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

Published on October 8, 2020 by Lauren

  • Popular Posts

    [popular_posts showimage=false imagesize="genesis-featured-big" showposts=4 showtitle=false]
  • 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 is Operation Christmas Child. I know many of you may be wondering what to put in Operation Christmas Child shoebox. 

    While it is always a great thing to be able to give (more than the 3 gift Christmas rule that I like to follow) 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.


    NOTE: This post was updated in October 2022

    what to put in operation christmas child shoebox

    About Operation Shoebox and Samaritan’s Purse

    If you are unfamiliar with Operation Christmas Child from Samaritan’s Purse, you can read more about it. Basically, you 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 have Christmas on a budget every year, and including items like these helps me stay on task.

    When I started learning how to budget for Christmas, it was suggested that I add a giving category. If you are interested in learning how to budget, you can grab the free budget pack here or click on the image below.

    what to put in operation christmas child shoebox


    Operation Christmas Child shoebox post Covid 19

    Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Operation Christmas Child made some modifications that I think were amazing and stuck with us through the pandemic.

    During the pandemic, they created a digital option so you can build your shoebox online. You simply choose a donation range, whether you want to build your box or have it created for you, select the gender and age range of the child you would like to give to, and then add some pre-selected ideas into the virtual box. This option is also available for churches and similar organizations that want to have a group goal of donations.

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

    • School supplies – chalkboards with chalk, pencils, and sharpeners, crayons, scissors, backpacks
    • Toys – sports balls (with pump if needed), dolls, stuffed animals, play cars
    • Make-your-own crafts – add your personal touch
    • Non-liquid hygiene items – bar soap, toothbrush, washcloths. Do not send toothpaste though 🙂
    • Clothing accessories – tops, shoes, socks, hair bows, gloves, scarves
    • Small musical instrument – harmonica, recorder
    • A personal note from your family – if you include your name and address it’s possible that the child could write you back!
    • Fishing Kit – 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, and 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
    • A Small Toolkit – includes nails, hammer, screws, and screwdriver. Just leave out the saws!
    • Clothesline and Clothespins
    • Small brain games like puzzle books, wooden puzzle games, or etch-a-sketch toys
    • Check the comments for other great ideas

    what to put in operation christmas child shoebox

    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, including candy – due to customs regulations
    • Seeds
    • Liquids or lotions – these can spill and get all over the other items
    • Medications or vitamins
    • Breakable items such as snow globes 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 to have 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.

    what to put in operation christmas child shoebox

    Can I put candy in my Operation Christmas Child shoebox?

    Unfortunately NO. No type of candy is allowed in shoebox gifts, due to increasing customs regulations.  Chocolate is a definite no-no due to the hot temperatures in many of the climates the shoeboxes are shipped to.

    Does Operation Christmas Child repack the boxes?

    No, they do not. They keep them intact. Consider using the free boxes that OCC distributes. These are called “Go Boxes.” This helps out in many ways: First, they are lightweight and cost less to ship. Second, They are perfect for fitting into the larger cartons that they are packed in before shipping overseas. At the processing center, you can fit 23 OCC Go Boxes into a shipping container, this is the ‘perfect’ box and costs much less to ship.

    How much does it cost to send an Operation Christmas Child box?

    You can simple drop your box off at a local dropoff location for free and they can ship it for you. They do suggest that you make a donation of $9.00, since that is the amount it takes to ship each box, however it is not necessary.

    what to put in operation christmas child shoebox

    What do you write in an Operation Christmas Child card?

    You want to write something thoughtful and kind. Include a bible verse and a picture of your family. I always like to include my return address so that they can write back if they want to. Often times the kids will write back a thank you note and send a picture that they drew.

    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.

    Many of our readers have shared to use discretion when choosing popular superheroes for toys or on clothing items. Remember they may unknown in other countries and could come across as scary to children there.

    Other Helpful Information to Know:

    Samaritan’s Purse provides a great FAQ that gives a lot more information on what can be sent and any restrictions.  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!

    As we try to spend less on Christmas presents and more on giving, this is a great opportunity to give back!

    what to put in operation christmas child shoebox

    In 2020 the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox collection week is November 16-23rd! You can drop off your shoebox at over 4,000 locations across the U.S. Use the online drop-off finder to determine a location near you. 

    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.




    Meal Plan

    Beat inflated grocery costs and download my Free One-Touch Meal Planning System NOW!

    No, I don't want to save money