Themed Shoeboxes – Creative Solutions for Operation Christmas Child

Maybe a list of items for Operation Christmas Child is overwhelming. You read through countless lists of items that kids need, and you get overwhelmed because you can only fit so much into one box. I know your pain, and through my own battle with this dilemma, I have come up with some solutions. You can pick what works best for you.

Before we continue, however, I need you to do something for me. Repeat the following sentence after me: “God answers prayer.” Say it again, “God answers prayer.” One more time, “God answers prayer.” Okay, so we’ve said it now three times, and I want you to keep this in mind as you pack your shoeboxes. God knows our needs. Has He supplied your needs? Yes. Will He ever stop supplying your needs? No. Because, the truth is that God knows exactly what we need (quite often before we know that we need it), and He provides for us. Not only does God do this for children raised in Western civilization, but God provides for children all over the world. When we pack our shoeboxes, we must remember that God is sovereign and that He will get the right box to the right child. We must be faithful to place in our boxes thoughtful, meaningful gifts that we have prayed about, and then we must trust God to do the rest.

You can oranize your shoeboxes however you want. Some people will put all practical items (such as hygiene, school supplies, etc.), some will put all fun items (coloring books, crayons, toys, etc.), and some put a combination of practical and fun items.

I have arranged the following items according to the theme of the box. Select a theme for your shoebox(es and choose from among their respective items.

Traditional Shoebox: this type of shoebox has a mix of toys, a wow item, hygiene items, clothes, functional items, & school supplies
  • Flashlights (with extra batteries)
  • Crayons, colored pencils
  • Coloring books
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Bandaids
  • Pencils, erasers
  • Notebooks
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Bar soap
  • Pads
  • Hand wipes
  • Stuffed animals
  • Dolls
  • Legos
Themes for Traditional Box: an easy way to pack a shoebox is to select a theme and place items from the traditional shoebox category that match that theme.
  • Disney Movie or Character
  • Zoo animals
  • Farm animals
  • Color (bright colors stand out)
Music Box
  • Recorder
  • Xylophone
  • Music flashcards
  • Music theory workbooks
  • Harmonica
  • Tambourine
  • Books about music
  • Wind-up music box
  • Mini keyboard (with batteries)
  • Picture of you playing a musical instrument
Ballet Box
  • Ballet slippers
  • Leotards
  • Tights
  • Tutus
  • Books about ballet
  • Angelina Ballerina doll
  • Picture of you doing ballet
Baseball Box
  • Baseballs
  • Baseball uniform
  • Cleats
  • Socks
  • Baseball trading cards
  • Books about baseball
  • Picture of you playing baseball
Soccer (futbol) box
  • Soccerball (deflated)
  • Small air pump
  • Soccer uniform
  • Cleats
  • Socks
  • Soccer trading cards
  • Books about soccer
  • Picture of you playing soccer
Volleyball box
  • Volleyball (deflated)
  • Small air pump
  • Athletic pants
  • Tshirt
  • Knee socks
  • Knee pads
  • Volleyball shoes
  • Small volleyball net
  • Books about volleyball
  • Picture of you playing volleyball (or you with your team)
Fashion box
  • Cute blouses
  • Skirts
  • Dresses
  • Cute shoes
  • Socks
  • Jewelry
  • Purses
Football Box
  • Football
  • Small air pump
  • Football jersey
  • Cleats
  • Socks
  • Books about football
  • Picture of you with your team
Summertime Fun Box
  • Sunglasses (wrap in a small piece of bubble wrap)
  • Hand-held windmill
  • Small sand bucket and scoops
  • Bright-colored squirt gun
  • Bouncy Balls
  • Small gardening kit (no seeds)
  • Tshirts
  • Knee-length shorts
  • Sunscreen facial stick
  • Chapstick with SPF
  • Flip flops
Cosmetics/Feminine Care Box

The following items would be ideal for girls in the older age ranges, however younger girls also need brushes and such. For an extended list of items that would be beneficial for girls in the 10-14 age group, see my previous article What Girls Really Need.

  • Makeup (powder, blush, eyeshadow, eye liner pencils, lipstick, lip balm, etc.)
  • Makeup brushes
  • Facial wipes
  • Hair brush
  • Comb
  • Hair fasteners (ponytail holders, Bobby pins, hair clips, headbands, etc.)
  • Pads for menstrual period (be sure to include some panties as well)
  • Cleansing Cloths (disposable wipes)
Science Box
  • Books on science (space, physics, environment, animals, etc.)
  • Science toys
  • Planet mobiles
  • Microscope
  • Magnifying glass
  • Science kits (no liquids)
Art Box
  • Crayons
  • Colored pencils
  • Pencils
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Watercolor paint set (with extra brushes)
  • Glitter (make sure it’s in a tightly closed container)
  • Glue sticks
  • Child-safe scissors
  • Coloring books
  • Books on art
Story-Making Box
  • Hand puppets
  • Costumes
  • Mini stage
  • Small props
Learn to Read Box

Pray about the language that these should be in for your shoeboxes. Don’t ignore the leading of the Holy Spirit.

  • Spelling flashcards
  • Words flashcards
  • “I Can Read” books
  • Easy readers
  • ESL material
  • Reading workbooks
Mathematics Box
  • Counting flashcards
  • Adding flashcards
  • Subtraction flashcards
  • Multiplication flashcards
  • Division flashcards
  • Math coloring books
  • Graph paper
  • Pencils
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Erasers
  • Ruler
  • Calculator (with extra batteries)
  • Protractor
  • Geometry material
Wardrobe Box (girl)

This box would include the necessary items to build complete outfits.

  • Shirt, cardigan, pants, socks, shoes
  • Sweater, pants, socks, shoes
  • Blouse, skirt, slip-on shoes
  • Dress, slip-on shoes
  • Pajama sets
  • Underwear (bras, panties)
  • Accessories (jewelry, scarves, hats)
Wardrobe Box (boy)

Same concept as the above, just for boys.

  • Shirts, pants, socks, shoes
  • Sweater, pants, socks, shoes
  • Long-sleeve shirt, jeans, socks tennis shoes
  • Coat, long-sleeve shirt, pants, shoes
  • T-shirts, athletic pants, socks, tennis shoes
  • Pajama sets
  • Underwear
  • Hats
Back-to-School Box
  • Pencils
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Notebooks
  • Pencil box
  • Index cards
  • Book bag
  • Ruler
  • Calculator (if it runs on batteries, include extra batteries)
  • Protractor
  • Crayons
School Uniform Box
  • Dress pants
  • Polos
  • Skirts
  • Socks
  • Shoes
  • Belts

There are so many options when it comes to choosing themes for your Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. Select a theme based on what you enjoy or on what you think would be helpful to kids. For detailed information, click here. Don’t dismiss any of the shoebox gift ideas listed above. Be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and trust that the Lord will supply the needs of the kids who will receive your shoeboxes. As we discussed above, God has supplied your needs, and He surely won’t forget about the needs of children around the world.

Operation Christmas Child Gift Ideas and Where to Shop

Have you heard of it? I’m sure you have. If not, let me tell you about it. Operation Christmas Child is an annual ministry project organized by Samaritan’s Purse that delivers shoeboxes full of goodies to kids all around the world. You pack the boxes, cover the $7.00/box shipping & handling fee, and drop them off at a collection site, and they deliver the boxes to the kids. It’s a simple, meaningful way to give to kids in need during the Christmas season. For the logistics, click the following link: Operation Christmas Child.

Now for the gift ideas.


  • Books (science, math, world history, picture books, chapter books, etc.)
  • Spelling Flashcards
  • Vocabulary Flashcards
  • Math Flashcards
  • STEM materials
  • Music books
  • Music flashcards
  • Xylophone
  • Recorder
  • Tambourine


  • Basic t-shirts (long-sleeve & short-sleeve)
  • Dress pants
  • Jeans
  • Long skirts
  • Dresses
  • Stockings/tights
  • Sweater
  • Rain jackets
  • Rain boots (ones that aren’t heavy)
  • Pajamas
  • Athletic pants & shirts
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Scarves
  • Jewelry
  • Toboggan hat
  • Baseball hat
  • Fisherman’s hat


  • Toothbrush
  • Toothbrush holder
  • Toothpaste
  • Bar soap (that actually smells good)
  • Chapstick/lip balm
  • Pads
  • Hand wipes
  • Facial wipes
  • Bandaids
  • Loofa
  • Facial tissues (Kleenex, Puffs, etc.)


  • Bath towel
  • Facial towel
  • Small plastic cup
  • Tervis tumbler
  • YETI tumbler
  • Duct Tape
  • Tool set
  • Fishing gear
  • Plastic reusable eating utensils
  • Flashlights (with extra batteries)
  • Rubber bands

Cosmetics: Facial Care

  • Powder
  • Blush
  • Eyeshadow (the powder kind)
  • Eye pencils
  • Lip pencils
  • Lipstick
  • Makeup brushes
  • Facial wipes to remove makeup
  • Cute bag for makeup

Cosmetics: Hair Care

  • Hair brush
  • Comb
  • Ponytail holders
  • Bobby pins
  • Hair clips
  • Hair bows
  • Hair bands/headbands
  • Plastic mirror
  • Bag for hair essentials
  • Plastic curlers that don’t need to be heated


  • Pencils
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Erasers
  • Pens
  • Crayons
  • Markers
  • Colored pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Notebooks
  • Journals
  • Index cards with a holder
  • Rubber bands
  • Pencil case
  • Book bag (one that fits in a shoebox)
  • Glue sticks
  • Child-safe scissors


  • Dress-up clothes
  • Stuffed animals
  • Dolls
  • Coloring books
  • Frisbees
  • Tennis balls
  • Baseball
  • Softballs
  • Volleyball (with an air pump)
  • Soccer ball (with an air pump)
  • Small baseball/softball bat
  • Glowsticks
  • Hand puppets
  • Toy sets (house, doctor, outer space, etc.)
  • Legos
  • Ballet shoes
  • Puzzle
  • Watercolor paint set & paint brushes
  • Wind-up music box

Inexpensive places to find gifts:

  • Dollar stores
  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Drugstores

Unexpectedly neat places to find gifts (you can find good sales at these places):

  • Bookstores
  • Anthropologie
  • Urban Outfitters
  • T.J. Maxx
  • Home Goods
  • Francesca’s
  • Vera Bradley
  • LOFT
  • Kohl’s
  • JcPenny

If you aren’t sure which items you want to include, pick items from each category that correspond to the gender and age of your child. Hope these are helpful to you!

*I realize that these may be in English. If you are unsure about this, read my previous post: What Girls Really Need.