Gift Ideas for Operation Christmas Child

I need thrifty ideas for Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts for 10-14 year olds. Operation Christmas Child is an outreach by Samaritan's Purse in which shoeboxes are filled with gifts and then shipped to children in need (due to poverty, disaster, or war) around the world.


I would like to do several boxes, and need affordable ideas for preteen and teenage children, both male and female. I have an easier time thinking of ideas for younger children, but want to provide a Christmas gift for older children as well, children who have perhaps never received a Christmas gift.

The more thrifty the ideas are, the more boxes we will be able to send. Suggested items are: toys, school or craft supplies, hygiene items, clothing items like hats or socks, and hard candies and gum. I need some specific inspiration for what this age group of 10-14 years old might need or enjoy (that will fit into a shoebox).

No other foods besides hard candy, mints or gum can be sent, no toy guns, knives, or military figures, no liquids or medicines, and of course no breakable things should be sent. I appreciate any suggestions for this, and encourage others to participate as well!


By Shawna from Paris, TN

October 29, 20090 found this helpful

You can buy the travel size shampoos, lotions, etc. Also hair brushes, combs, barrettes, ponytail scruncies, etc. Notebooks, pens(especially the wild colored ones) would also work. Funky socks, WalMart usually has some for just a little over a dollar a pair. Even a store like Dollar Tree would have some toiletries, etc. The only thing with their stuff there isn't a paper seal inside the lid and if the lid gets jarred loose there is a little leakage. If you have a Walgreens, watch their ads, because every now and thne they have good sized bottles of shampoo and body wash for a dollar apiece.

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October 30, 20090 found this helpful


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October 30, 20090 found this helpful

I agree go to Dollar Tree store or Dollar store, good luck.

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October 31, 20090 found this helpful

As mentioned you cannot send any liquids, but you can send talc powders, solid perfumes, dry potpourri, Gel pens, small puzzles, stuffed animals, sticky note pads. It is hard to think of items for a teen that would fit in a shoe box! and of course a Bible. The Dollar stores usually have one for $5 and our Christian Book store has some pocket sized for less than a dollar! Good luck and God Bless. This is a great ministry!

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October 31, 20090 found this helpful

Hi there - good to see you getting on board - we do operation Xmas child too, but I need to point out a few things - we (in Australia) are not allowed to send any religious material at all - this is not supposed to be selling God, it's a gift to a needy child. We are not allowed to put in talc, pot pourri (customs) or candy, batteries, etc - the boxes often sit on the wharves for some time, and if something leaks or spoils it can ruin the whole box, maybe even the whole container.

I usually put in something to cuddle - a small toy to love (often in war torn countries this is important, no matter how old the child), a pencil case with coloured pencils (not felttips - these wear out too quickly, and this is the only present a child will ever get) pencils, erasers, sharpeners, a book to read (something easy - English is not always the first language) a book to write on, a beanie, a tennis ball (cheap ones do not bounce!); soap, washcloth, toothbrush; (no paste); stickers, puzzles, a yoyo; a mouth organ or recorder; a skipping rope, a bag to carry it all in (no dressing tables to put things in); a jigsaw; marbles, marble bag; toy cars; a small game (like checkers - no cards - they are not allowed because they could be used for gambling); some jewelery; for girls some hair clips; spinning tops, kaleidoscopes; pick-up sticks, a craft set of some kind (beads, etc), a sewing kit for the older girls; finger puppets, balloons for fun; just remember to try to be culturally sensitive.

We're not allowed to put in Shrek or Spiderman - to us they are cute, but to children in a village somewhere they appear to be big scary monsters. Good luck, and bless you!

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October 31, 20090 found this helpful

I have read many good ideas, although some don't apply, but then not everyone is familiar with Samaritans purse either. We are in the process of thinking through the age group we will try to help this year. It is so easy to get little fun things for the younger kids, but I do think something like a small note book for a journal, or something, would be nice. So many of these young people will not be English speaking, so of course books and even a bible, (which i think is tucked in the "shoe box") in the language of the child it is going to would only be helpful if sent by those who finish up the box. I would send personal care items, toothbrush, even two or three, (they might want to share), a comb, or even a small hairbrush would be nice for a girl. We have sent note paper, pencils, and a pencil sharpener, small, but effective to keep the pencils useful.

I am sure they will enjoy candy, but it is eaten and gone, but colorful hair care items, or such, or a really nice flashlight with several spare batteries was a choice once for a couple children. Just imagine no street lights, maybe no lights in the home to speak of, and the ownership of a small flashlight is an amazing thing. Hope some of this was of help. We spent some money on the two boxes we did a couple years ago considering we are both on s.S. And have health problems, but nothing gave us more joy, i can tell you. I pictured the kids with their flashlights and all, and the plastic box we bought for them to keep "their" stuff in.

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November 1, 20090 found this helpful

You can send pens and pencils but please if you send these please send writing paper. Things for the hair, chewing gum, hard candy, toothbrush and toothpaste. Please nothing that will break because even though they are careful with the boxes accidents do happen. stuff animals would be good. Also you can get a plastic container the size of a shoe box and put the items in and that will give the child something to keep her things in and not get wet like a shoe box. that is what I use instead of a shoe box.

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November 1, 20090 found this helpful

Yo yo's with extra string & harmonicas.

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November 4, 20090 found this helpful

God bless you for wanting to support this excellent ministry!

It's been nearly 10 years and one near-fatal auto accident since the year I was able to participate, so I can't remember everything I bought. The one thing that stands out in my mind was a solar calculator, since I, too, wanted to send to an older child.

If memory serves, I believe I also sent paper, pencils and a pencil sharpener, perhaps a coloring book and crayons appropriate to the older age group. The Graham ministers themselves provided the Bible and religious materials.

I believe the limit has gone from $20 to $30 for items. Don't forget to include a $5 bill to help with shipping... at least, that's what the requested donation was the year I participated.

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April 17, 20100 found this helpful

Last December I worked at the packing center. they pull out any liquids like body wash b/c they spill. I opened one box and a pink bunny was soaked with hand sanitizer and had to be replaced.

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July 29, 20100 found this helpful

I always put a stuffed animal or doll no matter what age or boy and girls. Sometimes I put sponge rollers in. They are not that expensive. Sunglasses and ball caps are good, I think for older children. Also lots and lots of school supplies. I don't buy markers any more because they don't last I try to get colored pencils. Get school supplies while they are on sale in July and Aug. they are much cheaper then. Jump ropes! I have seen people deflate soccer balls and then put some kind of pump to reinflate once the child has the box. I haven't tried this yet. Hope this helps. We always put soap, washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, brush or comb, crayons, pencils, pencil sharpeners.

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November 9, 20100 found this helpful

Here are a few more suggestions of little things you can put in the box: hard rubber bouncy balls, softball, a teen magazine, you can pull some coloring pages off the web to line the box and send the colored pencils and a sharpener, I love the idea of the sponge rollers, you can so easily make an assortment of hairmbows to go with them, Matchbox cars, lip gloss, sunglasses, flip flops, a beach ball, gum, bead kits, an afro pick, Vaseline or cocoa butter, bar soaps, inexpensive rings, a hand mirror wrapped in bubble wrap, packets of Crystal Light, hand crank flashlight, and a poncho in a packet are a few ideas.

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January 17, 20110 found this helpful

I love to shop for these boxes all year long and my children and their cousins have a Christmas box party instead of exchanging gifts for themselves. One thing I love to find are those backpack type bags that can be folded flat but have drawstrings to close and those strings are designed to wear the bag like a backpack. This year Walgreens had some for $2.00 on their clearance rack probably left over from school supplies push in early fall. Also, this year I found very inexpensive shirts on clearance at Old Navy for the older girls and I always include pretty jewelry for them.

I'm 45 and occasionally like a stuffed animal so I say those go for ALL ages :) If you shop all year you can really find great quality stuff for less. I used the weekly Hobby Lobby 40% off one item coupon to collect Duncan yo yos that are displayed near the checkout lanes. I love the soap travel cases at Target because they are sturdy and don't have hinges that can break.

This year we lined the inside of a plastic shoe box (always use) with Christmas wrapping paper so that it still looked festive but they also have a nice box to keep. I've heard their families in some country use those plastic boxes to store rice. Also, at Walgreens they sometimes will have a bag of Scunci hair accessories that they must be trying to clearance out because there are like 4 or 5 things for $2.00. A fancy beaded hair scrunchy can be used as a bracelet if a girl with short hair receives it.

Oh, if you know someone who works at Cracker Barrel they have a friends and family day or two in the fall and I was able to purchase small etch-a-sketch toys and their miniature checkerboard rug sets at a discount. I am going to try harder this year to make more boxes for their older kids because I heard that sometimes the older girls carry a large part of the responsibility of caring for their siblings.

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February 8, 20110 found this helpful

Being a fourteen year old and having just been there I know the most important thing is a friend (stuffed animal). Basic essentials that can be found at the dollar store and should be included are pencils, colored pencils, sharpner, notebook, ruler, pens, soap, washcloth, comb/brush, toothpaste, toothbrush, and maybe a solar calculator.

Hairties and hard candy are also a good ideas. I would suggest after Halloween sales for the best deals ;). Flip flops and socks keep the feet from becoming blistered. I usually also include at least three toys if not more (I count the stuffed animal).

Toy ideas are yo-yos, jump ropes, etch-a-sketch, activity books, balls, cars, noise putty, slinky, sunglasses, hat, jewelry, *Silly Bands!*, jacks, card games, small puzzles, stickers, bags or small backpacks, and plastic animals.

But the most important thing to do is to relax and have a good time making a difference in a child's life. You don't want to put all your stress in your box for a child to open. Good luck!

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Anonymous Flag
October 27, 20120 found this helpful

I put in colored and regular pencils, with sharpener, and a few small blank journals that I pick up in the dollar sections at target and michaels. Also a pack of cards with envelopes from there. T shirt, fun knee-high socks, brush, small cosmetics bag, hair accessories, toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, soap, stickers (pulled a variety from my kids' stash) and now plan to hunt for a stuffed animal and another fun trinket or two. Found a nice shirt at target for $3! Focusing on fun pink and purples, with flowers or hearts. Shirt and socks coordinate.

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November 2, 20120 found this helpful

Hi! I just want to add that liquids are not allowed but toothpaste is!

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September 25, 20130 found this helpful

I love operation Christmas child! What I try to do for my boxes, is pack inside of things. For example, this year I bought one of those little tin lunch boxes that has Princesses decorating the entire thing. It's bright, colorful, pink, and adorable! I've packed inside of it hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, tissues, bandaids, etc.

Also, I like to buy those little pencil pouches (the cloth ones preferably) and pack it with pencils, cap erasers on the pencils, a big eraser, pencil sharpener, pens, etc. I have lived in 3rd world countries before when I was younger, and the age group may say 10-14 but 10-14 there is extremely different than 10-14 year old here.

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October 10, 20130 found this helpful

For older boys work gloves from dollar store, 16 feet of rope 3/8th thick, tennis ball,calculator, compass, ruler, paper, little work notebook, compass, water bottle, hammer, screw driver, tacks, I get everything on sale, on ebay or at Dollar Store. Just finished my boxes for this year. We will have a big party at the church in a couple of weeks and I will bring anything I have left over.

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