What to Put in Operation Christmas Child Shoebox and what NOT to!

Published on October 17, 2019 by Lauren

There are many great causes throughout the year that offer support and help to those less fortunate. When the Christmas season begins to rev up (that’s around March, right?), some specific giving opportunities move to the forefront. My favorite one being Operation Christmas Child from Samaritan’s Purse. I know many of you may be wondering what to put in operation Christmas child shoebox. 

If you are unfamiliar with Operation Christmas Child. You basically pack a shoebox with gifts and Samaritan’s Purse sends it (along with other shoeboxes) to children as a Christmas present and outreach.

Many businesses and churches host packing parties where you do it together, which is something I LOVE to do with my kids during the holiday season! I plan for Operation Christmas Child in my money-saving budget planner for this every year. I try to set a realistic Christmas budget every year, and including items like these helps me stay on task.

NOTE: This post was updated October 2020what to put in operation christmas child shoebox

While it is always a great thing to be able to give and provide a shoebox, it's important to be mindful of what is included in your gift. They do NOT accept everything and it is really important that we don't waste others time by having to throw boxes out because they get ruined.

What to Put in Operation Christmas Child Shoebox and what NOT to:

Most recommended items to pack in your Operation Christmas Child shoebox:

  • School supplies – chalkboards with chalk, pencils, scissors
  • Toys – soccer ball with pump, dolls
  • Make-your-own crafts – add your personal touch
  • Non-liquid hygiene items – bar soap, toothbrush
  • Clothing accessories – tops, shoes, socks, hair bows, gloves, scarves
  • Non-chocolate candy – caramels, taffy, gummy bears
  • A personal note from your family – if you include your name and address it’s possible that the child could write you back!
  • Fishing Hooks – this one was taken from a comment. This is what the commenter said:  “I love including a fishing kit. Quality fishing that will hold a 30 pound fish, several different sized fish hooks. A large pack can be shared in a couple of boxes. A sinker so the light line will actually sink below the surface where fish swim, and a bobber/ marker. Walmart clearance sells these so that for about under a dollar fifty I can include a fishing kit in the 10-14 year old boxes.”
  • A Small Sewing Kit – This can actually become an income for a family
  • Clothesline and Clothespins
  • Playing Cards or other small brain games
  • Check the comments for other great ideas

Items that should not be included in your shoebox:

  • Used or damaged items
  • War-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures
  • Chocolate or food – due to customs regulations
  • Out-of-date candy – make sure that the expiration date is at least six months after National Collection Week (November 16 – 23, 2015)
  • Liquids or lotions – these can spill and get all over the other items
  • Medications or vitamins
  • Breakable items such as snowglobes or glass containers
  • Aerosol cans
  • Drugs and Alcohol
  • Check the comments for other great ideas

Some items are not permitted due to obvious reasons, but you should try to review and consider each item before including it in your shoebox. For example, if you want to send a CD, that is allowed, but the child receiving the CD might not have a CD player. There could even be the potential for that child not having access to reliable electricity where they are located. So, while you are able to send a CD, there are more aspects of that CD to consider.

If an item requires batteries, it’s also a good idea to include extra batteries as those might not be available to the child. And please note that loose batteries must have both ends covered according to the packing tips.

Samaritan’s Purse provides a great FAQ that gives a lot more information on what can be sent and any restrictions.  They've even made it easy to give more by building a shoebox online.  It's super simple!

Other than a great opportunity to bless a child for Christmas, Operation Christmas Child offers your family a great project to help focus on considering others. Help round out this experience by discussing the reason for the shoebox with your children. Your child might not have considered that other children don’t have the same kind of life that your child has. What a great way to reach out and share your love while teaching your child to learn about other areas of the world!

Make sure to check when Operation Christmas Child Shoebox collection week is! You can drop off your shoebox at over 4,000 locations across the U.S.

Preparing an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift is a perfect chance to open your child’s eyes to blessing others and maybe even sow a seed in your little one to reach out to others around the world and locally.


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