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Operation Christmas Child: Life-Changing Shoebox Ideas for a 10-14 Boy

I've been packing OCC shoeboxes with gifts that provide the greatest impact for 20 years.

Interested in doing an Operation Christmas Child: Shoebox? Here are some shoebox ideas.

Interested in doing an Operation Christmas Child: Shoebox? Here are some shoebox ideas.

Why Should I Pack a Shoebox for a 10-14 Boy?

Every year, Operation Christmas Child consistently receives the fewest shoeboxes for boys in this age group.

Due to that shortage, older boys often receive gifts intended for younger age groups — or even shoeboxes packed for girls. While those gifts are still joyfully received, every child deserves to open a shoebox that was packed especially for them.

What Is Operation Christmas Child?

Founded by a couple in the UK in 1990, OCC made its first delivery — nine trucks packed with medical supplies, food, clothing and gifts — to Romania following the country's violent anti-Communist revolution. Three years later, OCC was acquired by the international relief organization Samaritan's Purse and has since delivered more than 168 million shoeboxes to children around the world who have been affected by war, poverty, famine and natural disasters.

Samaritan's Purse describes OCC as "a means of reaching out to children in their own communities with the good news of Jesus Christ." Unless prohibited by the recipient country, a booklet about Christianity is added to each shoebox, and the children who receive them are encouraged to participate in discipleship programs offered by local churches.

Short on Time? Here's Everything You Need to Pack the Perfect Shoebox in One Place.

Short on time? My Amazon Idea List has everything you need to pack a life-changing OCC shoebox in one place.

Short on time? My Amazon Idea List has everything you need to pack a life-changing OCC shoebox in one place.

Global Waste Crisis: Choose Durable, Plastic-Free Gifts With Minimal Packaging

When shopping for your shoebox, consider how the items you choose will impact the environment of the boy who receives them.

Nearly every country that receives OCC shoeboxes struggles to safely dispose of its waste. Places like India, Ghana and the Philippines lack proper waste management infrastructure, so garbage piles up in makeshift landfills, and children living nearby often scavenge through the hazardous trash to earn money.

The good news is that eco-friendly alternatives for common shoebox gifts are becoming more affordable every day. For example, while plastic toothbrushes take hundreds of years to decompose, threaten wildlife populations and release chemicals into the air as they break down, bamboo toothbrushes cost the same (or less!) and are 100% biodegradable.

3 Ways to Make Your OCC Shoebox More Eco-Friendly:

  • Repurpose an existing cardboard shoebox. Plastic shoeboxes will inevitably end up in a landfill, local waterway or the ocean. Cardboard boxes, on the other hand, break down naturally when no longer needed. Local shoe stores are an excellent source of cardboard shoeboxes if you don't already have one at home.
  • Remove and recycle all packaging, labels, stickers and tags at home. Removing and recycling packaging costs nothing, prevents trash from polluting other countries and frees up extra space in your shoebox!
  • Avoid plastic and polyester. Choose items made from organic, non-toxic, sustainable and/or biodegradable materials like cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, cork and natural rubber. If something in your shoebox must be bagged (like a bar of soap), choose a reusable silicone storage bag.
A boy holding his shoebox.

A boy holding his shoebox.

1. Personal Hygiene

Hundreds of millions of boys in low-income countries lack access to things many take for granted, like clean water, soap and toilets.

Including personal hygiene products in your shoebox keeps boys healthy so they can reach their full potential.

Top 10 Personal Hygiene Gift Ideas for a 10-14 Boy

  1. personal water filter — I include at least one of these in every shoebox, regardless of age group or gender. Read more about the clean water crisis below.
  2. mild bar soap
  3. bamboo toothbrushes
  4. 100% silk dental floss
  5. 100% cotton, linen or bamboo washcloths
  6. natural lip balm
  7. colorful band-aids
  8. bamboo hair brushes and combs
  9. stainless steel tweezers, nail clippers and nail files
  10. natural loofahs
Scroll to Continue

Read More From Holidappy

Access to clean water improves physical and mental health and combats the cycle of poverty by allowing children to spend more time in school.

A boy in Botswana proves that a well-made stuffed animal is a guaranteed shoebox hit regardless of age or gender.

A boy in Botswana proves that a well-made stuffed animal is a guaranteed shoebox hit regardless of age or gender.

2. Something to Love and Play With

I'm a huge advocate for packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes with practical gifts like water filters, solar-powered lanterns and sewing kits — these things can change lives after all! But a boy between the ages of 10 and 14 is still a child, and the first thing he sees when he opens his shoebox should be something that brings joy.

Regardless of age group, a durable, high-quality toy should be the foundation of your shoebox.

Top 10 Toy Ideas For a 10-14 Boy Shoebox

  1. well-made stuffed animals or dolls — A small, durable stuffed animal is my go-to shoebox gift in this category. From everything I've read about OCC distributions around the world, stuffed animals are always enthusiastically received, regardless of gender or age group.
  2. deflated soccer balls with mini manual ball pumps — Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and it offers a potential (albeit long-shot) career opportunity for those who have the resources to practice and play.
  3. puzzles or games
  4. jump ropes
  5. picture books or pop-up books
  6. small kites
  7. bouncy balls or hacky sacks
  8. small toy cars
  9. coloring books with crayons, colored pencils or markers
  10. hands-on kits that allow boys to make or decorate their own crafts like a wooden race car or airplane
A boy in Malawi holds the pencil case that was packed in his shoebox.

A boy in Malawi holds the pencil case that was packed in his shoebox.

3. School Supplies

More than 260 million children under the age of 17 are currently not attending school, according to the United Nations.

Educational barriers in developing countries are socially, culturally and economically complex, but your shoebox can help! According to UNICEF, children are less likely to attend school when their families have to buy school supplies like notebooks and pencils, and children who do show up to school without supplies are often turned away.

Including basic school supplies in your shoebox helps break the cycle of poverty.

  1. solar-powered lanterns and flashlights — I include one of these in every shoebox, regardless of age group. Read more about how the lack of electricity in developing countries impacts educational opportunities below.
  2. durable writing utensils — Think long-term when shopping for school supplies. If you include pencils in your shoebox, add a sharpener or two as well as extra erasers. If you include mechanical pencils, pack lead refills. These things extend the life of your gift!
  3. notebooks
  4. solar-powered calculators
  5. small backpacks or tote bags
  6. pencil cases
  7. scissors
  8. wooden rulers
  9. mini chalkboards with chalk or mini dry-erase boards with markers
  10. math flashcards

Solar-powered lanterns give girls more time to study in places where electricity is scarce and unreliable.

  • The Dark Side of Education

    Millions of children have no access to electricity, leaving them to study by the dim light of kerosene lamps or garbage fires that threaten their health and safety.

A boy tries on his new beanie at an OCC distribution event in Asia.

A boy tries on his new beanie at an OCC distribution event in Asia.

4. Something to Wear

Shoes and undergarments are often considered luxuries in the countries where Operation Christmas Child distributes shoeboxes. While underwear builds confidence and provides a greater sense of personal safety, shoes protect boys from parasitic diseases transmitted through contaminated soil and may be required as part of their school uniform.

T-shirts and sunglasses make good shoebox gifts, but durable, well-made shoes and underwear can be game-changers for the boys who receive them.

Top Clothing Gift Ideas For a 10-14 Boy

While a sweater may make the perfect gift in Romania, a boy in Indonesia may never have a use for it. The following items are useful for boys regardless of where your shoebox gets shipped. They also take up very little space!

  1. underwear — I include a few pairs of underwear in every shoebox, regardless of age group or gender.
  2. protective shoes — My personal favorite is The Shoe That Grows, a life-changing adjustable shoe developed by the non-profit Because International. These shoes expand up to five sizes, meaning they'll last for years, and they only cost $20!

Other clothing and accessory gift ideas:

  • t-shirts or long sleeve shirts
  • pajamas
  • shorts or pants
  • baseball caps or beanies
  • gloves or scarves
  • compact raincoats
  • watches
  • sunglasses
Boys celebrating the toys in their shoeboxes.

Boys celebrating the toys in their shoeboxes.

What NOT to include in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox. From candy to toothpaste, customs regulations limit what you can send overseas.

What NOT to include in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox. From candy to toothpaste, customs regulations limit what you can send overseas.

Customs Regulations Dictate What Is and Isn't Allowed in Your Shoebox.

Just as important as what you should include in your shoebox is what you absolutely should NOT pack. Increasingly strict customs regulations make it difficult for some things to cross international borders even though they may have previously been allowed by Operation Christmas Child.

What to Keep Out of Your Shoebox

  • NO FOOD — This includes candy, chocolate, fruit snacks & drink mixes. If you can eat or drink it, it shouldn't be in your shoebox.
  • NO TOOTHPASTE — Both liquid and solid forms of toothpaste are a no-no.
  • NO WAR-RELATED TOYS — This includes rubber knives, toy guns that resemble real guns and military action figures. Brightly colored mini squirt guns are allowed.
  • NO LIQUIDS OR LOTIONS — This includes paint, glue, lip gloss, nail polish and mascara.
  • NO SHARPS — This includes shaving razors, swiss army knives, saws or blades of any kind.
  • NO CAMOUFLAGE CLOTHING Do not include anything that could make a child appear soldier-like. Camouflage-patterned items like pens, notebooks and socks are allowed. Pink camouflage is also allowed.
Older boys celebrating their shoeboxes at an OCC distribution event.

Older boys celebrating their shoeboxes at an OCC distribution event.

5. Tools or Fishing Kits

Tool Kit

Tools allow boys to learn how to build and repair things or earn money for their families.

  • small tool bags or tool belts
  • durable work gloves
  • hammers with nails
  • screwdrivers with screws
  • wire cutters or pliers
  • wrenches with nuts, bolts and washers
  • tape measures
  • levels
  • rubber bands
  • batteries
  • wire or duck Tape

Fishing Kit

Fishing supplies allow boys to catch food for their families. Do not include organic bait (dead or alive)!

What gifts would you pack for a 10-14 Boy?

Nancy Barton on October 01, 2019:

I'm going to ask our Men's Group to donate some items for 10-14 year old boys to use in our box-packing night. Good ideas here!

Nicole K on October 27, 2018:

I'm packing a box for a 10-14 year old boy and this gave me a lot of good ideas. Thank you!

Franchesca W (author) from Atlanta, GA on October 20, 2018:

Nail stickers is a great idea!

Cathy Amos on October 20, 2018:

@kyla no nail polish. No liquids and nail polish is considered a liquid. Maybe nail stickers? Like jamberry or something like that.

Franchesca W (author) from Atlanta, GA on October 18, 2018:

Hey there! You can check out for more information about the organization.

Dorea Sheppard on October 16, 2018:

Ok, where can I do to get more information about this organization?

Gerri on October 14, 2018:

Wet dog food containers are great to hold a bar of Ivory soap--soap floats so if a child drops it in a river the soap will not be lost

Kyla Elisabeth on September 18, 2018:

For teen girls are you allowed to send nail polish?

Jane on March 25, 2018:

We can NOT pack toothpaste anymore

Dane on November 13, 2017:

A kitten drone mabby!!

Mary on October 26, 2017:

Fidget Spinner!!!

Cora on October 25, 2017:

Heather, I'm curious, what do you use to make your simple fishing kits?

Heather Harman on October 24, 2017:

My very smart 16yo son just ordered two "Lifestraws"--very effective water-filter straws that can give a kid the lifesaving gift of clean water! It was his own very brilliant idea! My son is spending his own money to pack a box for a 10-14 yo boy. I couldn't be more proud of my boy!!! ❤

His father and I are going to prepare another box, for another child. I'm going to search out hand-crank flashlights for both our boxes, and make sewing kits, first-aid kits, hygeine kits (w panties & cloth menstrual-pads if we choose a 10-14yo girl, so she won't miss school during her moon-cycle).

I understand that often kids have to receive emergency-food-rations in their hands, for lack of a bowl & utensils!

Im thinking about OFF-anti-mosquito bracelets & citronella candles (are those ok, does anyone know?).

I'm going to make simple fishing kits, too--for boy and girl.

I'm realizing that --although it would be fun to focus on toys & the like, and I definitely WILL add some fun stuff--these kids may REALLY have more desperate needs for life-essentials, to obtain food, water, basic hygiene, education, and employable/income generating skills. So this will be our focus.

I'm so excited to do this!

Wishing I could pack 100 boxes. Alas!

But I think that if I search hard for bargains, do some sewing, get creative, and approach it prayerfully, our family will be able to help at least two kids in a meaningful way.

Thank you for the ideas!

Thank you for helping kids!

God bless all of the kids (& adults!) in need, in this world!

God bless y'all--& all those who help!

God bless us ALL!


Constance on October 15, 2017:

Pocket flashlights with plenty of batteries are an excellent choice and can be used by the whole family.

Jane on October 11, 2017:

I always put two metal spoons in each box wrapped in washcloths. They don't take up much room and could be needed.

Caleb on September 25, 2017:

I am going to make a fuzzy felt board for a boy.

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