Operation Christmas Child: Life-Changing Shoebox Ideas for a 10-14 Girl
Shoebox Ideas For a 10-14 Girl
I've participated in Operation Christmas Child ("OCC") for more than two decades but 2013 was the first year I decided to pack a shoebox for a 10- to 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 should I 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 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 Girl 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 girl 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.
Countdown to this year's National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child
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
- 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.
- 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.
- mild bar soap
- bamboo toothbrushes and 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
Reusable menstrual products keep girls in school while reducing waste in developing countries.
- UNICEF: WASH in Schools Empowers Girls' Educations
An awesome resource released by UNICEF's Menstrual Hygiene Management in Schools project. Check it out for country-specific information about the hygiene issues impacting adolescent girls.
- Think Africa Press: No Pads, No School
An article about how the severe lack of menstrual education, sanitation facilities and affordable feminine products in Africa limits a girl's ability to attend school.
- Little House Living: Homemade Cloth Pads
A step-by-step cloth pad sewing tutorial and free pattern for those who want to DIY the reusable feminine hygiene products in their shoeboxes.
Access to clean water improves physical and mental health and combats the cycle of poverty by allowing girls 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 girls' 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.
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 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
- 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.
- 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
- dress-up accessories like fairy wings, tiaras or play jewelry
- coloring books with crayons, colored pencils or markers
- hands-on kits that allow girls to make or decorate their own crafts
One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.— Malala Yousafzai, Activist for Women's Education
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.
Top 10 School-Related Gifts For 10-14 Girls
- 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.
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!
- 100% cotton underwear — I include a few pairs of underwear in every shoebox, regardless of age group or gender.
- 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!
- 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, long sleeve shirts or sleeveless tops
- dresses or skirts
- shorts, pants or leggings
- sneakers, sandals or flip flops
- baseball caps or beanies
- gloves or scarves
- compact rain coats
- barrettes, headbands or hair elastics
What not to include in your Operation Christmas Child shoebox
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
Operation Christmas Child Poll
Which age group is your favorite to pack shoeboxes for?
Where will your shoebox go?Click thumbnail to view full-size
Examples of Girl 10-14 OCC shoeboxesClick thumbnail to view full-size
More Gift Ideas For a 10-14 Girl Shoebox
Sewing is a vital skill that allows girls to repair clothing or earn money for their families.
- fabric scissors
- safety pins, straight pins and pin cushions
- 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
- glue sticks, duck tape or washi tape
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
Small cookware and utensils help girls feed themselves and their families.
- cooking utensils, forks and spoons
- mini frying pans or sauce pans
- potholders or oven mitts
- water bottles
- tupperware or lunchboxes
- plates and collapsible bowls
From camels to canoes, shoeboxes reach their destinations in a variety of ways.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Poll: Shoeboxes Through the Years
How long have you been packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Franchesca W