Change a Child’s Christmas with Operation Christmas Child (Collection Going on Now!)

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More Christmas

little boy holding Operation Christmas Child box

It’s the season of giving! ❤️

If you love to find ways to give back and make a difference, you’re going to love this inspiring & affordable way to make a child’s (or many kids) Christmas extra special this year.

While we all know Christmas isn’t really about the gifts, Operation Christmas Child will provide kids in need a surprise during Christmas they normally wouldn’t have received – and it’ll all be because of YOU!

boy filling clear totes with christmas stuff

How does Operation Christmas Child work?

It all starts with a shoebox — seriously! You simply take an average-sized shoebox, decide the theme of your box with a gender and age range, pack it up with sweet gifts, and send it on out to a deserving child in need. You can even track your box with a donation-based label to see where your gift ends up.

Find out more about this great cause here.


Want a little more guidance to pack an Operation Christmas Child shoebox?

green and red tote boxes in stacks

If you head to your nearest Hobby Lobby, you can grab a Christmas-themed tote in-store or you can even purchase them online if you’re staying home for the holidays. If you’re already shopping for some Hobby Lobby Christmas decorations, then this will be the perfect opportunity to add a few shoeboxes to your cart and make some more personalized gifts for kids in need this year.

people with masks on packing Operation Christmas Child boxes

Once you’ve filled your box with items that will bring joy to any kid, you can head over here to find the nearest drop-off center. You can also opt for mailing in your boxes if it’s a better option for you.

Don’t have the time to build one yourself? There’s an option to build a shoebox online, too!

But hurry! Collection week only runs from November 16th-23rd, 2020, so don’t miss this amazing opportunity! 

items not to include in operation christmas child shoeboxes

If you’re curating your own Operation Christmas Child boxes, please keep the above information in mind when picking out your items as they are not accepted into donations. 


Since we’re on a time crunch, here are some affordable ideas for your Operation Christmas Child boxes that you can order with fast shipping, store pickup, or buy right now in-store:

1. Kid’s toothbrushes are must-have items.

toothbrushes on display in a store

Starting at just a couple of bucks, you can scoop up some much-needed essentials like a toothbrush. Kids are always in need of small items that make a big difference in order to contribute to good general hygiene so don’t forget to throw in these must-haves, however, keep in mind they’re not


2. Paintbrushes & paint to make their lives more colorful.

Crayola Oval Paints

With brands like Target’s Up & Up line, you can score super affordable additions for your Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. Some paint and brushes will make their year ahead extra vibrant!


3. A deck of cards for endless game options.

red and blue decks of playing cards in box

A deck of playing cards can have endless options and they’ll even help younger kiddos practice or learn numbers and letters as they play! Whether they’re playing WarSpoonsGo Fish, or Solitare, they’ll have many entertainment options in one gift!


4. Coloring books & crayons to tune into their creative side.

box of crayons

A coloring book and crayons will be a gift any kid will enjoy playing with! Not only will they get to express their creativity on paper, but they’ll get to surprise others with their masterpieces.


5. Surprise them with Mini Brands!

hand holding mini brands balls sitting on table

If you’re looking to spend a little more on your box, consider throwing in one of these fun surprise ball Mini Brands! Each one is filled with miniature brands that could make any playtime more fun!

Read more about these Mini Brands (and how you could win some FREE) over here!


6. Keep their hands busy with fidget toys.

kids playing with noodle toys

A monkey noodle (AKA a fidget toy) that takes up little space and can keep kid’s hands busy will be the perfect addition to your Operation Christmas Child shoebox! Not only will these keep kids occupied but they can even help kids who experience anxious tendencies.

Even better, there’s 5 in a box for less than $10 so you can put one in each box if you’re doing multiple shoeboxes this year!

Read more about our love for Monkey Noodles over here!


7. Stickers are fun & won’t take up tons of space.

pack of colorful stickers on sheet

A fun pack of stickers will take up little space in your shoebox, but they’re plenty more fun to add to your Operation Christmas Child box. Plus, when it comes to kids, you just can’t go wrong with stickers! These are sure to bring joy to any little one and if you’re planning to add coloring books, they’ll have the perfect place to stick them.


8. Add a highly sought after gift idea like some miniature squishies.

various types of small squishies in bags on counter

A pack of miniature squishies is another great gift idea if you’re looking to put together multiple surprise boxes for your donation. As an idea, you can order this 20-pack of miniature squishies for just $11.99 so each squishie per box will cost you less than a dollar!


9. Grab some funny Mad Libs to keep them laughing even after the holidays.

hand holding a mad libs book with dog on front

Mad Libs is a nostalgic gift idea that will keep kids laughing after every page! They’ll get to practice their English verbs, adjectives, nouns, and more while reading hilarious stories they’ll come up with all on their own!


10. Keep them warm with a new hat & mittens for winter.

kids hats and mittens sets hanging on store shelf

There’s no denying that any kiddo in need this Christmas could definitely use a set of mittens and a hat to keep warm! If you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks, you can find very affordable (& cute) sets over on Target’s website that will be sure to put a smile on any kiddo’s face!


Want to give back even more this holiday season? Check out our Reverse Advent Calendar idea!

Join The Discussion

Comments 42

  1. Deb

    Toothpaste and candy are not allowed in OCC boxes.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for mentioning that, Deb! We’ll get this updated!

  2. Materof6

    Thanks so much for posting this!!!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      You’re welcome!

    • Denver

      Yes, thank you for posting this.

  3. Happy Aunt

    Sometimes fast food kids meals are just the right amount of food for me, so I will save the toys from these meals and put them in these boxes. It’s a win for all of us.

  4. Becca

    Love doing this with my kids!! Great organization!!!

  5. Emily

    I love the heart behind this post and these boxes but as someone who lives in Africa most of the time and who has worked in a samaritans purse hospital where these boxes were give to the children who were admitted through the year (Muslim country so they weren’t handed out at Christmas), I would encourage people to really think about what they put in these boxes. You can find toothbrushes and toothpaste almost anywhere in the world. The mad libs are likely going to just be scribble paper because chances are, the kids won’t speak English. Those monkey noodles and squish toys are fun but they will instantly get nasty from the conditions these kids live in and they don’t have water to really clean them a lot of times (I’ve seen these things get instantly dirty in our house that doesn’t have a dirt floor and is mostly clean). I would encourage people that if they are going to pack and send a box to buy some quality items and not dollar tree junk which is what we see a lot. Consider investing in some better quality things that won’t just be thrown out or broken. Also consider if you had no English and had never seen a toy if you would know what to do with it. I’ve been in many homes where a mom has pulled out a box and asked me what some random thing their child got from their sponsor was and then looked at me like I was crazy when I explained it to them. Stuffed animals are almost always a hit, good pens and colored pencils and crayons, clothing items (I’d be cautious about hats and gloves because not all of these get sent to cold places although It would work for some). Also, if you really want to make a difference, find an organization that sources things directly to give to people. They will know what people really need or would cherish and they can buy from local shops which will really make a difference in the community. A lot of these boxes incur heavy import fees that local churches have to come out with the money for. Others end up in the wrong hands and I’ve seen people selling them. I do not want to discourage people from doing this because I think it is a way to teach our kids to look outside ourselves to the needs of others but sometimes it becomes all about a feel good experience for ourselves and less of a blessing for others so just consider this when packing yours. I love the generous spirit in this group and hope this doesn’t sound negative-I just wanted people to be aware of what this looks like in reality.

    • Cat

      That is a really good post, and by finding an organization that purchases items locally, you’ll also be helping their economy. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

      • Kat

        Wow! This was an awesome read, thank you for taking the time to write this. I always wonder where they end up and if the kids even like/use what’s in them. We usually do soccer balls with pumps, flashlights with a bunch of spare batteries, a nice water bottle, stationary kits, etc.

        • Emily

          These are great items! I’m sure they are enjoyed and very useful!

    • Michelle B

      Really interesting info, Emily. I’m glad you posted it so we can consider.

    • Rose

      Thanks so much for sharing!!

    • Kathleen

      Thank you for such a clear response! I think many times people don’t think of who will be receiving the boxes, like you said, so this was a great reminder

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks SO very much for taking a moment to share this information! 💖 We truly appreciate it.

    • saraeediger

      Yes. We have friends that are missionaries in Africa and they said the exact same thing. They love the heart behind it but unfortunately,where they are at, the boxes are typically taken and the items in the boxes are sold. Very rare that the children get anything out of it and if they do, they mentioned the outrageous amount of money the churches have to come up with to receive them.

      • Lunafalls

        Africa is just one of dozens of regions in the world where the boxes get shipped. I’m sure circumstances vary greatly by country.

        I don’t think Samaritan’s Purse would be putting so much effort into this project year after year if MOST of the boxes didn’t end up helping children as intended — Why would they?

    • Rae

      You pay the $9. Shipping yourself. By mail or online. It is stated in the instructions. So local churches will not be burdened by this. Yes, I agree about being thoughtful of what you put into the box. 🙂

    • rocme2

      I have to say that I was cringing just from the length of your comment because I completely expected it to be a diatribe…but I’m pleased to say that I was wrong! I love and agree with everything you wrote! Sometimes we have the heart, but we’re still not giving our best and “something is better than nothing” is the wrong attitude. Thank you for reminding us to give purposefully.

    • Brandi

      Thank you for the good information. I did 3 this year and tried to make sure I pack good quality items that would be both wanted and needed. Hand towels which I twisted into teddy bears, soccer balls with pumps, mini barbies (I used magazine pages to make the box look like a dollhouse), mini rubix cubes, fishing sets, harmonicas,etc. I also included solar powered calculators like suggested in the pamphlets but wondered if their number system was different and if they would even be able to use them????

    • Denver

      Honestly, I read your post through and was annoyed. I read it through again, several hours later and while you have some valid points, I feel it misses the purpose behind the boxes. As someone mentioned earlier, toothpaste has not been allowed for several years (or candy, for that matter.) Have you packed a shoebox, ever? I think if you actually were involved in providing a shoebox, you might not be so critical, to those who do. I would like to purchase “quality” items for every shoebox, but that gets EXPENSIVE fast. I’m sorry, what did you say you packed in your shoeboxes? A cheap soccer ball will cost $5 if you can find it on clearance (plus a pump.) Good luck finding a transistor radio for less than $10. Why slam Dollar Tree? I’m a big fan of DT. You can actually find some decent stuff there – Have you seen those wooden train whistles? Where else can you buy a new stuffed animal for $1? I would think that impoverished kids in any 3rd world country would be delighted to have toys from Dollar Tree. I purchased toys for my son, from DT when he was little, but now you say “Not good enough?” Huh? Come again. 1st world problems, I think. As for packing hats and gloves, I hear it can pretty cold in the dessert, once the sun goes down. Also, Pretty sure that the local churches do not have to pay an “import fee” either, as Samaritan’s Purse pays for shipping themselves through monies they fundraise specifically for transporting pallets of shoeboxes, to remote locations; I’m not sure where you got your information, but I would encourage you to learn more about the details before posting without the facts. I personally donated $1400 one year to just to ship my shoeboxes. While I don’t dispute that some of the boxes might be sold by shady characters (I have never heard of this happening before – it could happen), I would assume the actual number is extremely small, given the millions of shoeboxes that are distributed for FREE worldwide. This is not a thread about unnamed, vague do-good local organizations “buy-local” in Africa that you alluded to, this is specifically about Operation Christmas Child. You encourage people to “make a difference” in the community but that is not why I spend time and $$$$ packing shoeboxes in my basement – there are other charities that provide basic necessities (although Samaritan’s Purse is always one of the 1st to show up for natural disasters.) It IS a feel good experience for me. I love the idea of a kid, opening up a shoebox and finding surprise after surprise, that I have packed, and imagining the delight on their face. Yes, the OCC volunteer are VERY generous with their time and MONEY. While I realize you have a unique perspective, I do feel it it was semi-critical of an AWESOME program that is done on a MASSIVE international scale. Please tell me, who else is doing what they are doing? No one. I am a “professional” OCC shoebox packer; I’ve been doing it for several years, and it has become a hobby (because I love shopping (Love ya Hip2Save!); Love a good deal and I LOVE spreading the gospel, (not in necessarily in that order.) My record one year was 420 boxes out of my basement (I had to hire a couple of high school girls to help me out!) I’m doing 150 boxes this year myself, despite covid. I’m a “professional” bargain hunter, by now. I shop all year around – online, local and I also look in the “free boxes” at garage sales too (you can find some good stuff!) I also search for 90% off seasonal sales too. I have volunteered at the regional distribution warehouse a couple of times and I know what a good shoebox looks like – and I like putting “good” stuff in my boxes, that any child would be delighted with – American or African (but an African child is going to appreciate it more, because we are so spoiled here.)

      • Emily

        I’m sorry you were offended by my post. I have packed many shoeboxes in my life. I grew up doing multiple of these every year and my kids packed several over the summer as part of a VBS project. I wasn’t slamming anything-just trying to give some perspective on what I’ve seen and how it translates to real life with these boxes. Again, my intention was not to slam anything but just to encourage people to think through wha they give to and what they put in these boxes.

      • Emily

        I applaud your generosity doing all these boxes for sure and it sounds like you are wanting to put good stuff in the boxes. I live a good bargain too and don’t think a price tag has to equate to quality so I’m all for a good deal and there is no judgement there. By quality items, I just meant not the things my kids pick from the dollar tree that break fairly quickly. I was sharing my experience as someone who has given out the boxes and they were much appreciated, as someone who in another country has seen these boxes sold out right on the street, and as someone with missionary colleagues who work with churches who have had to pay the fees. I tried to acknowledge that these boxes can do good in the world and spread joy and hopefully I balanced what I said. My biggest hope was that people would be thoughtful in what they put in boxes and not just filled as cheaply as possible just to do one. I’m not sure if you will read this or not since I am late back to the conversation but I apologize if you were offended and I hope you can read it with no critical eyes and see that my intention wasn’t to bash or slam. I hope you have a blessed Advent and that many will be blessed by your thoughtfulness and generosity.

      • Emily

        I also should not have said dollar tree junk. I apologize again. I just meant things that are cheaply made and will not last long. I should have not rushed through writing and chosen my words more carefully.

  6. Karen

    This is a great organization, for sure. We participate every year. But just to mention, your local communities need your help as well, so please check your local food pantry, school district pantries etc. Many are hurting in this trying time. God bless!

  7. GAmommyof4

    Thanks for the reminder! My kids look forward to packing a box and sending it every year!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      How fun and sweet! You’re welcome!

  8. Kimberly B

    I have been doing these boxes since about 1993. They are great.

    I suggest the following items…. HYGIENE: cotton socks, soap, toothbrush, hair ties, comb, brush, lip balm, band-aids, wash cloth, and for the older females, washable sanitary femanine pads. In many countries girls stop attending school simply because they have no supplies for their period. I stuff all the small items I can into a small lidded plastic cup or thermous.

    TOYS: Rubix cube, UNO, standard cards, bouncy balls, stuffed animals, beads, charms, pins, stickers, Jacks, marbles, Chineese Jump Rope, Matchbox cars, Slinky. Keep in mind that it will likely go to a country that doesn’t read English, so items like GoFish, or Old Maid, or cards with just numbers are best.

    SCHOOL SUPPLIES: crayons, colored pencils, pencils, erasers, small notebooks, pencil sharpeners, pencil cases, 6″ ruler or protractor.

    I also make a sewing kit with my old Altoid tins and include a pack of sewing needles, some thread, and buttons that I cut off old shirts. It takes up very little space and can be useful.

    FOR 2020: Facemasks!!!!

    I completely agre with the prior post. Don’t buy cheap dollar items that will break. It would be heartbraking for the child. These countries get enough of America’s garbage without adding to it.

    • Emily

      This is a great list! I especially love the reusable pad idea (as long as there are picture instructions so they know what it’s for). And the sewing kit is genius and useful! And the reusable water bottles-these are hot items. Thanks for sharing!

  9. janetnelson

    Thank you for posting about OCC! It is such an important ministry that blesses children across the globe! ❤️

  10. Amy

    I have worked in a processing center many times, and spoken to people who have physically attended distribution trips. The key is to focus on your “Wow” item. One larger, quality thing. Examples are a soccer ball with a pump, a stuffed animal, or a doll. Then add some hygiene items, school supplies, and other small items like plastic utensils, water bottles. I was told by a permanent employee of the organization that something to write on and to write with is essentially the “ticket” for some children to be allowed to attend school. I agree with the above post, do not send anything written in English. The brands and items children here value are not the same as the children that receive the boxes. So trendy fad toys do not translate well. Classic, long-lasting, durable items are bettter.

  11. aly32586

    Can I copy this and paste to Instagram to get more people involved In my community?

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi there! You can for sure share this with others!

  12. E

    We love filling shoeboxes! A girl I nannied for had received one at the orphanage she was at before she got adopted. She said her favorite thing was the hair bows and barretes. My mom and I spent quite a bit of this spring lockdown sewing dolls, dresses, bows and pencil pouches for shoeboxes. Last year I got super cute stuffed animals on clearance after Christmas at Walmart for 75 cents, normally the $3 stuffed animals. After living overseas in Latin America for 5 years, and always hearing how hard it is for families to afford school supplies, we always make sure the boxes have crayons, pens, pencils, etc and some sort of notebook or coloring book.
    Also, look around for local organizations that are helping families out for Christmas this year. I didn’t use any gifts from my gift closet this year because no kids have had birthday parties, so I am clearing it out and donating what I had to a local organization that helps families out for Christmas. Thanks to H2S for all the deals and we are very grateful we haven’t been hit economically by the pandemic so we are able to give back a little more than usual this year!

  13. Shona Armstrong

    My husband and I were in Nicaragua handing out shoeboxes with Operation Christmas Child. Remember that they don’t speak English in these countries and so games with English words are not great – the most sought after gift was a ball. It allows them to play with others. We put a ball in every box. Crayons and school supplies are super important too – and please don’t put in cheap crayons – the dollar stores ones are terrible – I say that as a school teacher and going on mission trips many times – the treat crayons like gold – so disappointing to get cheap ones.

    • Denver

      I’m sorry, but being picky about crayons is a 1st world problem. Have I purchased Crayola over CrazyArt? Yes, because they are better quality. However, have I purchased CrazyArt over Crayola, so I can save money? Yes, I’ve done that too. Are kids really that picky? No, but adults are – IMO.

  14. Mommyof4

    Such joy doing this. You will bless others! It’s the best!

  15. Jen Q

    Think DURABLE. Practical and fun. Fun school supplies are such a great idea. We don’t put in crayons though, because it depends where they will be shipped and stored and crayons can easily melt. We try to put in colored pencils and a small sharpener, or even twistable crayons tend not to melt. A sturdy cross-body purse, that folds up small, but opens for bigger items. Cute combs and hair supplies.

    Someone mentioned balls above – soooo true! I was a missionary in a village in Honduras and they had one ball in the whole village and kept it at the school. And when I was there, it was flat and they had no pump to blow it up. Toys that work and will hold up. (So many cheap frisbees or other things out there that aren’t worth shipping when they crack and break in a few days.)

    Expensive items can often be stolen too and create problems that way. Q

    Last tip: minimize packaging materials! If the packaging takes up so much space, there really won’t be room for the items themselves. This is honestly such a wonderful way to share with other countries and give that personal touch to other humans far away.

    • Denver

      Yes, please remove all unnecessary packing. You can pack more with the extra space!

  16. ksteele293327

    I got to hand these out in Honduras in 2017. After working in the processing center in Atlanta for several years, it was an amazing experience to be able to actually put a shoebox into the hands of a child and watch them open it with excitement. I absolutely love this organization and thank you for posting.

  17. Slw

    I’m super proud of my nieces and nephews! The other day while speaking with them, I ask what they would like for Christmas. I got the normal teenager response “I don’t know”. Jokingly, I said well if you don’t know then, I’ll take the money I normally spend and donate it to kids that don’t get gifts. I was pleasantly surprised they all excitedly said yes can we! So went on-line to Operation Shoebox and built four personalized boxes. As my nieces say “Spread Kindness like Confetti!”

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