50 Best Items to Pack in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox

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UPDATE: my friend Cydil is a missionary in Albania and delivered boxes there last year. Take a minute to see pictures of kids in her community opening boxes last year (I love this!) Also, I spoke with my contact at Operation Christmas Child and they said candy IS allowed in American boxes, however Canadian boxes are now allowing candy this year (they ship to different countries and some of the countries who receive Canadian boxes will not accept candy.) Hope that helps!

 

 

I’m so excited because we just filled our Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes! This is one of those ministries that’s just near and dear to our hearts, and I love that it allows my kids to help learn about ways to bless kids in other parts of the world.

Like I shared in the video, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to watch some of the Operation Christmas Child videos both on your own and with your kids. It will give you an idea of who you’re serving, and get you a wee bit more excited for the children who receive your boxes this Christmas.

A huge (huge, HUGE!) thanks to Hobby Lobby for sending us a $100 Hobby Lobby Gift card to fill our boxes with. We were able to fill 8 boxes with t-shirts, flip flops, bandanas, craft kits, yarn and so much more thanks to their generosity.

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Curious what to pack in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox for  younger kids? Here you go . . .

  1. crayons
  2. coloring books
  3. flip flops
  4. t-shirts
  5. ball
  6. bar soap
  7. bracelet
  8. bandana
  9. pencils & pens
  10. pencil sharpener
  11. duct tape
  12. travel size games – checkers
  13. deck of cards
  14. hacky sack
  15. harmonica
  16. yo yo
  17. hat
  18. glue sticks
  19. scissors
  20. small stuffed animal
  21. pom poms
  22. glitter
  23. small crafting kit
  24. post it notes
  25. highlighters
  26. small notebook
  27. chalk
  28. watercolor paint sets
  29. play doh
  30. small etch a sketch
  31. socks
  32. back pack
  33. plastic cup
  34. straws
  35. scarf
  36. jump rope
  37. glowsticks
  38. leftover halloween candy that’s not chocolate (be sure to place in plastic bags) no longer allowed in 2017 boxes, thanks Rhonda!
  39. matchbox cars
  40. finger puppets
  41. silly putty
  42. toothbrush
  43. toothpaste (no longer allowed in 2017 boxes, thanks Rhonda!
  44. washcloth
  45. wet wipe
  46. travel pack of tissues
  47. lip gloss
  48. hair ties
  49. band aids
  50. hair brush

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For Older Boys:

  • Tools – hammer, screwdriver, wrench or pliers, duct tape, measuring tape
  • Fishing supplies – add in a small fishing kit, fishing line, hooks
  • Binoculars
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Plastic Magnifying Glass
  • Watch
  • Handkerchief
  • Collapsible water bottle
  • Harmonica

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For Older Girls:

  • Small sewing kit
  • Clip on earrings
  • Bracelets
  • Barettes
  • Coin purse
  • Sticky notes
  • Watercolor paint set
  • Yarn
  • Colored Sharpies, highlighters or markers
  • A friendship bracelet with extra string so they can make more
  • Ink pad and stamp set

Also, here are a few ideas that Operation Christmas Child shared on their site as far as suggestions for all ages (as well as some items not to include):

  • TOYS: Include items that children will immediately embrace such as dolls, toy cars, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, balls, toys that light up and make noise (with extra batteries), etc.
  • SCHOOL SUPPLIES: pens, pencils and sharpeners, crayons, markers, notebooks, paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books, etc.
  • NON-LIQUID HYGIENE ITEMS: toothbrushes, bar soap, combs, washcloths, etc.
  • ACCESSORIES: t-shirts, socks, hats, sunglasses, hair clips, jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries), etc.
  • A PERSONAL NOTE: You may enclose a note to the child and a photo of yourself or your family. If you include your name and address, the child may be able to write back.
  • DO NOT INCLUDE: Used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.

 

National Collection Week for Shoeboxes this year is November 16-23, and if you’re not sure where to drop off a box in your area you can go HERE to find a local collection site. They do ask that you also give a donation of $7 per box to cover the cost of shipping – learn more about that over HERE and donate online as well.

 

Additional tips that may help:

  • Pack toothpaste and soap in a plastic bag to keep the scent from taking over the whole box and so that nothing leaks.
  • Remove packaging from your items so that you allow for more room in your box and so that they don’t have much trash to throw away.
  • Don’t send anything that has directions/writing in English (i.e. toys with instructions, games that require kids to read English.) Since these boxes go to non-English speaking country it’s worth only including things that are understood internationally.
  • Read more great tips and suggestions from a missionary in the field over HERE.
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Comments

  1. Actually I was told by some missionaries that matchbox cars aren’t a good idea. That so many places have dirt floors and the cars don’t work well

    • When my husband was able to participate in an OCC trip last year he saw firsthand how much the kids love the matchbox cars. He came home and said that he would encourage every single person that a matchbox car is a must-pack item to put into boxes. We already included cars in our boxes, but now we know that this really is an important thing to include!

      • I grew up playing with matchbox cars in the dirt and they worked just fine. If you buy the real ones, and not the cheapest knock offs they should last for many years like mine did.

      • I buy a few items every month so I am ready by Nov. but I always go to the official website to see what is acceptable and not as things can change. I take everything out of the original package if possible. I always use a sandwich bag and then freezer qt. ziplock bags to put items in. I fold it over and secure with a rubber band. With items like etch a sketch, cars, games, etc. I fold over the cardboard and use a rubber band on it also, anything to save space. A missionary said boys like cars with big tires, they go in the sand better than matchbox. She also said to send plain shirts because it confuses the kids. They don’t know the things our culture puts on shirts. One child was even frightened of the design and wouldn’t wear it. Be careful in choosing stuffed animals also, she said some are frightened by those also. How would we know if it weren’t from those on the front line. Send extra brushes for the watercolors to share and sharpen pencils. The list didn’t include the papermate large eraser, the ones on pencils go bad fast and the ones you buy for on top don’t last as long. I am with the others when it comes to candy. They probably get it once a year so I see no harm. Include a small sack for them to carry their box or just the contents.

    • Karen Farnham says:

      A play mat would be a good idea to include with the cars—I never thought of that. I’m going to add one with each of my toy cars.

      • I love that idea Karen – great suggestion!

      • I saw where some kids drew creative play maps for cars on the inside of their Go boxes with crayons – then the box becomes the playmat for their cars and toys. Very creative Idea and could get children church kids to do the drawing as a project.

    • Occ recommends the cars.

    • That is a matter of opinion. My son played with his matchbook cars in the sand box and out. They may not roll with a light push like on a hard surface but kids know how to push them along! Follow your heart. If God tells you to pack them…do it!

  2. Linda McCoy says:

    Make sure to put the soap in a zip lock bag and hard candy in another zip lock bag.

    • Connie Hovan says:

      I learned a new one this year as well. Ivory soap is still the best — it floats and many take baths in the river. Also, heavily fragranced bar soaps tend to permeate everything in the box…..ie – delicious hard candy can taste like Irish Spring after making the journey.

      • GREAT tip Connie – I actually have a huge pack of Ivory so I’ll swap those bars out. Thanks for the suggestion!

      • You still need to wrap the soap in at least 2 bags minimum because I worked at the processing center a couple years and the scent of even ivory soap permeated 2 bags. It was bad because the couple boxes I saw didn’t wrap the candy in any bag at all and had the soap in this ly one bag. That candy will probably taste pretty nasty. I had to leave that candy in the box but I added some more candy that was bagged and also put the soap in a couple more bags for the boxes I checked. Another thing that I found out on my own was that stick deodarants will melt in the heat of a vehicle. I had a stick in my van and went to freshen up before my appointmentment and ended up with liquified deodarant all down my shirt and pants and this wasn’t the invisible stuff either it was the white when dry. So its best not to put deodarants in the Shoeboxes at all. That’s my opinion, from my experience.

        • Great tip Sandi!

        • Something I do to help keep the smell of soap at bay is to wrap it in two washcloths. I have the washcloths folding in half and then just wrap the soap and then place it in a sandwich size ziploc bag. It works perfectly!

          • We do the same. If you know how you can even create a cute animal out of the washcloth with the soap inside it. Extra Fun.

        • As a year-round OCC volunteer, I can tell you to DEFINITELY double-bag candy and soap. Ivory is probably the least offensive odor. I worked at the processing center this year and so many people had packed Irish Spring, Zest, etc and did not put the soap into a ziplock bag. The smell was so overwhelming, it made our eyes burn. Everything in the box was affected by the odor. Can you imagine what it will be like when the child opens the box (after the box has sat in a shipping container with sweltering temperatures)? I try to bag everything in the boxes that I pack because I know that the ziplock bags will be used for other things. And PLEASE use the OCC shoeboxes!!!

          • Rita McCollum says:

            I read a story of a young girl who received a bar if scented soap. She LOVED it and cherished it, even hiding it and only using on very special occasions. I will wrap it well like has been suggested.

        • Lois Sorensen says:

          I think it is best to buy the unscented soap (Dove or other brand), or possibly the naturally scented Pears soap. I wrap the soap and put it into a soap box; even small snack boxes work fine. I pack items in the shoeboxes from The Container Store; they are high quality and food-safe. You are welcome to check out my OCC Pinterest board.

        • Connie curole says:

          Wrap the soap in cling wrap a few times fist then bag

    • I have participated for many years and never heard that bar soap had to be in zip lock bags, but it makes sense.

    • JoAnna Alcorn says:

      I use a small 2-sectioned plastic storage container for the soap and washcloth; that way, they can store their wet soap in the container after use.

  3. Lipgloss is liquid and can’t be sent in the boxes. Chapstick is ok though.

  4. Laurie – This “50 best items” list is so extensive, wonderful, and helpful! We are an OCC-loving family who attends an OCC-loving church! 🙂 I definitely stock up on school supplies during those back-to-school sales. In addition, Target clothing clearance throughout the year is incredible for filling the OCC tub I keep in my basement for year-round deal finding!

    As a “do not include” addition, I would also add to make sure that none of the clothing, hats, etc. included is camouflage print.

  5. Corina Gartman says:

    I go shopping all year long for the sales. I get extra school supplies, clearance items and ask people for things. My church is making 100 this year. Our former pastor died of a brain tumor so we are making in honor of him and those dealing with cancer. We have bracelets with his favorite saying on them “Keep looking up” even in the bad times God is in control. The dollar store is a great place to shop. Also right now on walmart.com there is tank tops for girls and boys for $2 a piece. You’d have to buy them quickly so they come in time. The tank tops are really cute and many different types at this time. If you spend more than $50 the postage is free. I make some shoe boxes of my own too. I include my address and email with a short note about our family and picture. I pray for each box to go to the right person. I had a note from one girl last year that received one of my shoe boxes what a blessing it was to see her smiling face and the shoe box and her playing with the toys.

  6. MaryBall Opie says:

    It is sad that we are exporting one of America’s greatest health issues to these children. Candy is NOT what these kids need. How hypocritical and ironic that we are buying toothbrushes, dental floss and toothpaste for them, then sending candy. Sugar is highly addictive for many people, as many an obese American will tell you, and leads to multiple health problems. More Americans are addicted to sugar than to alcohol! We should not, cannot in good conscience, send these kids junk food. That is the last thing they need. Please, folks, skip the candy and send something of more lasting joy.

    • Zealia Zealia says:

      Mary ball, your heart for these children comes through loud and clear and that’s wonderful. <3 I am personally pretty anti-candy, myself.. I hand out healthy alternatives at Halloween instead of candy and my child who is nearly two and a half had never even tasted candy. I could write a dissertation on the evils of high fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes! That said, a tiny baggie of candy given to a child who otherwise may never taste candy is not going to cause cavities or increase the risk of obesity. When we'd about what to pack in our boxes I believe the holy spirit convicts each of us what to include our not include. It sounds like perhaps the holy spirit has convicted you adoutincluding candy in your box– listen to that leading! God already knows which child will receive your box and knows the needs of that child. One year I felt convicted to pack nearly one pound of hard candies in one of my boxes, instead of the usual 4-5 little pieces. I don't know what child that box was going to- I can only imagine it might have been a kiddo with lots of friends off family to share with but I have no idea. Thank you for sharing how you view the issue, I hope everyone will ask the spirit to guide them as they shop and pack!

      • Well said, Zealia Zealia!!! 🙂

      • Vickii Parmenter says:

        As one very special Pastor once taught, “Others may….I may NOT.” = We should all seek the Lord for His direction for what He would have us do……it WILL be different for all of us…..He knows who will receive my box.

    • When I consider that many of these children from other countries never get candy outside of special rare occasions, I wonder how you can liken including a small treat like that with the rest of the items in the shoebox to supporting a bad habit that is culturally non-existent where these gifts are going. Besides, it’s not likely that just candy alone will be placed inside any single box, but rather an assortment of gifts with some candy included. Sweets in moderation are not harmful. It’s only when you overindulge and lack self control, which is unfortunately rampant in America. But where these shoe boxes are going, there may be kids who have never had a piece of candy in their life. Can you really imagine being a child and never having one sucker or one jolly rancher or one life saver, EVER? I mean, why not say people shouldn’t send soap or any number of these other items because the packaging will create unnecessary garbage, or pollute the environment or their water supply? Why not instead see the positive? Yeah send some candy but then include with that the necessary means to clean the sugar off their teeth? I think that’s flippin brilliant!

    • These kids dont eat candy all the time and will share one large candy cane can be shared with 3 or 4 kids. Its not like they are pigging out on halloween treats in one sitting

    • As the wife of a dentist, and a veteran of 60+ short term missions, I have to heartedly agree that we really shouldn’t put in candy, tempting though it is. If you don’t have dental care,… which these children probably don’t have,… then please don’t give them hard candy. The reasons are obvious.

    • Many of these kids are desperate for calories. They never get sugar, let alone candy. Hard candy is perfectly good as long as there is a variety of gifts being sent.

    • Bubblegumsodypop says:

      Ahhhh I’m pretty sure they don’t have constant access to candy so as a treat, why not let them have some. It’s not going to kill them, it’s going to bring more joy then someone like yourself could ever feel. Anything in moderation. We are not encouraging them to eat candy all the time, we are providing happiness. Shame on you for basically taking candy from a child. Isn’t there a saying that goes something like…’that’s like stealing candy from a child’ well that’s essentially what your doing. You only live once, and they are only children for so long and many of these kids don’t get a childhood worth talking about. Why the hell would you take that from them?? You know what else is bad for your teeth? A brick. Now let them have candy and joy you miserable, miserable person.

      • You’re being a bully. Maybe this person has their own conviction. Doesn’t mean you should call them names and be rude.

    • How much candy do you think these kids get over a year’s time? Not enough to cause cavities, but enough to make them smile for a while.

    • The latest flier I got from Operation Christmas Child has Food and Candy in the “Do not include” list now.

      • Barbara Nivens says:

        Here’s what is posted on line at Samaritan’s Purse website:

        Do Not Include
        Used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.

        Note, it does not say all candy is excluded, only chocolate and out-or-date. Hard candy like peppermint (not the soft ones) or Life-Savers, etc. are fine and can survive the extremes of heat and cold while waiting to be transported or in-route.

        • Maureen says:

          Latest update from OCC, effective in the 2017 packing, toothpaste and candy will not be allowed. Pack it this year (2016) because you can’t next year. All due to customs restrictions!

    • wow….when I lived overseas as an MK, we got maybe 5 pieces of candy a year (definitely can’t and don’t get addicted overseas like we do in our spoiled American cities….different issues over there), and we cherished every little bite we got….was a rare treat for sure!

  7. I love to read all the stories about the boxes. I have seen a lot of stories about how they don’t know what toothpaste is so they snack on it. I’ve also heard about the matchbox cars not rolling well in the dirt so I try to find small monster trucks or something with larger tires. Balls (flat sent with a pump) go over VERY well. Most children that get a box will only get one in their lifetime, I think it’s important to pray for the boxes (and send it with some candy too, these children need a little bit!)

    • Candy is NOT allowed this year. If you go to the official website, the list is there. Also cannot do toothpaste (they put a tube in every box at a central distrubtion center), playing cards are not allowed and lip balm is also not allowed. Please check out the website before shopping, the pamphlet that comes with the boxes will have correct information.

      • According to the website, candy, toothpaste, and playing cards ARE allowed.

        http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/what-goes-in-my-shoebox-suggestions/

        • Candy and toothpaste are not allowed in CANADIAN boxes, but still allowed in Boxes fro the US. This is because the countries that Canada ships to are having more difficulty with customs, so those items have been dropped for the CANADIAN boxes so that we can get the Shoeboxes through to the children in a reasonable amount of time.

        • Lynette Goodwin says:

          Toothpaste and candy will no longer be allowed in the boxes in the US. They are causing all kinds of problems with customs and getting boxes rejected. Do not include.

      • Shelley,
        Please re-read the official website at samaritanspurse.org. Yes, candy IS allowed… just not perishable candy such as chocolate, fruit snacks or fruit rollups. I like to include little candy canes or peppermint sticks. Also, toothpaste is allowed. The distribution center I was at last year does not put tubes in the boxes. (Perhaps that varies from center to center?) They also request that candy and toothpaste have a 6 month dating. Playing cards and lip balm are allowed, just not lip gloss. I just wanted to clarify… Happy packing! God Bless!

      • Shelley, the rules you are referring to are for Canada. Boxes from the U.S. can still include candy, toothpaste, lip balm, and playing cards.

      • Candy IS allowed. Just not out of date candy or chocolate.

      • What type of candy is allowed in shoebox gifts?
        Appropriate candy includes candy corn, gummy bears, caramels, taffy, gum and Tootsie Rolls. For all of these, make sure that the expiration date is at least six months after National Collection Week. You may not include Hershey Kisses, Snickers bars, or any other chocolate, fruit roll-ups, fruit snacks, or drink mixes such as Kool-Aid due to customs regulations.

        Is lip gloss OK to pack in a shoebox gift?
        Lip gloss is a liquid and can’t be included. However, Chapstick, lip balm or lipstick can go!

        Can I include toothpaste in my shoebox?
        Toothpaste is allowed in shoebox gifts as long as the expiration date is at least six months after National Collection Week.

        • I wouldn’t send any candy that would melt in the heat. That would pretty much rule out what you listed, with the exception of the gum.

      • You should check the list again. Candy is ok to include.

  8. Phyllis Jackson says:

    I enjoyed reading all the comments, but one thing I must share with you is that I watched my child almost die from a piece of hard candy stuck in his throat. 4-people tried to get it out and finally, after his lips were blue, my husband had no choice but to put his long finger down his throat and by God’s mercy, got it out. Therefore, I could never send hard candy or give it to any child here or there. Praise the Lord, today my son is a Pastor winning souls to Christ. I have no problem with a child having candy since it may only be once a year, but hard candy is not safe. And what happens if they break a tooth off trying to bite it? Maybe something they can chew like a tootsie roll or caramel would be better. There’s many others to choose from. Doing these boxes has been such a joy over the years…God bless everyone who participates!

    • Hi Phyllis! I actually have the same thought even when I mentioned it in the video – was trying to explain not to send chocolate that would melt, but didn’t do it well. Soft tootsie rolls, starburst, etc. would be a better choice. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Yes I agree- I take into consideration the age of the child. Small children only get smarties or tootsie rolls or lollipops.

  9. I always wondered if they want the pencils, cars and erasers, etc left in package or loose. Because those in packaging take up SO MUCH room, and then they have trash as they take it all out of the packaging. I do leave soap in box and baggie it, and candy in original bag. But those school supplies have loads of cardboard and plastic. Is it ok to take them out. I do not want Operation Christmas Child staff to think they are used items though.

    • Donna – if I have items in big packaging, I remove it from the packaging. I have spent a day in November or December working in the MN distribution center for the last three years and it is easy to tell which items are new and which are used. (obviously used and dirty items are removed from boxes as each individual box is checked to make sure it meets all guidelines.) I think you’re fine to remove big packaging from items!

  10. I have heard from people who have actually delivered the boxes to children that the very most wanted item for a boy is a soccer ball so this year I am sending my boxes with one and a small pump since you have to slightly deflate the ball to get it in the box. Still room left for some other goodies and needed items too.

  11. galfromaway says:

    Why do the tools and similar items have to be limited to older boys? Older girls can use those too.

    • K Vanbrimmer says:

      Yes!! Thank you! I was scrolling through the comments to see if anyone else had been bothered by the sexist and unnecessary separation of “boy things” from “girl things.”

  12. Carol-Ann Nelson says:

    When I’ve been in Progresso, Belize, Central America, I saw they needed, an umbrella, underwear, socks, new hat, T-shirt or blouse – shirt, shorts or long pants. In a small plastic container I put paper clips, thumb tacks, they love to put pictures in their hut/home, even safety pins help repair their clothing, or even when I can see them, a little sewing kit, even a few bandaids can go into the container or plastic bag to keep them clean and the bag is a household item of value. Some times a stapler with refills. Having a new towel and facecloth helps hygienically, along with a bar of ivory soap (gentle on children) goes a very long time. Running shoes or sandals, ball, ball and jacks, pickup sticks and of course, stickers. Sometimes I have knit sweaters too or even a pillow case they can fill or I’ve even seen a mother put her baby into one to keep him warm. Favourite time to accumulate is all year – favourite place to shop – DOLLAR TREE, DOLLARAMA OR local dollar stores. You can also make a sack for boys to kick around – use 3 balloons to fill one with 2/3 cup flour, then tie it within its neck (do not use string – tie neck itself) then take the second one and inflate it, but then let air out and cover the first one tieing it and then the third one and cover the ball again. Label what is in it, incase they think you are trafficking drugs. You can use corn meal also instead of flour. Children have hours of play, and then you can put a package of balloons and they will see just how to make them for others. You can ask Wal Mart, Target and other department stores to keep their shoe boxes to store them during the year before filling them to send.

  13. Jerilyn cararelli says:

    I’m a relay center coordinator and I’m always looking for fundraiser ideas for our small church and I was wondering how did you get a 100 gift card from Hobby lobby?

    • Hi Jerilyn! I’m one of the Operation Christmas Child bloggers so Hobby Lobby was sweet enough to send me a gift card to help get the message out. Hope that helps!

    • Julie in VA says:

      our church sponsors a food auction to raise money to pay the shipping costs for the 300+ boxes we assemble at church. Church folks prepare and bring in food items they might be famous for or popular. It might be a complete meal, snacks, baked goods, home canned goods, gift baskets etc. Everything is auctioned off. We raise anywhere from $2500 to $4000 each year.

  14. Definitely add underwear for older girls. A lot of girls have to miss school when they’re older because they don’t have underwear. Socks are also good. I know a lot of people picture tropical places when they think of the boxes, but socks are great for rainy/cold seasons and for helping guard against bug bites.

    • Audrey ROcha says:

      How do you determine what size underwear to send?

      • Loretta says:

        I usually send based on the lower age in the boxes’ age range. If it says age 7-10, I’d buy size 7 or 8. Most of these kids have grown up IN NEED. They barely have enough to eat and do not grow like our kids here. If I happen to run across a good deal on a larger size shirt, I’ll include it. Many of these kids feel like a hero if they can bring home something for mom or dad. So, I don’t mind using an adult small or med tee to wrap soap, etc.

  15. I just returned from a media trip with OCC to the island of Grenada. A few thoughts after reading thru many of the comments. Please send a small amount of bagged candy – smarties are perfect no melting and no checking. Boys of ALL ages loved the cars. Children of all ages love stuffed animals. Send gloves and hats. The kids put them on as they looked through their boxes – they will use them when it turns cooler. The girls loved headbands of any kind. Flashlights with extra batteries are always a hit. So are all types of balls. Please try to put one bigger gift (doesn’t have to be more expensive) in their box that they can get excited about when they open their box – a ball, a Barbie, a diary, stuffed animal, etc. Please know these children greatly appreciate their OCC boxes and many of them will hold onto their boxes for years to come! Many thanks to all of you that will be sending boxes!!

  16. sylvia sampson says:

    I live in Labrador and our boxes are sent to corner brook, it said on our info paper, New ( no candy) Changed from last year !!!

  17. I work year-round with OCC, including at a Processing Center in November/December. I would like to discourage packing lip gloss as it will be pulled and sent to the “Inappropriates” area at the PC. Chapstick is OK but no gloss.

    Also, many times the plastic shoe boxes split from the packing process or due to cold on the dock. Many, many have to be repacked into standard shoe boxes due to cracking and crumbling. Picture someone having to repack your items as much like you had done but in a different, unbreakable box. I know there are arguments for the plastic ones, but I spent 1 whole week in the “shoe box hospital” repacking broken boxes. Besides, rectangular standard shoe boxes pack better and more can in 1 carton than angled plastic ones, saving Samaritan’s Purse some shipping money.

  18. Check the OCC brochure. Toothpaste and candy, hard or otherwise, are not allowed this year. You can also contact Samaritan’s Purse to find out what countries shoeboxes from your country are delivered to so you can pack more specifically.

    • There are multiple discrepancies in this feed. Please go to the website FOR YOUR COUNTRY to see changes in what is allowed/not allowed.
      Also, if you are sending soap, PLEASE get a non-scented type. No matter what you wrap it in, or how many bags you put around it, it smells up the box if it has any scent. Also, please be careful with peppermints (candy canes) as they can overpower the box as well.
      If you are allowed to send candy, do so at your own comfort level. So much shaming has been done on here that it is ridiculous. If you are against candy and think it’s bad, then don’t send it. If you are okay with certain kinds, and not with others, send what you are comfortable with. Posting stories of children choking on candy is not appropriate, as that can happen with anything small, jus like here. Remember, these children are receiving these boxes with supervision, and if there is a concern, it will be addressed by the person overseeing the distribution. Let your personal convictions be left with you alone.

      I, too have heard that soccer balls with pumps are the #1 gift for pretty much any country. It is long lasting, and brings the children together.
      I have heard from friends in the field that the two items that can cause issues most are t-shirts with “graphics” as each country has cultural issues that may be influenced negatively by the graphic. They suggested going to Michaels/Walmart/Hobby Lobby and buying plain colored t-shirts. The other item is stuffed animals. As you don’t know which country they will be sent to, you can’t anticipate whether the animal is a sacred animal, considered unclean, or has something associated with it in the cultures that affiliate animals with the spirit world. They suggested dolls with mid-range skin color, or small pillows if you want to give them a “cuddle” thing.
      Another thing that is possibly a negative are gloves and knit hats. Many of the locations they boxes are sent to do not have cold weather. It was suggested to use those items for your local homeless shelters, as they can use them more. Plain Baseball caps are fine, as they help with sun protection.
      Universal toys such as Jacks, checkers, etc. are good, but memory and matching games are cultural in nature, and often need explanation that is not available. Same with yo-yos (which I thought were great until I spoke with my missionary friends). They said crayons, markers, colored pencils (with sharpeners) were good, and school supplies were gold! Most of these children attend the missionary-led schools, and the quality of supplies available to them are not good at all, so when the shoeboxes come, they are sooooo well received. Giving a simple bag is good too, as then they have something to carry their stuff with that is easily recognized as “theirs” after opening the shoe boxes (which often look alike). I try to pack the reusable grocery bags that are plain in color, or have fruits or veggies on them. They can decorate them with permanent markers! Athletic socks are great for the kids, as are pretty much any form of ball. Stickers are not popular, as they don’t have things to stick them on, and they don’t “get” the stickers significance (they stick on stuff and you are done.) Colored bandaids are good (not character ones) simple jewelry, hair accessories, combs, etc.
      Pray about the child who will receive the box, and let the Spirit direct your purchasing. Every year during the school supplies mega sales, I always pre-buy for OCC: When else can you get crayons for $0.10 or good markers and glue sticks for $1. I have a box in the closet and shop throughout the year at garage sales (amazing what you find new in box!) and in clearance sections! Then we pray and shop for the rest that is more individual! Have fun and pretend you are buying for a family member. . .if they end up accepting Jesus they will be! 🙂

      • Kathy, you have alot of wonderful info here. Along with stickers, I also want to add silly putty or Play Doh to the list of do not send, children in other countries don’t know what to do with it. I too shop all year for my boxes and especially the school supply sales. So much fun filling them and imagining the faces of those who open them!

  19. FYI, the correct spelling on the word is ‘pom-pon’ (or ‘pompon’).

  20. This year I found some really great buys, I try to buy year round and get the best buys I can. I wanted to your list of box ideas. This year I added foam stickers, balloons and beaded necklaces (mardi gras). These are all inexpensive items in which you can normally buy multiples in one package. I worked at a processing center last year and we had to throw out any liquid lip gloss so I would be careful with that one. Also be mindful of the glow sticks as well since they can bust and get all over the items in the box. Happy Packing Everyone!!!

  21. I spoke to Operation Christmas Child in Calgary. I was told that they are taking out candy this year because one of the countries they are sending to won’t let it in.

  22. I found some containers at DollarTree that a bar of soap fits in perfect I put the ivory soap in a plastic bag and then put it in the container and snapped it shut. It is really helping with the smell and gives the child a container. They are in cute colors.

  23. My kids have serious food allergies and when we were doing a presentation about food allergies at a scout troop meeting, a family from Sudan was there. The dad’s eyes got really big and he told us afterwards that he was sure that people he knew had died of food allergic reactions the way we described anaphylaxis – they just didn’t know about food allergies there. It wanssomething I had wondered about before – if there’s a lack of knowledge about allergic reactions in some parts of the world – and he seemed to think it was true.

    Food allergies are considered practically an epidemic here, and I don’t know how many there are in other countries, but they have been on the rise elsewhere also. I would avoid sending food, because we don’t know how someone will react to our foods, dyes, and often processed chemicals. It would be sad for a child to be excited about this wonderful box and then have a bad reaction to a food dye or something that their body doesn’t recognize.

    It’s not about depriving anyone — it’s about choosing intentionally and thoughtfully. And besides, the candy will be consumed quickly and then it’s gone. Something like art supplies or a ball could introduce a child into a new skill — a new way of life!

    Thanks,
    Sherri

  24. It’s always interesting reading through the comments! One thing I wanted to mention… not only is it a good idea to remove some of the packaging on certain items to fit them better into the box, but I’ve heard that parents of some of the children receiving the shoe boxes sometimes try to sell brand new items. Now I don’t feel so bad removing tags!

    • I hadn’t heard that Karla – I can’t imagine but it makes sense! I used to feel awful taking off the wrapping, but will definitely do that this year. Thanks for sharing!

  25. I had no idea about this until I saw a video today ,I am sending two boxes ,already have the drop locations close to me and wanted to know if the list of item that can be sent is the same for any Country ,Inlive in Fort Lauderdale ,FL Usa

    Thank you in advance

  26. Is gum allowed? I see references to candy, chocolate and food, but no mention of gum.

    • cathy hogan says:

      Seriously Sarah? You would deprive an innocent desperately poor child because of your personal agenda for political correctness?
      Also, you would deprive yourself of the joy and privilege of giving based on half truths and other propaganda? I encourage you to let go of your bitterness and bias and pack, pack, pack those shoeboxes! When you think of the smiles on the children’s faces when they experience your kindness…you will feel like a new person!!

      • If your primary reason for packing shoeboxes is how good it makes you feel, please consider making yourself feel even better when you use the same money to support clean-water, health, literacy or sustainable-agriculture projects. An “innocent desperately poor child” can be provided with a far better life through those projects than through your sending crayons and glitter. The machinery of collecting, checking, shipping and distributing the shoeboxes wastes so much that could otherwise be invested in real family help! If you want to provide school supplies, find a school (or orphanage, etc.) and send your money directly, so they can buy what they need through local channels. (These ideas are included in the article linked above.)

    • The post you link to is written by a woman who has no moral standard of right and wrong, who does not believe anything the Bible teaches about male and female, right and wrong, or Jesus Christ. Her reasons for not participating in Operation Christmas Child boils down to the fact that she hates what Billy Graham stands for.
      Her reasoning means absolutely nothing to me.

    • Sarah, OCC is upfront that their shoebox ministry is just that — a ministry. If you don’t want to support the evangelism, I’m sure there must be a politically-correct secular organization that will send your gender-neutral box somewhere. I suggest you spend your time looking for it.

    • Mary landucci says:

      Have you watched any of the dozens of testimonials of how children who received shoeboxes were convinced of the love of God and came to know him through the gift of a shoebox full of “insignifican”( in the western sense) items that met tangible felt needs in their lives ? Pretty compelling reason to pack as many boxes as possible in my book. The devil doesn’t need an advocate here…the precious, innocent children do.

  27. just a note! They ask now that you don’t include playing cards! I think it has something to do with customs!

  28. Stuffed animals–or anything with an animal–may not be a good idea. For instance in the Muslim culture, dogs are seen as unclean. Animals and their symbols have various meanings in different cultures and may scare children.

  29. OCC recommends not to send things like play doh, silly putty, etc because kids in other countries aren’t sure what it is and often try to eat it. Luckily play doh is non-toxic but still not the best of ideas. Glue sticks are also not recommended as they can melt. That info comes straight from the organization.

  30. This is my first year packing a box. I plan on putting in a tshirt, socks, toothbrush, writing paper, pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, bar soap, washcloth, plastic drink container with lid, reusable plastic silverware, a diary or other hard book type item, hair ties (can double as a rubber band), flip flops, sunglasses, to name a few. While there is some controversy with this charity, I believe everyone will give to those less fortunate the way they see fit. This is a wonderful program that I am glad I can contribute to, along with purchasing a goat for a family in need (which I also will be doing) and also helping out American children in need as well. As a child, I never received a Christmas gift, we were poor. My family was proud and would not take any charity. Our pastor left a $50.00 bill in an unmarked envelope on my parents porch. I will never forget that and plan on doing the same for an American family in need. God Bless all of you!

  31. I buy unscented soap & take it out of the box to air for about a month, then put it inside a plastic soap holder. This year I bought large mouth water bottles & filled them with candy instead of just putting them inside a plastic bag. Killed two birds with one stone! For the girls boxes I found a small craft box, that resembles a tackle box, & filled it with hair accessories, sewing kit, pony beads and lace to make their own jewelry. Added the school supplies & hygiene items & still had room for flip flops and t-shirt. I did use a men’s shoebox which is larger than the official shoebox, and decorated the outside with colorful duct tape to make it pretty and more sturdy. Then I cut out pictures depicting Texas (where I live) and glued them inside the lid. This year I included a card with my name and address on it hoping that I will hear from the child that receives this box.

    • Loretta says:

      When using a non-standard box , please consider the shipping process. A box 1″ wider will prevent another box from being able to go in that container.

  32. Hi, where did you find the plastic boxes to fill? This is my first time doing this and I wasn’t sure if it had to actually be a shoebox..

    • Hi Brittany! I’ve found them at the Dollar Tree and Walmart for $1 – hope that helps!

      • Please do not use plastic boxes or oversized shoe boxes! I work year-round with OCC, and we ask that you use our shoeboxes. You can get them for free from any church or organization that is already participating in the project. It is mainly for logistics — the shipping boxes are supposed to contain a certain number of shoeboxes because the leaders (recipients) have requested a specific number of boxes. Using strange boxes throws off the count in each box and, as a result, some children may not receive a box.

      • Loretta says:

        If you want to pack in a plastic box, make sure it fits inside the standard occ box. My son spends his own money on a small plastic toolbox and fills it with tools. We take the occ box with us to buy the toolbox. An oversized box will prevent an entire additional box from fitting in that shipment. My daughter started sewing classes last year. We never found a good sewing box to fit in the shoebox, but she did find a hard plastic emergency sewing kit. It was much smaller than she wanted, but very good sturdy plastic.

  33. I just learned of this. After checking over everything on the website, my kids and I shopped all morning yesterday and put together 4 shoeboxes crammed with stuff. I was so happy that we were able to put together so many items into our boxes … but when I dropped my boxes off at a local church we were given some papers to bring home to help us for next year. One paper was a list of “most liked items” volunteers who have delivered the boxes to the kids put together. It had a note that said kids love hard candy but to avoid jolly ranchers and gummy bears as they melt in the heat and have “ruined many boxes.” This completely ruined my joy of doing this. We put jolly ranchers in every box. 🙁 So many sites I came across suggested them AND gummy bears. Even the official site specifically says gummy bears are ok. Now I’m afraid some poor child is going to get a melted mess. I’m praying they don’t melt, or that hopefully someone just removes the meltable candy. I honestly never thought they would melt.

    • It’s really okay! Before the boxes go over they’ll go through processing and someone will take out anything that would melt, so it really will be fine. Love that you all were able to get 4 boxes put together!

  34. There are quite a few things on this list that aren’t allowed in the boxes, according to the Operation Christmas Child website. Toothpaste, candy, and a deck of cards to name a few. I recommend everyone check there before buying items to place in a box. I would also encourage people to think about the quality of items they are sending. If you’re sending a toy to a third world country, should it really be a cheap plastic toy from a dollar store situation? I often wonder how long some of these toys last. And school supplies…I’m sure we’ve all tried to sharpen a cheap pencil just to have it continuously break. I wonder if that happens to the children who receive these boxes. I know it makes it easier to buy the most inexpensive things to include, but I wonder if that’s really the best thing.

  35. Working at Operation Christmas child as a volunteer the past 2 years I can tell you I have seen some amazing boxes and some horrible one too. Remember this may be the ONLY gift a child receives so be thoughtful and generous. PLease, if $ is an object do a few nice boxes than a lot of half empty ones. I saw way too many boxes with just one item and a mostly empty box, some of the boxes literally had one used matchbox car and they did 10 boxes like that! EACH and every box is checked and prohibited items are removed. LIquids will be discarded, also NO chocolate candy.

    • I know this is way after the fact because of date but the comments get read all the time. I would hope that the packing place, like our church, will check the boxes and add to the bad ones! What a shame it would be to open your box and have one old used car when the other kids had a box jammed with stuff, that’s just disgraceful and makes me so sad! All of our boxes are checked and double checked, items added to ensure each and every box is full of fun and useful items. And I agree, 10 boxes packed right beats 100 almost empty boxes any
      day!!

  36. MK Christiansen says:

    Typo (I think) in your first paragraph up there, in the “update.” You say that Canadian boxes are NOW allowing candy this year. I think perhaps you meant that Canadian boxes are NOT allowing candy this year. Big difference.

  37. MK Christiansen says:

    Here’s the link to OCC with suggested items. I assume this is for the USA? Hard candies and gum and toothpaste area allowed this year (2016) but not next year.

  38. MK Christiansen says:
  39. 2016 is the last year to be able to include candy and toothpaste in the shoeboxes per Samaritan’s Purse.

  40. Rosie LondonUK says:

    Are small zip lock bags of Lego allowed???

  41. Please consider some of the points made by those who have an alternative view of the organization as well as what’s ‘useful’ to a non-industrialized village setting; a lot of the items are not ‘useful’ to their local day-to-day needs.
    There are articles online that give more detail; please search out a few ‘critics’ of this particualre one.
    > Do < share, do support useful items through organizations with altruistic and even faith-centered intentions.
    At least search them & hear them out..

  42. Laurie, I clicked on your link to the Missionary from Senegal. In my opinion her suggestions top any and all. She has seen first hand why some are good and some are not and I am going to follow them to a T. They are common sense and are a good representation of many countries. Thanks so much for the link, and I think a large Tootsie roll will be added to each of my boxes ;^)

  43. It is my first year packing a box – I used to do it when I was younger, but my mother did most of the shopping – would it be ok to pack a sports bra or something for an older girl???

    • I realize that this is past the packing time for a reply but thought I would add these thoughts anyway. A sports bra would be a great item to pack in an older girls box and a really great idea. Also, I have read where some young women must stay home from school for the duration of their monthly period so they request that the reusable pads be included in the older girl boxes also. They can be ordered through Walmart and other internet sites. My mother said as a young girl they used to tear up old sheets and each girl was responsible for washing their own pads. The secured them in their underwear with safety pins so that might be a good item to include also.

  44. Debi McCormick says:

    So happy and excited to find this website and see all the comments from OCC loving packers! This year, because of expiration dates holding up shipments in customs, Samaritans Purse is asking that we not pack toothpaste or any type candy. New rules, but the love for these kids is the same. Have a safe and Happy New Year!!

  45. Please update your blog post because many will come here. For 2017, toothpaste and candy are new on the do not include list from the US so hoping you can make a note of that here. Some may only see this post before they pack. Thank you for an amazing list!!

  46. ashleigh says:

    for anyone that actually reads the comments. (lol) Samaritans purse has also in 2017 raised the donation price from $7 per box to $9 per box.

    • I’ve heard some people express concern about the increased suggested donation price for shipping the boxes. When my son spent a semester at a school in Norway, I sent him a care package containing some of his favorite foods that aren’t sold in Norway. The box wasn’t very big, and it wasn’t very heavy. The price to ship it was $25. So I think $9 is still a reasonable price to ship an Operation Christmas Child box.

  47. Jade Fowler says:

    You are no longer allowed to put in crayons as they may melt

    • Crayons are allowed from some countries but not from others – be sure to check your own country’s Operation Christmas Child website for packing guidelines.

      If you’re sending crayons from a country where they’re allowed, they should be fine. If you’re worried about melting, you can put them in a small plastic bag just in case.

  48. So this will be my first year sending two of the plastic bins they make and can be purchased at Hobby Lobby. First I was just wondering if we can put stuff in for the siblings. Second I was also wondering if mostly everything including clothe and toys should have no charcters since kids might find them offensive. Then I wanted to know if the ideal box should have mostly clothe items and hygene products with just one or two toys. Lastly, does everyone usually donate for the shipping costs? And I know this will upset most, but Graham and his board make a pretty hefty annual salary and can more then afford the shipping costs.

  49. Shawna Shawna Michaels says:

    Can you include a little money in the box

    • Hi Shawna! These often go to people in other countries, so American money wouldn’t be useful, however you can include money to pay for shipping of the boxes. Hope that helps!

  50. I read a suggestion somewhere to put soap in a plastic travel container so when they bathe by the river, it will keep the soap clean. Also, every box, boy or girl, should have a soccer ball and pump. It is the most popular sport in other parts of the world.

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