Operation Christmas Child Box Packing List

Operation Christmas Child Box Packing List

For years, I’ve participated in Operation Christmas Child — you know, the project, sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, where you fill a shoe box with items to send to an impoverished child at Christmas time. For several years, my Sunday School classes brought in items to fill boxes. After those days ended, our family continued the project on our own. Since collection week is going on right about now across the country, how about a packing list to help you fill a shoe box or two?

Operation Christmas Child Box Packing List

Operation Christmas Child


One thing about kids all over the world: they love toys.  Operation Christmas Child can be a little tricky because you don’t know anything about the country or the child who will be receiving your box, but give it your best shot. Girls often enjoy dolls, stuffed animals, trinket-type toys, and jewelry. For boys, race cars, balls (a larger ball like a soccer ball with a pump are good ideas too). If you have new kids’ meal toys, those can be fun to add in as well. I usually try to make toys the main focus of my boxes, because really — kids consider toys “the good stuff.”

Operation Christmas Child

Hygiene Items

I always include a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and a washcloth in my boxes. I recently read a blog post by someone who’d volunteered in actually handing out boxes to children, and she mentioned that kids weren’t excited by these items. I think that this depends a lot on where your boxes end up. If they go to children in a really impoverished nation, I think they would be thrilled to receive such items. If they go to kids who have a bit more, I can see how a toothbrush doesn’t excite them so much. One year, we actually received a letter and photo from brothers who had received our boxes. I was surprised to see that they looked pretty well-off, and that they wrote us again, suggesting we could send them more things!. Still, I think these are good items to add.

I read an interesting discussion the other night on soap in boxes. One woman said that she avoided Irish Spring soap as it smelled up the box so much, and she worried about the smell affecting the taste of enclosed candy (that’s coming up!). There was also a posting by a child who’d received a box, saying how much he loved smelling the Irish Spring soap he received. Dilemmas …

Operation Christmas Child


Next to toys, I think candy would probably be the most popular item in boxes, from a child’s perspective. Let’s face it: kids like candy. Note that you can’t include anything chocolate or meltable (imagine a great box of goodies with a Hershey bar melted over everything 🙁 ). I often include suckers, gummis, things like that. I notice that this year’s official Operation Christmas Child brochure states “no chocolate or food.” Hmmmm. I really hope candy is still okay, because I think it’s a treat for most kids.

Operation Christmas Child

Hair Items

Okay, so this one is for girls only (since I have 3 daughters, we’ve always tended to make more girl than boy boxes anyway), but I always include hair items. If you watch ads at Walgreens, throughout the year they usually have a few weeks where you can get some hair supplies free using their register rewards. Clips, barrettes, ribbons, hair ties, whatever — most girls enjoy playing with their hair.

Operation Christmas Child

School Supplies

School supplies can include many items: scissors, pencils (I include a small sharpener too), markers, pens, crayons, notepads, notebooks, stickers, and tattoos. I like to include lots of paper in some form, because kids can entertain themselves for quite a while by writing and and drawing.


It’s important to pray for your boxes. I often stress (in a mild way) over whether my box will “work” for the child who receives it. Will it go to a child in Africa, and if so, what will he do with those mittens? Or will it go to a girl who is far too small to wear the T-shirt I included? Prayer can go a long way toward making sure that your box reaches just the child it’s intended to be for. I love praying for my boxes, and wondering where they are traveling on the way to their final destination. I once had a friend who had worked high-up in the Operation Christmas Child organization. She had so many stories to tell about a child getting a box that was just right for his or her situation, often in ways that seemed truly miraculous. That’s the power of prayer.

I recommend paying the $7 per box for transportation online. That way, you can print a “track your box” label, and you’ll receive an email letting you know the country where your box ended up.

I’m linking to the OCC virtual packing party at Lisa’s.

Have you participated in Operation Christmas Child? Any stories to tell?





10 thoughts on “Operation Christmas Child Box Packing List

  1. Beautiful stuff! Some little girls will be very happy. Note: Next year no candy at all and no toothpaste–I assume this is a change in some international regulation or something. This year it’s all still fine. No war-type toys, no even iconic little green army men.

  2. I have such strong feelings about this subject, and most of them are negative, unfortunately. When I know that many children are going to bed hungry in the part of the world I worked in, I can’t imagine that a hair barrette is going to help her. Furthermore, I question if they ever figure out what some of the things are. I’m picturing a child with a pencil sharpener. Would s/he ever figure out what that is for? I don’t want to rain on your parade, but I have trouble getting excited about this project, since I don’t feel it meets their basic needs. If you could find a little black doll, the little girl might be excited about that, at least if she lives in Africa. I’m sorry. Have I been too negative?

  3. Dear Elaine,

    I too lived in the 3rd World. That was in Malawi. Kids loved getting things like these boxes and parents appreciate them. Yes, there will be items received that won’t make sense, but they will be treasured none-the-less. I agree that this isn’t solving world hunger–a huge problem. Nor is it drilling clean wells or providing insect-repellent-embedded mosquito nets. But all of that is ALSO done by Samaritan’s Purse. Here is a link to their “Chirstmas Catalog” done specifically with people like you and me in mind–we know what huge challenges the world’s destitute face. This catalog lets you pay for water filters, livestock, hot meals, help refugees, fund schools and all sorts of other humanitarian work. Perhaps you’d like to join in that way? https://www.samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/gift-catalog

    Personally, I’ll keep helping BOTH ways. You see, my son received a shoebox when he was in an orphanage in Ukraine. He learned the Gospel and came to Christ thru their program. Now, he’s not a perfect boy, but that program had a lasting impact. How? It gave him hope that someone out there cared.My daughter did not get a box (no one knows why but some kids did, some didn’t too long ago now to worry about) so he shared it with her evenly because that’s what big brothers do. Both fondly remember that.

    i remember kids in Malawi vividly and how they would carry their shoes on their head and put them on at the school door to save them and make them last. I remember little boys wearing crotch-less shorts–all they had. If you’ve read the book Galimoto, you know the sort of toys kids have in Malawi–even today. I like to hope that that soccer ball or those grown-up coloring books help keep a kid out of trouble. I like to believe that by sending them expensive paper (sold by the sheet), pens and pencils that maybe some parent or uncle can afford one more term of school than the child would have attended. Each year of school reduces the number of children people have–did you know that? Boys or girls–the better the education, the better the job, the more they value their children. I see these boxes as planting seeds for the future. By sending a shirt and underpants that’s more money parents have for FOOD. (Yes, there are baddies there, too, who will sell the stuff and do the wrong thing with the money–I can’t worry about them). I believe God knows just which child needs that box with the glittery Vans in them or the box with warm pajamas. He knows. Yes, there are more efficient ways to do this, but this is about the personal touch. The love of one member of the Family of Christ for one other member.

    I hope you’ll cover all 26 of my boxes with your prayers. I believe that God’s Will IS Done thru this program. Enjoy the Christmas Catalog. If you are traveling down to Susan’s for Thanksgiving I hope you have a safe trip and blessed holiday.

    Yours sincerely,

    Lisa Hayes

  4. Thanks, Lisa. I’ll not be traveling on Thanksgiving, except within the city here. But thanks for your prayers.

    It’s not that I have no heart for the needs of those I left behind. I’m currently paying for the education of a young lady there, and did for a young man until he was killed in one of the political uprisings in that country.

    Since you and Susan, and thousands of others feel very strongly convinced that these shoe boxes are useful and changing lives, I’ll join in praying that they might help the recipient. And I’ll continue helping in the way I’ve chosen to do. Since I’m with an organization that provides ways of funneling money directly to the people I feel led to help, I’ll continue doing that.

  5. Elaine, perhaps I might want to help your organization, too. Which group is it? Which country were you in. I always love getting to know others who have served in poor countries. I was in the Peace Corps in 1989–1991 in Malawi.

    Thank you for your prayers!

    Lisa Hayes

  6. We love making up Christmas Child boxes! I wrap shoeboxes and lids in January before the giftwrap is put away. (The Dollar Tree has really good prices for toothbrushes and other things.) We watch for sales on school supplies and toys and so get more bang for our buck, and hope that it will help one more child receive a box. Glad to help children have a better Christmas.

  7. Hi Margaret! I love your idea to wrap the boxes and lids before paper is put away. Then the boxes are handy to add to throughout the year. Yes, I’ve done the tracking since it became available. Last year ours ended up in Africa (forgot the exact country) — the year we actually got a letter from kids who got them, they went to Romania or some eastern European country like that. Do you track yours? Where did they go?

  8. Lisa Hayes, I regret that I didn’t see your questions to me until this evening. I served for eight years in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), West Africa. The organization with which I served, and from which I retired, is Baptist Mid-Missions. They regularly send aid to people suffering as the result of political upheaval or natural disasters. If you’d like more information. please let me know and I’ll be glad to try to respond to them.

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