The Best Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Ideas for All Ages

Want to give to a child in need, but have no idea what to include? This list of Operation Christmas Child ideas for each age group includes dozens of unique and affordable ideas!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Operation Christmas Child is one of my absolute favorite charities!! I love the fact that I can bring a smile, and some play time to kids who don't always have a lot to smile about. It can get overwhelming trying to find those perfect gifts to fit into a shoebox, but this post has operation Christmas child ideas for each age group! It's the perfect inspiration for giving back this holiday season! #christmas #operationchristmaschild #giveback #giving #charity #holidaygiving #christmasseason

I’ve been packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child for what seems like forever. It’s one of my favorite charities, and although it might seem a lot easier to give money rather than spend time packing a shoebox, the latter is way more gratifying.

Plus, it’s fun to shop for someone else, especially for a child that might not have otherwise received a gift at all!

In case you’re not familiar with Operation Christmas Child (or OCC for short), it’s an annual gift campaign Samaritan’s Purse runs every year to bless children in need around the world.

Each individual or family packs a shoebox with age-specific gifts, then drops them off at a donation center during collection week, after which OCC processes and delivers these boxes directly to the intended recipients.

What Items Should You Include?

If you’ve never sent one of these special shoebox gifts, you may be wondering where to begin and what to include. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to impact the life of a child overseas!

  • Dollar stores can be a great source for inexpensive toys, towels, washcloths, and t-shirts.
  • You’ll find pens, pencils, notepads, stickers, and small containers at Target’s Dollar Spot.
  • You can also order small toys, school supplies, and crafts online from places like Amazon.

You should also note there are things that cannot be included in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox, such as:

  • Liquids and food (including hard candy and gum) are not allowed.
  • Toothbrushes are fine, but toothpaste cannot be included.
  • Play dough is not recommended since it doesn’t last long in hot climates.
  • Because the shoeboxes have to be bulk shipped, fragile items are not good choices either.

So what exactly can you pack in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox? Below are several suggestions to consider. They are divided into gender and age categories as outlined by the Samaritan’s Purse organization.

Operation christmas child ideas for each age group

Ideas for all shoeboxes:

  • Plastic reusable box with lid (instead of a cardboard shoebox)
  • Flashlights (include extra batteries)
  • Towel or washcloth
  • Bar soap
  • T-shirt (plain with no words or logos)
  • School supplies
  • Backpack
  • Travel pack of tissues

Ideas for Boys 10-14:

Ideas for Boys 5-9:

Ideas for Boys 2-4:

  • Stuffed animal
  • Plastic toys and figures (nothing war related)
  • Crayons and coloring book
  • Sunglasses
  • Picture book
  • Foam ball
  • Socks

Ideas for Girls 10-14:

Ideas for Girls 5-9:

  • Doll or stuffed animal
  • Bouncy balls and jacks
  • Small Etch-a-Sketch
  • Pens and crayons
  • Coloring book or notebook
  • Flip flops
  • Sticky notes
  • Jewelry
  • Jump rope

Ideas for Girls 2-4:

  • Doll or stuffed animal
  • Plastic toys and figurines (nothing war related)
  • Reusable plastic cup/plate
  • Stickers
  • Finger puppets
  • Small Lego set
  • Hair bows
  • T-shirt
  • Socks

Once your shoebox is packed, your next step is to deliver it to a collection location. Shoeboxes are collected the third week of November. Follow this link to find the collection location nearest you. To print a shipping label, pay for shipping and find even more information, visit Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child.

After all, no amount of gifts you receive could ever match the feeling of giving one, wouldn’t you agree? And giving a gift to someone truly in need makes it even that much more satisfying!

How many shoeboxes will you be packing this year?

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Rest assured, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Was this post helpful? Please consider sharing the love!


  1. Sorry, I don’t agree with your suggestions of going to a Dollar Store for “cheap” items or a cheap, inexpensive washcloth. This might be the only washcloth these sweet little ones ever see, who knows! I buy the most expensive, luxurious one I can find! Aren’t they worth it?

    1. That’s awesome Christy! I included options from the Dollar Store because sometimes people have a very limited budget and don’t feel like they have the opportunity to give, but I believe anyone can be generous, even if your budget is $10 – $15.

  2. i started packing a shoebox every year when our son was 9; he’s now 38! We packed for an older boy with things our son chose: A metal car or truck (larger Matchbox size), a blue racquetball, baseball cap, YoYo, socks, T shirt Ivory soap (because it’s unscented and floats) wrapped in aluminum foil and put in a ziplock bag, a washcloth, small brush and comb set, toothbrush, a pencil case filled of pencils, black ink pens, colored pencils, a large eraser and a pencil sharpener (all removed from their packaging) , a ruler, small solar calculator, small flashlight with extra batteries, a thick 6/7 “x 9” spiral notebook. (I deleted Necco Wafer candy, gum and toothpaste.)
    I continued to pack a box every year, even when our son went off to college and grad school. One item I found that I always look for is a good metal HARMONICA, which you can still find at Cracker Barrel gift shops.
    I never shopped in Dollar stores because I was buying items I would want my child to receive. I spent about $50 every year on a special box for a special child. School supplies and a quality toy will bring more joy than a lot of cheap stuff. You are representing your Lord and your county so be generous with your gifts of love.

    1. That’s awesome, Margaret! I’m so glad you’ve been carrying on this tradition for almost 30 years! It truly is inspiring.

      My message about encouraging people to consider dollar stores is because sometimes people have a very limited budget and don’t feel like they have the opportunity to give, but I believe anyone can be generous, even if your budget is $10 – $15.

    2. Absolutely agree! I never buy anything at the Dollar Tree except coloring books and stickers (and maybe color crayons if I need to fill another box last minute – I usually buy crayons cheaply when school sales are on.) Most of the things that people talk about buying at Dollar Tree for the boxes are things my kids would discard in a minute – why should poor kids be given these things? I can pick up really really nice stuffed animals after Valentine’s Day and Easter – or brand new stuffies with tags still on at Value Village – all for $3-$5. School supplies are super cheap in the summer. Walmart sells playground balls and pumps for very cheap – and I’m assuming kids from age 2-14 would all love a ball. Last year Walmart sold Uno games for $2 after Christmas – the directions are written in many languages – and so this year I included those in my boxes.

  3. School supplies, tools, hygiene items, clothing, and sturdy toys have more lasting value than things that aren’t durable. I’d like to hope that a kid will use items in my boxes for years.

  4. I have been purchasing items for the shoe boxes since right after Christmas 2019, I am packing 50 boxes. I will have a lot of items left over which I will donate to my church . They normal will have a Operation Christmas Child stuffing party in the being of November, if they do not have a party I will ask them if I can use the items to stuff more boxes.

  5. Boys age 10-14 are always the least packed age. I include a cap, screwdriver, screws, hammer, nails, bandana, twine. Sometimes I pack a plastic tool box instead of a cardboard box.

    1. That’s a good question Lila. I looked on their website and didn’t find much info on if there is a specific age group that they have more need for than others. My guess would be the older selections as many people really enjoy the idea of giving gifts to babies. That is purely a guess though!

      1. From what I have observed both at the collection center at my church and at the processing centers, boxes for 5-9 year olds are about double in number those for either the younger or older ages.

    2. To answer your question, in case you haven’t gotten an answer yet… The age range they get the least amount of boxes is 12-14, particularly boys.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *