Start gathering items to fill a shoebox for a child in need via Operation Christmas Child!

children holding red and green boxes

Start getting ready for the season of giving early this year! ❤️

While we all know that Christmas isn’t really about the gifts, Operation Christmas Child provides kids in need with surprises they wouldn’t have otherwise received.

If you like to find ways to give back and make a difference, you’re going to love this inspiring and affordable way to make a child’s Christmas extra special.

Even though it seems early to be thinking about the holidays, now is actually the perfect time to start gathering small gifts for children in need.

boy filling clear totes with christmas stuff

How does Operation Christmas Child work?

It all starts with a shoebox — seriously! You can simply take an average-sized shoebox, decide the theme of your box with a gender and age range, and then pack it up with small gifts. Don’t forget to also include a personal note and photo—sometimes these are the child’s favorite things to receive!

Then, drop it off at any participating church or drop-off location during National Collection Week (November 13–20, 2023), and they will take care of sending it out to a child in need. You can also opt to mail your box if you’d prefer. You can even track it with a donation-based label to see where your gift is delivered!

HIP TIP: Want to help out without packing your own box? Consider donating a box for $5 through ThatDailyDeal. They will assemble a box and ship a box out for you! Even better, they’ll donate a second box for each one you purchase!

operation christmas child

Look for special Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes at Hobby Lobby!

When Hobby Lobby starts stocking its Christmas merchandise, you’ll start to see these displays with red and green totes in-store. You can even purchase them online closer to the date of Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week.

If you’re already shopping at Hobby Lobby, then this will be the perfect opportunity to add a few shoeboxes to your shopping cart and make some more personalized gifts for kids in need.

people with masks on packing Operation Christmas Child boxes

Start collecting your gifts for Operation Christmas Child 2023 now!

Collection week for Operation Christmas Child 2023 is November 13–20, but the best time to save on gifts is right now! These gifts can include toys, non-liquid hygiene products, school supplies, and other thoughtful items. Check out this helpful list of gift ideas for more suggestions sorted by age and gender.

Don’t forget to also include a personal note and photo. These are among the children’s favorite things to receive!

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

list of items not to include in Operation Christmas Child boxes

OCC boxes in Jamaica

Our Hip Sidekick, Melinda, has been involved with Operation Christmas Child for quite some time!

Here’s what she had to say about her wonderful experience: 

“I’ve spent many years packing Operation Christmas Child boxes from the comfort of my home in the U.S. This was something my family and I loved to do through our local church. I enjoyed the experience of packing these boxes. It was so fun for my kids to find creative items for the boxes. We would include a picture of our family and personal notes in the boxes, too. We started tracking the boxes and got to see which countries they ended up in.

We then became missionaries in Jamaica. After four years of living in Jamaica, we were given the opportunity to help distribute hundreds of Operation Christmas Child boxes. Can I tell you the JOY these boxes bring children?! It was absolutely amazing, heartwarming, and so fulfilling getting to see in person the difference these simple boxes made to these dear children. What a privilege to play a small role in this ministry.

Now that we live in the U.S. again, we’re already planning the boxes we will be packing in the coming weeks!”

Need some inspiration? Here are some affordable ideas for your Operation Christmas Child boxes that you can order or buy in-store:

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

toothbrushes on display in a store

Buy kids’ toothbrushes at Target

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 hygiene items, so don’t forget to throw in these must-haves.

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

Crayola Oval Paints

Buy paintbrushes & paint sets at Target

Take advantage of back-to-school sales to score some super affordable art supplies for your Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

3. A deck of cards for endless game options.

red and blue decks of playing cards in box

Buy playing cards on Amazon

A deck of playing cards can give a child countless options for games and even some learning too! Whether they’re playing WarSpoonsGo Fish, or Solitare, a deck of cards comes with endless possibilities and no language barriers.

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

hand holding a box of mondo llama crayons

Buy coloring books & crayons at Target

A coloring book and crayons can be enjoyed by kids of all backgrounds! Not only will they get to express their creativity on paper, but they can also share their masterpieces with others.

5. Light up their holiday with a flashlight & batteries!

6 colorful flashlights

Buy mini flashlights at Walmart

At first glance, a flashlight might seem like a practical gift. But if you’ve ever handed one to a kid, you know that they can be a whole lot of fun too! Reading in the dark, playing flashlight tag, making shadow puppets – the possibilities are endless! Be sure to throw in some batteries too.

6. Consider sending a bag or backpack.

white drawstring bag

Buy drawstring cinch bags on Amazon

These inexpensive drawstring bags are such a versatile gift! Kids of all ages can use them to carry their belongings to school, to visit family, or while out and about in their community. They’re sturdy, highly rated, and they come in a variety of colors and patterns.

Be sure to check for inexpensive backpacks with the back-to-school supplies at Dollar Tree, too. We’ve seen them there for just $1.25!

7. Stickers are simple additions that won’t take up tons of space.

pack of colorful stickers on sheet

Buy packs of stickers on Amazon

A pack of stickers won’t take up much space in your shoebox, but they’ll add a lot of fun to your gift! Kids will enjoy sharing them with their friends, too.

8. Add a highly sought-after gift idea like a Squishmallow.

Hand holding up a Bubble Tea squishy plush toy in front of other plush

Operation Christmas Child suggests adding a “Wow” item to every shoebox, and a miniature Squishmallow is the perfect surprise to delight any kid! We often see the small ones priced at around $5 at retailers like Walmart, Walgreens, and Five Below.

9. A jump rope is a fun outdoor toy that won’t take up much room in your shoebox.

jump rope hanging on peg at Target

Buy jump ropes at Target.

Every kid should have a jump rope for outdoor fun and fitness! They’re easy to pack in a shoebox, too.

10. Sunglasses will be appreciated in any climate.

display rack full of various pairs of kids sunglasses at target

Buy kids’ sunglasses at Target

Since you don’t know where in the world your donation will be shipped, gifting accessories can be tricky. Should you send mittens or flip-flops?! A good alternative may be sunglasses since UV protection can come in handy everywhere!

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

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