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Operation Christmas Child is an initiative that brings joy and hope to children worldwide during the holiday season. Generous people (that’s you and me!) fill boxes for kids who may not otherwise receive gifts. These gift boxes are filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items, making a significant impact on the lives of those in need.
I recommend you start shopping for some of these items now. For starters, you’ll score some great clearance prices and discounts on high-quality items if you shop early in the season and don’t wait until the holidays to grab everything. Target’s toy clearance is still happening in stores, and Walmart also has a semi-annual toy clearance to shop — two sales to take advantage of now. You’ll need to hit these stores in-person to find the best deals as most clearance items are sold out online. Here’s everything to know about Operation Christmas Child and how the donation works.
For more smart-shopping tips and savings hacks, text HACKS to 57299, and be sure to download the Krazy Coupon Lady app.
To start your Operation Christmas Child donation, fill a shoebox with gifts.
Grab a regular ol’ cardboard shoebox or a shoebox-size plastic container with a lid (Hobby Lobby sells some!). This is the ideal size for the Operation Christmas Child boxes and you don’t need to go any larger. Fill the box with quality toys, school supplies, and personal care items to be delivered to a child this Christmas.
After reading through some real-life stories from people who have volunteered with Operation Christmas Child, as well as people living in some of the distribution areas, we wanted to share some tips for gift buying. It makes a huge difference when you donate durable, high-quality items. Remember that some children may not speak English and toys, games, and books may not be fun if they don’t understand them.
A few more helpful tips we’ve seen:
- Since it’s unclear where the boxes will end up, all-season clothing is best. Hats and gloves could be sent to warm climates where they aren’t needed.
- Crayons melt in the heat of warehouses and shipping trucks.
- Cheap trinkets break easily and can disappoint the children, it’s best to focus on high-quality items.
Select an age range for your box and include items that fit into that range. To build your box, start with a fun item — like a toy or a game (we have suggestions below!). Next, fill the box with some smaller items like smaller toys or personal care products. Finally, you’ll want to include a personalized note to your gift recipient. You can include a photo of your family and a return address if you’d like to.
Here’s a full list of acceptable gift items for all ages.
Larger “wow” items:
- Balls (this was said to be one of the most popular items to receive!)
- Stuffed animals
- Musical instrument
Personal care items:
- Reusable water bottle or thermos
- Lip balm
- Reusable sanitary pads for older girls
- Fun adhesive bandages
- Reusable eating utensils
- Clothing and undergarments
- Flip-flops or shoes
- Hair accessories
- Pencils and sharpener
- Pencil case
- Coloring books or pads
- Picture book
- Glue sticks
- Small adhesive tape
- Dry watercolor set
- Building blocks
- Play Doh
Small (but high-quality) toys:
- Finger puppets
- Etch A Sketch®
- Toy cars
- Building blocks
- Plastic dinosaurs, animals, and action figures
- Interactive toys
There are some gift restrictions.
If you do choose to build your own gift box, there are some restrictions to the items you include. Here’s a list of the items you should NOT include in your box.
- Used or damaged items
- Scary or war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures
- Chocolate or food
- Fruit rolls or other fruit snacks
- Drink mixes (powdered or liquid)
- Liquids or lotions
- Medications or vitamins
- Breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers
- Aerosol cans
For $25, you can build a box online.
It’s easy to build a box online from home by visiting the Build Online page. For $25, you can select the gifts for your box without taking a shopping trip. There’s even an option to have a box made for you if you’re short on free time. If you’d like to build your own shoebox, follow these instructions.
- Visit the Build a Shoebox Online page.
- Select to start building your own shoebox.
- Select a girl- or boy-themed box and choose your age range; 2–4, 5–9, or 10–14.
- Click to add the essentials, like crayons and a toothbrush.
- Choose a larger toy item; a doll, ball, or stuffed animal.
- Select three smaller toys from the options.
- Pick two small accessories from the list.
- Write an optional note to the child.
- Add any additional boxes you’d like and then select whether you’d like to make a recurring donation or a one-time donation of $6 (both optional).
- Enter your payment info and check out.
Related: 40 Free or Inexpensive Holiday Gifts
Bring Operation Christmas Child boxes to a drop-off location Nov. 13 – 20, 2023.
During the week of Nov. 13 – 20, you’ll find over 4,500 drop-off locations around the U.S. Right now, they are limited to their permanent locations in six major cities. But come November, you’ll find thousands of other locations added to the list. In the meantime, shop the sales now and tuck your box away for Nov. 13.
There is a suggested donation amount of $10 along with your box.
Completely optional, there is a suggested donation opportunity of $10. With the $10 donation, you get a tracking label that allows you to find out where your box is shipped. This donation supports the initiative by helping to pay for the collection, processing, and shipping of the boxes worldwide, along with printing and distributing The Greatest Gift Gospel Booklets to aid the mission of Samaritan’s Purse International Relief.
You can submit your donation online or by check in the enclosed postage-paid envelope. Or, if neither option is right for you, you can even include the donation within your gift box to be collected during the processing of your box to be shipped.