One of my favorite things to do around the holidays is put together boxes for Operation Christmas Child. It fills me with so much joy to know that a kiddo across the world gets to see the love of Jesus in a box full of toys and things that he or she needs.
Each year, we choose a different age and gender – this year, it was a 10-14-year-old girl.
Why did we choose this age?
Because the 10-14 age range often receives the fewest shoeboxes. People love to buy cute, glittery, fun things for the little ones, but it’s so important that these older kids know that they’re loved, too.
But you do have to think about different things for the older age group. Many of them already have to provide for their family, and some may even have babies of their own.
Here are the items that we chose to pack in our box:
Yes, we did fit all of those items in one box! Below, I’ve broken down why we chose each item, other suggestions for your box, and ways to consolidate space.
School Supplies and Crafts
School supplies are so important to help these kids continue their education. And crafts are a great way for them to practice beloved skills like art and have a blast doing so!
What we included:
- Colored pencils
- #2 pencils + several fun, patterned pencils
- Black ink pens
- A pencil pouch to keep everything in
- A floral, lined notebook that she can use to sketch or write
- A pencil sharpener
- Fun stickers
- A blank sketchbook
- Coloring pages
- Small crafts, like charm bracelets, sticker art, or paper folding
- A solar calculator (avoid calculators that take batteries she might not have access to)
- Ruler and protractor
- Flashcards with numbers (remember, she might not speak English!)
Items Just for Fun
This is my favorite part! You always want to include a “Wow” item that will grab their attention right away, like a stuffed animal or doll. And for a girl, fun items might also include hair accessories and jewelry.
What we included:
- A cute stuffed puppy that will serve as the “wow” item. Remember, no matter how old your child is, she will still love something to cuddle with!
- A jump rope that will encourage both fun and exercise.
- A pack of playing cards she can play with her friends and family.
- A pink bouncy ball.
- Hair ties and bobby pins
- Pink and white glittery bracelets
- A music necklace
- A mermaid necklace and ring set
- A doll
- Bows and headbands
- An inflatable soccer ball with pump
- A yo-yo
- A solar-powered watch
- A pretty scarf
- Other small games like jacks, marbles, or dominos
- A musical instrument like a harmonica or recorder
- A frisbee, kite, or Etch-a-sketch
Personal Care Items
You could definitely say that personal care items are the most important. In many of the countries these boxes go to, the children don’t have access to sanitary napkins, soap and toothbrushes, or even clean water. Definitely make room for these valuable items.
What we included:
- Two bars of soap
- A soap holder. The children often have no way to keep their soap clean and dry.
- A toothbrush with a built-in cover. If you choose one that’s not built-in, definitely get a toothbrush cover they can use; they need to be able to keep it clean.
- A hairbrush.
- Dental floss.
- Three reusable menstrual pads. You can purchase these online or sew them using this tutorial.
- Two pairs of underwear. Without them, the pads will not work.
- Two washcloths.
- A small water bottle that can be used to carry clean water
- Bandages with fun patterns
- A more thorough first aid kit
- A life straw
- Reusable plastic dishes like bowls, plates, and utensils
- A solar-powered or hand crank flashlight. Remember, they may not have access to batteries.
- Nail clipper and file.
- Other clothing like socks, shoes, t-shirts, or warm gloves.
- A blanket
Items that help with chores or making money
Many of the young women that these boxes go to fill very traditional roles. Their tasks often include cooking and feeding their families, gardening, and sewing. They can also use these valuable skills to make money in their communities. While you could choose any of those roles, we chose to focus on sewing and put together a sewing kit.
What we included:
- A small sewing bag that zips
- A box with extra buttons and safety pins
- A container of needles
- A thimble
- A needle threader
- A small pair of scissors
- Thread in a variety of colors
- A measuring tape
You could also include small bolts of fabric if you’d like.
Other ideas for a cooking kit:
- Cooking utensils like a spatula or spoon
- Plastic plates, bowls, storage containers, or utensils
- A small pan
- An apron
Other ideas for a gardening kit:
- Gardening gloves
- A trowel or other gardening tools
- A small watering can
- Small plastic pots
- A gardening apron, hat, or boots
We chose to pack our box in a plastic, shoebox-sized container, closed and held together with rubber bands. Why? Because they can use that container to carry water, cook food, or store their items.
We also included a personal note from us to our child. We wrote our names and where we’re from, and told our child that we love her and are praying for her. We also included an encouraging Bible verse about God’s love and protection.
You could also include a picture of yourself, your family, your town, or your pets! And if you include stationery, your child may also be able to write back.
Tips for packing
One of the biggest things I can recommend is to take everything out of the package that you can. Packaging takes up SO much space! We put all of the pencils, colored pencils, and pens into the pencil pouch and rolled that up. One bar of soap came out of the box and was placed inside the soap holder.
We also used the water bottle for storage. We put all the jewelry and hair items, chapstick and dental floss, eraser and pencil sharpener, and roll of stickers inside the bottle. Talk about saving space!
Ways to save money
One of the best things to do is buy some things ahead of time and take advantage of sales. For example, at the beginning of the school year when all the school supplies were on sale, I bought colored pencils, #2 pencils, pens, scissors, etc. at a fraction of the price they sell for at this time of year.
Keep an eye out for coupons. Hobby Lobby always releases a coupon that you can use specifically for Operation Christmas Child purchases.
Get some items at the Dollar Tree or the dollar section at Target. I wouldn’t recommend buying toys and things of that nature there (how terrible would it be for a child’s brand new toy to fall apart right after they get it?) the Dollar Tree is great for items like bar soap, toothbrushes, dental floss, pencils, etc.
Also, check around your house for items you can give. Samaritan’s Purse really encourages new, not used, items, but be creative! Pull dental floss and a toothbrush from the free sample packs your dentist gives you. Use the sealed bar soap from your recent hotel stay.
Finally, consider crafting or sewing some of your items. Your kids will love making crafts for your child’s box! Tic tac toe games, flash cards, and beaded jewelry are easy things for kids to make. Try printing mazes, sudoku puzzles, and coloring sheets from the Internet. And if you’re handy, you can make handmade menstrual pads, drawstring bags, soap holders, or even socks or hats!
Things not to include
Of course, there are some things you shouldn’t include in your box for a variety of reasons. Avoid the following:
- War-related items, including military figures, guns (even water guns!), toy knives, etc.
- Any food, including chocolate and candy
- Liquids or lotions
- Breakable items, such as glass containers or snowglobes
- Used or damaged items
You should also consider the ramifications of certain items. For example, if you were to include a CD or DVD, the child might not have something to play it on. Remember that your child may not speak English or have access to items like batteries or mechanical pencil lead. She may also not understand American customs and characters, like Disney princesses, sports stars, or TV characters. Instead, try to stick with generic themes – flowers, animals, patterns, etc.
Sending off your box
One of my favorite things to do is purchase a shipping label from Operation Christmas Child (you can do so here)! Not only does it pay for the shipping of the box, it also allows you to find out exactly what country your box ended up in.
If your church doesn’t participate in Operation Christmas Child, you can still get your box to the right place! Find a drop-off location near you.
Then what do you do? Pray over your child. Pray for their little hearts, their little minds, and their little souls. Know that you’re making a difference!