child?

There are actually groups that receive fewer boxes than the others. According to the official website:

In general, we receive more gift boxes for girls than boys. Overall, we receive the most shoebox gifts for girls 5-9. We receive the fewest number of boxes for boys 2-4 and 10-14.

What to pack in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox

I wanted to pack both fun and practical items in each box. I wanted to include items like school supplies, toothbrushes, combs, and bar soap (remember, no liquids are allowed in the shoeboxes). Also, I wanted to be sure to pack unscented bar soap so that my items didn’t arrive smelling strongly like scented soap. Plus, I wasn’t sure if the children would have sensitive skin or not.

Luckily, I was able to catch some really good school supply items at our local grocery store. I got each child a pencil bag and small notebook since they were heavily discounted. I actually bought almost all the remaining ones. I don’t like to buy out the clearance sections, I just feel kind of guilty! Next year, I will shop earlier so I can get extras.

Where to shop for Operation Christmas Child shoebox?

I shopped at Target, the Dollar Tree, Amazon, and our local grocery store for the items in our boxes. Any big box store or any of the stores above will have lots of items for you to pick from. Each of our boxes has a good mix of items from each place.

Ideas for what to pack in shoeboxes

This year, I thought it would be fun if we did six boxes and did all the options for boxes meaning we did both a boy and a girl in each age group. Below is what we packed as well as some other fun ideas.

Ideas for what to pack for a girl age 2-4

What to pack in shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child

For our shoebox, I packed:

  • Pencil bag
  • Comb
  • Bar of soap
  • Toothbrushes (remember, no toothpaste can be sent)
  • Hair bands
  • Doll
  • Ball (I picked a soft ball since it’s for a young child)
  • Crayons
  • Coloring book

Other fun ideas:

  • Small fluffy blanket
  • Backpack
  • Water bottle (especially one with a filter)
  • Underwear
  • Teddy bear
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Chunky blocks
  • Rubber ducks

Ideas for what to pack for a boy age 2-4

Ideas for what to pack in a shoebox for a boy age 2-4

For our shoebox, I packed:

  • Comb
  • Bar of soap
  • Toothbrushes
  • Coloring book (not pictured)
  • Crayons
  • Teddy bear
  • Notebook
  • Pencil bag
  • Ball (I picked a soft one since it is for a younger child)
  • Toy car

Other fun ideas:

  • Small fluffy blanket
  • Backpack
  • Water bottle (especially one with a filter)
  • Underwear
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Chunky blocks
  • Rubber ducks

Ideas for what to pack for a girl age 5-9

Ideas for what to pack for a girl age 5-9

For our shoebox, I packed:

  • Pencil bag
  • Bar of soap
  • Comb
  • Toothbrush
  • Notebook
  • Stickers
  • Fun small bag
  • Baby doll
  • Troll doll
  • Socks
  • Coloring book
  • Crayons
  • Puzzle

Other fun ideas:

  • Colored pencils
  • Water colors
  • Paint brush
  • Small purse
  • Backpack
  • Blanket
  • Markers

Ideas for what to pack for a boy age 5-9

Ideas for what to pack for a girl age 5-9

For our shoebox, I packed:

  • Socks
  • Coloring book
  • Toy cars
  • Note book
  • Comb
  • Soap
  • Pencil bag
  • Markers
  • Stickers
  • Troll doll
  • Toothbrush
  • Puzzle

Other fun ideas:

  • Colored pencils
  • Water colors
  • Paint brush
  • Backpack
  • Blanket

Ideas for what to pack for a girl age 10-14

Ideas for what to pack for a girl age 10-14 in their Operation Christmas Child shoebox

I had to get creative with our older kids’ shoeboxes. I feel like there is a pretty big difference in what a 10 year old would want versus what a 14 year old would want. I think the 5-9 year olds were the easiest to pack but the older kids were a little harder.

For our shoebox, I packed:

  • Note book
  • Comb
  • Soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Pencil bag
  • Mechanical pencils
  • Regular pencils
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Puzzle
  • Sticker book
  • Hair bands

Other fun ideas:

  • Reusable water bottles
  • Water bottle with filter
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clipper
  • Nail files
  • Ruler
  • Sewing kit
  • Wash cloth
  • Frisbee
  • Reusable sanitary pad
  • Travel size tissues
  • Jewelry making kit
  • Underwear
  • Colored pencils
  • Water colors
  • Backpack
  • Purse

Ideas for what to pack for a boy age 10-14

Shoebox for a boy age 10-14 ideas

For our shoebox, I packed:

  • Note book
  • Comb
  • Soap
  • Pencil bag
  • Pencils
  • Mechanical pencils
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Toothbrush
  • Sticker book
  • Puzzle

Other fun ideas:

  • Reusable water bottle
  • Water bottle with filter
  • Yo-yo
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Water bottle with filter
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clipper
  • Nail files
  • Ruler
  • Sewing kit
  • Wash cloth
  • Frisbee
  • Playing cards
  • Solar powered calculator
  • Underwear
  • Colored pencils
  • Water colors
  • Backpack

Last minute shoebox additions

I wanted to add a few more items last minute from Amazon. This year (2020) it has been tricky shopping with everything going on. I’m hoping next year I have more time to shop. I bought four more boxes of crayons for the younger kiddos. I also wanted to add something for our older kids. I had to think more about their “wow” items. I found these solar powered calculators on Amazon.

I also found these beach balls. I figured they would be good since they are small enough to fit in the box and you don’t need a pump to blow them up or re-inflate them.

What not to include in your shoebox

According to the official Operation Christmas Child website, you should not include:

Candy; toothpaste; gum; used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures; chocolate or food; seeds; fruit rolls or other fruit snacks; drink mixes (powdered or liquid); liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.

Operation Christmas Child’s official recommendation

I would personally recommend not to send things like mittens and scarves (I’m sure a thin fashion scarf would be ok) since you don’t know what climate your recipient will be in.

Amazon picks for packing a shoebox

These are some items I thought would be good for shoeboxes that can be ordered from Amazon. Some of these are better for larger groups doing Operation Christmas Child together. I really like the idea of the water bottles that have a filter. I’m going to add that to our list for next year.

My overall thoughts about the shoeboxes

The shoeboxes were both bigger and smaller than I thought. It feels like you have so much stuff when you bring it all together but then you pack it in the shoeboxes and sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough. I also read another woman’s story about how important it is to pack a blanket in the boxes but then I was out of room.

I included a comb since there are many types of hair textures out there. I figured if they didn’t want to use the scrunchies they could use them as they would rubber bands but they might be helpful.

I hope that each year as our family continues to do these we continue to think of more thoughtful gifts for the recipients.

No time to pack a shoebox?

If you don’t have time to pack a shoebox, you can always use Operation Christmas Child’s online shoebox packing option!

Including a note

Something I thought that was really cool about doing shoeboxes is that you have the option to include a note from your family to the recipient. I’ve heard many pen pal correspondences start this way, I will be sure to update everyone if one of our box recipients writes to us.

Thoughts on what I’d like to do differently next year

I definitely want to keep this tradition going and continue to do shoeboxes next year. Whenever I was involved with the Angel Tree at a church I attended when I was younger, I always noticed that the older kids were hardly ever chosen. I would always try to do a few of the wish lists for the teenagers.

I was surprised that boys don’t get as many boxes as girls. I’m a boy mom and a girl mom which is why I wanted to do each gender. Since there is an unequal imbalance we may do all boy gifts next year.

I have to admit the older group is harder to buy for. The age range of 10-14 is a little challenging because things a 10 year old likes, a 14 year old may not like. I wanted to make sure the items I bought would be useful for them. Next year, I will definitely include a reusable menstrual pad if we do girl boxes but we may just do all boy boxes since it sounds like there is a stronger need for them.

I will be keeping an eye out throughout the year for items that go on sale that I could use for our boxes and next year, I will definitely scope out all the school supply clearances! I got lucky this year because our local grocery store still had a bunch of really great school related items on clearance. For some reason, the dollar store I went to was almost completely out of crayons. I was so mad because they usually have name brand crayons there for $1 but I was able to find a few that were left. I’ve always see crayons go on sale before school starts so I will stock up next time. I ended up ordering some extra crayons from Amazon since I had a little room left in our boxes.

The most important thing to do for your shoebox

Remember, the most important thing you can do is pray for the child who will receive your shoebox.

Comment and let us know!

Do you have any advice on what to pack in shoeboxes for the children or items to add to the lists? Please share your tips below in the comments section!

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16 thoughts on “What to pack in shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child”

  1. These are great ideas! We are packing our shoebox here soon for our sharing/gratitude tot school theme. I can’t wait to take some of these ideas and send a box!

  2. I love this idea! I was looking for something to do with my kids to teach them to be of service to others this Christmas and Operation Christmas Child Seems perfect.

  3. My church always packed these during VBS in the summer and these are fantastic suggestions! I loved watching the kids pack boxes for others.

  4. I know very little about Christmas Child Shoebox. What a meaningful activity. Thank you for sharing the great ideas for what to put inside the box. I think about letting my child selects the stuff to put inside the box because a child will get more ideas about what do children want.

  5. I love your ideas, so good to think about this with all we see going on around the world. An idea for a young girl would be a moon cup, l definitely will be looking at this today.

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