Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes – Time’s almost up!

Do you have your OCC shoeboxes packed yet?  (I don’t! – they are still sitting in our daughter’s room! – which is what prompted me to write this post!!!) 😉 That, and this wonderful article that my friend, Cindy, brought to our Sunday School class the other day.  It’s been around the web and Pinterest for a while now, but it’s full of such good advice, I wanted to use it myself and pass it on to you – just in case you were like me and hadn’t seen it yet.

The article is written by someone serving in a country where the children receive the boxes and she gratefully expresses a list of some Best gifts, Great gifts, and Not as Good gifts.  You can read the full article here.  But in case you don’t have time, this is a direct quote of some of her ideas:


  • For any age boy here, what they really want is a soccer ball. So get the best quality mini soccer ball that you can fit into the box when it is inflated (or send a deflated ball with a pump) and you can basically forget about anything else! 🙂
  • Brand new nice short-sleeved shirts (with no writing on them) for boys and girls. Kids here have few clothes and often wear old, ripped, hand-me-downs, so nice new shirts are really appreciated and will probably fit. (I don’t know any obese Senegalese kids.)
  • Small flashlight with batteries (Most families don’t have electricity so a working flashlight is gold!)
  • Good quality melamine plate, bowl, and/or cup (Practical and also special.)
  • Soap AND a plastic soap dish that has a cover. When you bathe standing on a big rock in the dirt as kids do here, you really need the soap holder. And families never have enough soap. (Funny note: the kids didn’t know what the soap was because it was in a box. I am sure they would have figured it out though, even without our help.)
  • Toothbrush in a toothbrush holder. Again, the plastic case for the toothbrush is really great when you don’t have a sink/counter/tiled bathroom but rather brush your teeth outside squatting over dirt and need to keep it in your room.
  • Pencils, erasers, colored pencils, and sharpeners for all school-aged kids. And good quality pens for kids aged 10-14, in black, red, green, and blue. All of these are required for school and the ones from America last so much longer than the cheap ones available here.


  • Jumpropes
  • Band-Aids
  • Hard candy and gum
  • Comb
  • Hair elastics or head bands for girls
  • Marbles
  • Harmonica
  • A simple watch for older kids
  • A solar calculator for older kids
  • Sunglasses for older kids
  • Socks
  • For the youngest girls, a baby doll with light brown skin and no hair (good for a child of any color)
  • Toy car, truck or airplane for the youngest boys (The ones with bigger wheels that are made for toddlers and are larger than Matchbox size are good. Matchbox wheels are so small, they don’t work well in dirt.)


NOT AS GOOD items we have seen kids receive:

  • Stuffed animals (Young kids here usually burst into tears when presented with stuffed animals from their shoeboxes. The kids who are old enough not to be scared are not interested. Also, animals carry meanings here that are culturally specific. One of our Sunday School kids got a cute stuffed owl and a much older sibling told me that he himself is terrified of owls. They connote evil and shapechangers. You can’t know what the animal will signify in the culture your box reaches.)
  • Stickers or temporary tattoos (Kids don’t have anywhere to stick the stickers, and often the pictures don’t make sense or connect with their world. For example, cute puppy stickers don’t make much sense in a Muslim country because dogs are considered unclean in Islam.)
  • T-shirts with words or pictures on them (Would you want to wear a shirt with something unknown written on it? And again, pictures have different meanings in different cultures. Stick with solid colors, stripes, or pretty designs.

These were some really good things to think about, aren’t they?  Some of them I had never considered.  In this article, the writer lists other “not so good items” that I didn’t mention, but those were for her particular area… like sending gloves and knit hats.  My unsolicited advice on that is to pray over what you put in the box, send the very best you can (not the cheapest you can get away with) and trust that God will get it to the children who need it. 🙂

Our area drop off date is Nov. 15.   Check this link to search for drop off locations and all kinds of other information about this incredible ministry, including testimonies and videos of children, their boxes, and how thousands have come to know Jesus Christ through a simple act of giving!!

PS: My friend, Elizabeth, and I did a Smelling Coffee TV episode on packing an Operation Christmas Child shoebox a few years ago, in case you’re craving watching a local cable tv show about this today. 😉

(If you can’t see it, click here.)

Much love and joy~


About SmellingCoffee

I'm a Jesus-loving, husband-loving, family-loving minister's wife and mom to two college kids, making our home and serving our Lord in the Mississippi Delta. I study, teach, speak, and write for the greatest Boss in the universe. "Faith, Family, Food, Fun, and Living Life brewed in the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus Christ in every place": That's what you'll find at SmellingCoffee.com