Our family’s been packing shoeboxes for well over 13 years now and I considered myself a pretty seasoned shoebox packer.
However, my trip to help distribute shoeboxes in Grenada in October has forever changed the way I’ll pack a shoebox.
Between our distributions, I had the chance to pepper employees with Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child (OCC) with packing questions.
I was also able to ask a National OCC Volunteer and former shoebox recipient, Devon (you can read his story here), his advice for packing a shoebox.
Devon’s favorite toy from the shoebox he received was a Slinky. He didn’t know until about a year ago what it was called, but he played with it constantly!
As we were talking Devon asked me if I had seen the little girl who had immediately kissed the dog that was in her box. I had missed it! He shared with me how many of the children don’t truly understand what it means to love and be loved. Stuffed animals provide a way for them to experience love and give love.
Even the older boys were happy to receive a stuffed animal. I asked one of the older boys what his favorite item was and to my surprise, he held up a blue striped beanie baby teddy bear.
Devon would tell you to be sure to include a Slinky, stuffed animal, and a ball. 🙂
I felt bad when so many of the children received gloves and hats. Clearly they loved them, as they’d stop mid-box to put them on. But I feared they’d never be used. Once we were back on the bus I asked Devon if they’d really use the hats and gloves. He told me that their cooler temperatures feel cold to them and that they would indeed wear jackets, hats, and gloves. Even at 12 degrees above the equator these colorful hats and gloves would get some use! Yeah!
From my conversations with the OCC staff, OCC national volunteers, and observing the children opening their shoeboxes I have put together 10 tips to help you pack a better shoebox.
10 Tips for Packing a Better Shoebox:
1. Pack a standard-size shoebox.
As tempting as it may be to bless the socks off of one child, bigger shoeboxes leave other children feeling left out. It would be like me keeping the giant, king-sized Hershey bar and me giving you a snack-size Hershey bar. It’s still chocolate and you’re happy, but you wish you had mine. Embrace the opportunity to bless two children, instead of just the one!
2. Include hygiene and school supplies.
I’ll never forget the boy I saw that was excited about a bar of soap! Yes, soap! In addition to soap consider packing: a washcloth, toothbrush, dental floss, comb, pencils, pencil sharpeners, solar calculators, erasers, rulers, pens, paper, and scissors.
3. These items are great for boys and girls of all ages.
Every child, boy or girl, no matter their age loved: flashlights, Slinkys, hats and gloves, stuffed animals, balls, and musical instruments (like a recorder).
4. Every box needs an item that will grab their attention.
Often referred to as “wow” items, consider packing a deflated soccer ball, a baseball glove, doll, big toy car, a Barbie doll, or stuffed animal. (Yes, that’s a chicken below! He loved it!!)
5. Girls are like girls everywhere.
They loved headbands with big decorations and big rings. Hair accessories and jewelry were a bit hit with girls of all ages.
6. Boys like cars.
All ages. Even the oldest boys were excited to get a Matchbox car. Radio controlled cars with extra batteries would be a great “wow” item to include.
7. Toys that have stood the test of time are great choices.
Jump ropes, Rubik cubes (they knew what these were), yo-yo’s (yes, they knew how to use them), balls, paddles with the ball tied to them, playing cards, and Slinkys. They weren’t sure what to do with the Silly Putty and it was sort of hard to explain…
8. Pack something fun along with those practical items.
While school supplies are often much needed, a box with little else is disappointing to a child when everyone around them seems to have a toy in their box. Include a stuffed animal, a small bouncy ball, or a jump rope. Give them something they can pull out of their box and immediately play with.
9. Include a note or photo with your information inside the box.
Devon told me children often hang them on their walls. Don’t miss the opportunity to tell a child they are loved and prayed for!
10. Let the Holy Spirit lead your packing and purchasing.
If you feel God leading you to pack two packs of underwear do it! Devon told me about a mother who cried during a distribution because her daughter had received underwear in her box – she had none! You never know what or how the items you pack can fill an unknown need.
Please note: Candy and toothpaste are no longer allowed in shoeboxes and will be removed at the processing centers. War toys, knives, glass items, seeds, and liquids are also all on the list of items that cannot be sent.
May God bless your shoebox packing and use the items you’ve chosen to reveal His love to a child this year!
You may also want to read:
My Message in a Box
Serving in the OCC Processing Center – Part 1
Serving in the OCC Processing Center – Part 2
What It’s Like to Give a Child a Shoebox
How to Host an Operation Christmas Child Packing Party
How Your Women’s Ministry Can Get Involved with Operation Christmas Child