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

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

Operation Christmas Child Shoebox ideas for a 10-14 girl

Operation Christmas Child Shoebox ideas for a 10-14 girl

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

I've participated in Operation Christmas Child ("OCC") for over two decades, but 2013 was the first year I packed a shoebox for a 10–14-year-old girl.

After reading articles about the unique struggles faced by young women in developing countries, I realized the life-changing impact a shoebox could have when packed with thoughtful gifts.

Why Pack a Shoebox for a 10–14 Girl?

Every year, the 10–14 age group consistently receives the fewest shoeboxes.

It's easy to shop for gifts we assume most little girls will like (pretty dolls, fluffy stuffed animals, anything pink and glittery), but the truth is, shopping for a young woman is even more fun and fulfilling.

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.

Everything You Need to Pack the Perfect Shoebox

Short on time? My Amazon Idea List has everything you need to pack a life-changing OCC shoebox in one place. Click the link below to view my list!

Short on time? My Amazon Idea List has everything you need to pack a life-changing OCC shoebox in one place. Click the link below to view my list!

Intentionally 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 girl who receives them.

Nearly every country that receives OCC shoeboxes struggles to dispose of its waste safely. 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

  1. Repurpose an existing cardboard shoebox: Plastic shoeboxes will inevitably end up in a landfill, local waterway or the ocean. On the other hand, cardboard boxes 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
2022 National Collection Week

2022 National Collection Week

1. Personal Hygiene

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

According to international organizations like UNICEF and WaterAid, girls who are able to safely and adequately manage their personal hygiene, especially their periods, are more likely to be healthy, educated and economically stable throughout their lives.

Including personal hygiene products in your shoebox helps girls reach their full potential by giving them the tools they need to stay in school and prevent disease.

Top 10 Personal Hygiene Gift Ideas for a 10–14 Girl

  1. Reusable cloth pads: I include a few of these in every 10–14 Girl shoebox. Read more about the impact of reusable feminine hygiene products below.
  2. Personal water filter: I include at least one of these in every shoebox, regardless of age group. Read more about the clean water crisis below.
  3. Mild bar soap
  4. Bamboo toothbrushes and 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

Reusable Menstrual Products

A girl holds her shoebox in Central Asia where access to clean water is limited.

A girl holds her shoebox in Central Asia where access to clean water is limited.

Clean Water Products

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

A well-made stuffed animal is a guaranteed shoebox hit regardless of age.

A well-made stuffed animal is a guaranteed shoebox hit regardless of age.

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 girl between the ages of 10 and 14 is still a child, and the first thing she sees when she opens her 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 Girl Shoebox

  1. Well-made stuffed animals or dolls: A small, durable stuffed animal like a Beanie Boo 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. Dress-up accessories like fairy wings, tiaras or play jewelry
  9. Coloring books with crayons, colored pencils or markers
  10. Hands-on kits that allow girls to make or decorate their own crafts
A girl lights the way with a candle while carrying her shoebox home in a village where electricity is scarce and unreliable.

A girl lights the way with a candle while carrying her shoebox home in a village where electricity is scarce and unreliable.

3. School Supplies

In developing countries, providing girls with equal educational opportunities increases health and life expectancy, drastically reduces infant mortality rates and fuels economic growth for the entire country. Despite those well-researched benefits, 31 million girls are currently not attending school.

Educational barriers for girls 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 by empowering girls to get the education they deserve.

  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.

One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.

— Malala Yousafzai, Activist for Women's Education

4. Something to Wear

Shoes and undergarments are often considered luxuries in the countries where Operation Christmas Child distributes shoeboxes. Nonprofits that provide bras and underwear to women in developing countries, like Free The Girls, Smalls For All and Oxfam, say these clothing items build girls' confidence and provide a greater sense of personal safety. Similarly, shoes protect girls from parasitic diseases transmitted through contaminated soil and may be required as part of their school uniform.

T-shirts, dresses and cute accessories make good shoebox gifts, but durable, well-made shoes, bras and underwear can be game-changers for the girls who receive them.

Top 3 Clothing Gift Ideas for a 10–14 Girl

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

  1. 100% cotton underwear: I include a few pairs of underwear in every shoebox, regardless of age group or gender. For 10–14 Girl shoeboxes, choose underwear in children's size 10/12 or adult small.
  2. Sports bras: I include a sports bra in every 10–14 Girl shoebox because unlike traditional bras, they're designed to be supportive during physical activity and to resist bacteria. Not to mention they're way easier to pack because they don't have an underwire!
  3. Protective shoes: My personal favorite is The Shoe That Grows, a life-changing adjustable shoe developed by the nonprofit 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, long sleeve shirts or sleeveless tops (children's size 10/12 or adult size xs/s)
  • Dresses or skirts
  • Pajamas
  • Shorts, pants or leggings
  • Sneakers, sandals or flip flops
  • Baseball caps or beanies
  • Gloves or scarves
  • Compact rain coats
  • Watches
  • Sunglasses
  • Jewelry
  • Barrettes, headbands or hair elastics
Angella, a 13-year-old girl from Malawi who received a shoebox herself the year before this photo was taken, helps distribute gifts.

Angella, a 13-year-old girl from Malawi who received a shoebox herself the year before this photo was taken, helps distribute gifts.

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.

What Not to Include in Your Operation Christmas Child 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. It shouldn't be in your shoebox if you can eat or drink it.
  • 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

More Gift Ideas For a 10–14 Girl Shoebox

Sewing Kit

Sewing is a vital skill that allows girls to repair clothing or earn money for their families.

  • Needles
  • Thread
  • Fabric
  • Fabric scissors
  • Safety pins, straight pins and pin cushions
  • Buttons
  • Thimbles
  • Velcro or zippers
  • Tape measures
  • Seam rippers

Arts & Crafts Supplies

Crafting allows girls to express their creativity.

  • Crayons, colored pencils or markers
  • Sketch pads or coloring books
  • Construction paper
  • Watercolor kit with paint brushes
  • Beads and cords
  • Yarn and crochet hooks or knitting needles
  • Polymer clay or Play-Doh
  • Stickers
  • Glue sticks, duck tape or washi tape
  • Ribbon

Gardening Tools

Gardening tools allow girls to grow food or flowers. Do not include seeds of any kind!

  • Outdoor gloves
  • Small tools like trowels, rakes, cultivators and pruning shears
  • Knee pads
  • Mini spray bottles
  • Gardening aprons

Cooking Utensils

Small cookware and utensils help girls feed themselves and their families.

  • Cooking utensils, forks and spoons
  • Mini frying pans or saucepans
  • Potholders or oven mitts
  • Water bottles
  • Tupperware or lunchboxes
  • Plates and collapsible bowls