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How to Pack an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox

The holidays are the season for giving! Operation Christmas Child is a great way to get your kids involved with gift giving to kids in other countries. Each year, families can pack a shoebox of gifts for kids ages 2 to 14 and deliver them to Operation Christmas Child drop off locations. My kids always have fun picking out gifts for other children and packing their gift shoebox. Not sure what to put in your shoebox? Here’s a list of top gift ideas recommended for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

Operation Christmas Child National Collection Week is
November 13 – 20!

How to pack an Operation Christmas Child shoebox for boy or girl - Mommy Scene

Gift Ideas for a Operation Christmas Child Shoebox

Your family can pack a shoe box for a boy or girl recipient, ages 2-14. Age divisions include the following. To label your shoebox, simply attach the provided tag to the box and check the age range you purchased gifts for.

Boy / Girl Recipient
Ages 2-4
Ages 5-9
Ages 10-14

Operation Christmas Child shoebox for boy or girl - Mommy Scene

Gift Ideas for Girls & Boys

Many girls love pretty things! For Operation Christmas Child I try to buy cute gift items that aren’t too “American” or Disney-focused. Generic coloring books of animals or flowers are great. Hair bows with a pretty pattern or sparkly bracelets can be universal to any culture.

Boys will love toy dinosaurs, cars, small shovels to dig, balls and slinkys. Don’t include toy weapons or military-related figurines in your shoebox.

You don’t know which culture your shoebox will go to, so I’d recommend staying away from gifts decorated with licensed brands and characters that may be meaningless in another culture. All kids will be able to use school supplies and hygiene essentials. You can find full details about how to pack a shoebox here.

How to Pack an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox - Mommy Scene

Include any of these gift ideas for kids in your Operation Christmas Child shoebox!

  • hair accessories
  • hair brush / comb
  • solid colored t-shirts
  • classic clothing designs
  • bracelets
  • dolls
  • crayons
  • markers
  • pencils
  • manual pencil sharpener
  • colored pencils
  • pens
  • coloring books with generic illustrations
  • notebook
  • solid glue stick
  • adhesive tape
  • watercolor set
  • toothbrush (no toothpaste)
  • socks
  • washcloth
  • bar soap
  • colorful adhesive bandages
  • blanket
  • sunglasses
  • small purse
  • picture book
  • finger puppets
  • plastic toys
  • kickball
  • slinky

You can also include a note to the child and a photo of yourself or your family! If you include your name and an address, the child may be able to write back.

Operation Christmas Child shoebox for girls gift ideas - Mommy Scene

Restricted Gifts Not Allowed By Customs

  • candy
  • toothpaste
  • used or damaged items
  • toy weapons 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
  • glass containers
  • aerosol cans
  • nail polish
  • perfume

Not Recommended Shoebox Gifts

I’d add the following not recommended gift items to the restricted gift list.

  • play dough – can easily dry out and kids in 3rd world countries may not know what to do with it.
  • stickers – kids in underprivileged countries don’t have things to put stickers on.
  • stuffed pets – cats / dogs can be negative icons in some cultures.
  • delicate accessories – my daughter wanted to buy a fragile-looking crown, which I could imagine getting broken in minutes.
  • graphic t-shirts – logos, Disney princesses and pop-culture characters can be meaningless in other countries.

Operation Christmas Child shoebox for boys gift ideas - Mommy Scene

Operation Christmas Child Holiday Traditions

Make packing your gift shoe boxes a family event and annual holiday tradition! Explain to your kids why you are buying gifts for other kids, where the shoeboxes will go, and talk about how your family can help others during the holidays. Kids can even include a note or drawing in your Operation Christmas Child shoebox. Don’t forget to take your kids along to drop off your shoebox during National Collection Week, Nov. 13-20, 2017!

You can find full details about this fun holiday program and the ministry behind it at

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How to Pack an Operation Christmas Child shoebox and kids gift ideas - Mommy Scene

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Travel tips
Travel tips
3 years ago

I have never heard this…. Well, I don’t have children but this seems a great idea!

Candy Rachelle
Candy Rachelle
3 years ago

It looks like a great Christmas gift ideas for kids. I would love to do it for my kids. I am looking forward to trying this idea.

3 years ago

Great post. I’ve done this one year, but I would love to do it again. Christmas is such a great time for spreading joy!

Ellie Plummer
Ellie Plummer
3 years ago

I used to do this all the time as a child. I may start doing them again after reading this as they are such a great idea.

emily terrell
emily terrell
3 years ago

These are great tips on packing them. I have been having my kids do them as well. I want them to see how little things can be enjoyed in other parts of the world, while here, they take them for granted.

hey sharonoox
hey sharonoox
3 years ago

This is a great list. I thought I almost ran out of ideas to prepare for the shoebox this year. It’s nice to put a smile of the kids face. I really like what you have in those box.

Pooja kawatra
Pooja kawatra
3 years ago

This is the most useful gift box I have seen where parents are not worried about excess of stuff they don’t want for their kids.

AnnMarie John
AnnMarie John
3 years ago

I think this is an amazing way to get the kids involved in helping out others, especially the kids in need. This is really awesome and I love the idea!

3 years ago

I didn’t know this was around but what a truly amazing idea, its great to think you are helping a child less fortunate and all the while your kids are learning such a beautiful lesson. Things like this really warm my heart, I will check out the drop off points… Read more »

Alicia Taylor
Alicia Taylor
3 years ago

I love that you are doing this and teaching your children the benefit of giving to others. I have done Angel Tree, but never Christmas Child. Thanks for the list.

3 years ago

Your gift ideas are really great! I would have been happy to receive them I was still a child. I’m sure the kids who will get your box will be beyond happy/

3 years ago

This is the coolest idea ever! I’ve been trying to think of meaningful activities for the holidays with my nieces… I want to do something fun with them but at the same time I wanted them to realize how important it is to think of others and be grateful for… Read more »

Michelle Leslie
Michelle Leslie
3 years ago

Operation Christmas Child is such an amazing initiative. We have something similar here in South Africa but all the gifts are distributed inside the country not internationally. It’s a really wonderful thing to do and getting the kids involved teaches them so many valuable lessons too. Love you suggestions on… Read more »