Operation Christmas Child: Life-Changing Shoebox Ideas for a 10-14 Boy
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 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.
- Gift Ideas for a 10-14 Boy Operation Christmas Child Shoebox
My Amazon Idea List has everything you need to pack a life-changing OCC shoebox in one place. Save money and increase your impact by ordering items in bulk and separating sets among multiple OCC shoeboxes.
Help fight the global waste crisis by intentionally choosing 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.
1. Personal Hygiene
Hundreds of millions of boys in low-income countries lack access to things many of us 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
- 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.
- mild bar soap
- bamboo toothbrushes
- 100% silk dental floss
- 100% cotton, linen or bamboo wash cloths
- natural lip balm
- colorful band-aids
- bamboo hair brushes and combs
- stainless steel tweezers, nail clippers and nail files
- natural loofahs
Access to clean water improves physical and mental health and combats the cycle of poverty by allowing children to spend more time in school.
- Water.org: Water Facts
Illustrated statistics about the water-collecting responsibilities of women and children in developing countries and the impact those responsibilities have on educational opportunities and independence.
- World Vision: Global Water Crisis Facts, FAQs & How to Help
Answers to the most common questions about the clean water crisis and ways to get involved.
- The Water Project: 10 Ways Clean Water Can Change the World
An informative infographic detailing the many ways access to clean water can change our world.
Every two minutes, a child dies from a water-related illness. Help end the clean water crisis by packing a LifeStraw into each of your OCC shoeboxes. A single LifeStraw, which removes 99.9% of bacteria from contaminated water and has no expiration date, can filter up to 1,000 gallons. That's more than five years of daily drinking water for the boy who receives your shoebox!
Personal hygiene products may not seem like an exciting gift, but the joyful reaction of this boy in Zimbabwe proves otherwise.
2. Something to Love & 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
- 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.
- 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.
- puzzles or games
- jump ropes
- picture books or pop-up books
- small kites
- bouncy balls or hacky sacks
- small toy cars
- coloring books with crayons, colored pencils or markers
- hands-on kits that allow boys to make or decorate their own crafts like a wooden race car or airplane
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.
Top 10 School-Related Gifts For 10-14 Boys
- 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.
- 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!
- solar-powered calculators
- small backpacks or tote bags
- pencil cases
- wooden rulers
- mini chalk boards with chalk or mini dry-erase boards with markers
- math flash cards
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.
Help make education attainable for children around the world by including a solar-powered inflatable lantern like this one.
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!
- underwear — I include a few pairs of underwear in every shoebox, regardless of age group or gender.
- 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
- shorts or pants
- baseball caps or beanies
- gloves or scarves
- compact rain coats
Just like The Shoe That Grows, these sandals expand up to five sizes! Given how fast children grow, adjustable shoes like these offer boys years of protection from soil-transmitted diseases and other injuries that could prevent them from attending school.
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.
Here's what you should leave 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 BREAKABLES
- NO MONEY
- 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 AEROSOL CONTAINERS
- NO MEDICINE OR VITAMINS
- NO SHARPS — This includes shaving razors, swiss army knives, saws or blades of any kind.
- NO USED OR DAMAGED ITEMS
- 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.
- NO MATCHES OR LIGHTERS
- NO SEEDS OR PLANTS
5. Tools or Fishing Kits
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
- rubber bands
- wire or duck Tape
Fishing supplies allow boys to catch food for their families. Do not include organic bait (dead or alive)!
- collapsible fishing pole
- fishing line, hooks and lures
- mini tackle box
- nail clippers or scissors
- Joy with PURPOSE: How to Assemble Homemade Fishing Kits
Step-by-step directions for assembling a DIY fishing kit for your OCC shoebox.