Operation Christmas Child Boxes

I wanted to do a reminder post about Operation Christmas Child boxes because this is a great time of year to grab a few things.

This is one of my favorite Christmas traditions and it is so easy to do.  Plus if you plan it right you can be really generous on a very small budget.

So if you are not familiar here is the scoop:

Operation Christmas Child is a donation program to send shoeboxes to children in need in war torn countries all around the world.  More often then not this is the only thing a child will get for the holidays and many of them live under horrifying circumstances to begin with.

You simply pack a shoebox with items a child might want or need and then you print off a label and you can track exactly where your box goes.  You can choose a gender and an age range for your box and inside you put items that would be appropriate.

You do need to pay $7.00 for shipping so I try to shop year round to get great items to stuff in the box for super cheap. I just put it away in a tub in the closet and once the holidays roll around, I am ready to make my boxes!

Right now is a great time to shop with the awesome Back to School sales and clearance that just started.  Also I try to include some clothing in my boxes- so underwear and socks are on sale right now.  Also a lot of stores have dirt cheap summer stuff on clearance- look for t-shirts or little jammies that might get tucked into a box.

I watch the Target Dollar Spot for clearance sales year round and that can be a great time to pick up coloring books, socks, toys, hair accessories etc…

Here are a few quick items you DO NOT want to include:

  • Anything violent (no little guns, army men etc..)- if you are not sure just skip it.
  • Anything that will melt (like chocolate)
  • Anything liquid- nail polishes, body wash etc…
  • Gift wrapped items (the people in the processing centers need to see what you packed up for safety so don’t wrap stuff)
  • Anything used- this is all new items please :)

And here are the kinds of things YOU DO want to include:

  • Personal hygeine products like fun toothbrushes, bars of soap, hair brushes, toothpaste, bandaids etc..
  • Clothing (underwear, socks, pj’s, t-shirts etc..)- I try to avoid characters on stuff because you don’t know where it will go.  Elmo or characters like that would be a safe bet.
  • Toys- stickers, balls, cars, jump ropes etc…
  • School supplies- crayons, coloring books, pens, pencils (and a sharpener!), markers etc..
  • Other cool stuff like flashlights (and batteries!), hard candy, little plastic necklaces and bracelets, hair accessories etc…

I try to include something from each category and I try to get things that are comforting and might have a chance to last awhile. Little dolls, stuffed animals, new clothing… all of those things seem comforting to me so I always try to put those in the boxes.  You do need to provide a shoebox or I prefer to use the $.97 shoebox size Sterilite tubs from the Dollar Store or Walmart.  The shoebox needs to completely close (although if you really stuff yours they have rubberbands you can use to strap the lid on.)

I have a sample idea for a tub pictured above.  I added up the contents of the tub and it is about $5.00  or so that I paid- so really this is something that will set me back $5.00 + $7 for shipping and it will make some very deserving child’s holiday.  So money well spent!

You can also include notes from your children and photos in your boxes.  Usually my girls like to put stickers and decorate the boxes and then they do little coloring pages to put inside the box.

And you can read more about Operation Christmas Child here.



  1. meghan says

    question- Where do I send them too? And when do they need to be sent by? Would you know by chance?

  2. meghan says

    ooo wow nevermind..I totally skipped the information here button lol. I got it :)

  3. Gena says

    Thanks for the reminder! Just a note about the plastic shoe box. We do these each year and were told that the plastic shoe boxes are often reused to carry water, as so many places that the boxes are sent do not have running water. You forget things like that when we are so blessed to have water so easily accessible.

  4. Dara says

    I did this last year for the first time, and have already filled 2 shoe boxes for this year! I score so many freebies (thanks for wonderful blogs like this one!), so I’m able to be generous without breaking the bank.
    Funny story – I went to deliver my shoe box last year at a church not too far from my home (I found it on the OCC website). The woman was very gracious, and asked me if I was affiliated with their church, or a different one. I said, “Nope — I’m just a wandering Jew!” We both laughed!

  5. Charlene says


    Oh that is heartbreaking! I always think the box is very important because my children love little things they can tuck away their treasures in. So for sure the $.97 is well spent to get a plastic box instead of a regular shoebox.

  6. Mary Orton says

    I try to keep an eye out for the flashlights that you can crank and don’t use batteries. I figure they probably seldom have access to batteries later and these can be used for a long time. Menard’s usually has them for free with rebate. Their rebates must be used on other items in Menard’s, but we never have trouble spending them. I like the little etch a sketchs that you have pictured and also the little erasable write on boards. I have found great deals on those at Kohls during one of their sales. We missed doing them last year, but want to get back to it. I started doing them in honor of our grandkids.

  7. Claire Hackett says

    Thank you Charlene for calling my attention to this charity! I purchase so many little things here and there and never know exactly when to use them so this is perfect. You have touched many lives by your blog and letting us know about this wonderful organization.

  8. Lindsay says

    How do you pack the notebooks in the plastic bins?
    My do not fit, and I can’t bear to fold the notebooks into the bottom of the bin. It rolls the paper and basically seems to ruin the notebook.
    Any ideas on how I can get regular/average notebooks into the plastic bins without rolling them up?

  9. Charlene says


    I lay them flat at the bottom of the tub. They are obviously too big so they curve up the sides but it keeps the notebooks and coloring books from getting bent up and it takes up the least amount of space. I have included coloring books, sketch pads, spiral bound notebooks etc… and they all work fine like that.

  10. joyce anderson says

    just a piece of advice, if you pack something that can’t go to a certain country they will pull it and put something else in, and give that item to someone else, nothing is wasted.

  11. Louanne Huff says

    I have done boxes for the older kids in the past, but this year I want to cover all ages. Any advice for a sweet treat in the 2-4 age boxes. Are gummy candies allowed? I send hard candies in the other boxes, but that wouldn’t be appropriate for the little kids. Help!

  12. Charlene says

    Hi Louanne– anything that won’t melt is allowed. My little girls love gummy bears, those Werther’s butterscotch candies, lollipops, swedish fish, Mike n Ike’s…. all of those kinds of things would be perfect :) Gum would be OK too.

  13. LuAnn M says

    OCC has told me the $7 for shipping is not necessary unless you want tracking. I do 20 or more individually and cannot afford the extra $ this year. <3

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