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
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.”
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 …
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.
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.
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?