I've been packing OCC shoeboxes with gifts that provide the greatest impact for 20 years.
Operation Christmas Child: Life-Changing 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 10-14-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.
Everything You Need to Pack the Perfect Shoebox
- Read my eBook! How to Pack a Life-Changing Shoebox For a 10-14 Girl
After updating this article for a decade (I first published it back in 2011!), I finally decided to expand upon it and write an eBook about packing impactful shoeboxes. Free to read for Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
- 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.
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 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 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
A detailed look at the menstruation-related challenges young women in Fiji face at school and the impact they have on girls’ education.
- 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.
Read More From Holidappy
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.
- 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
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.
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!
- 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.
- 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 (children's size 10/12 or adult size xs/s)
- 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
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
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
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
What gifts would you pack for a 10-14 girl?
Franchesca W (author) from Atlanta, GA on November 01, 2019:
That's a great question given the scarcity of clean water in many of the areas where your shoebox may be delivered. Reusable pads generally come in sets of five or more, which provides coverage for the average length of an average period. It's unlikely that your shoebox recipient will have the resources to clean her cloth pads every day but providing a full set gives her the flexibility to wash them between periods when water is available.
Harlee on October 31, 2019:
Are they able to wash cloth pads?
Margie Dillard on February 25, 2019:
Do cloth feminine pads need instructions when sent to other countries? If so, how do we send these instructions in different languages?
Kevin Clouse on January 07, 2019:
When packing your items for shoe box. Cardboard/stiff paper boxes are better than the plastic tubs. While working at the sorting center, a large number of the plastic tubs came in broken and had to be repacked into cardboard shoe boxes.
Trina on December 10, 2018:
I made homemade jewelry kits including beads, charms, and string.
Linda on December 07, 2017:
I have been packing for OCC for several years. Our church is a drop off center and this is the first year I was the one to be there to accept the boxes. What a blessing! This year for the first time OCC had plastic (almost rubber) shoeboxes you could purchase. Check with the Drop off location. The cost isabout $1.50, and won't crack in the shipping as other plastic shoeboxes can. It's a bargain and gives the added benefit of a container to use year round. Go to the Operation Christmas Child website for some great ideas! I suggest using the shoeboxes provided by OCC. 15 of those will fit in the bottom of a shipping carton and plenty of room for more on top. The boot boxes and odd size shoeboxes are frequently used. However, consider using the ones provided. The cardboard shoeboxes are free of charge. More boxes sent per carton means less shipping fee which is already at $9 per shoebox. The simple gift of shopping, packing, giving and delivering your shoebox is the best gift you and your children will ever have. Consider looking for special gifts and bargains all year round. Use your Vacation Bible School or Kids Clubs as venues to encourage the kids to give to others. And do not forget to Pray, Pray, Pray! for that child(ren) who will be receiving your box(es) that they will find the lasting gift of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior! Happy gifting!
Franchesca W (author) from Atlanta, GA on November 15, 2017:
Because the rules changed recently and the images haven't yet been updated.
Melissa on November 13, 2017:
Why does it say NO toothpaste and then later it shows toothpaste? The same with candy.
Franchesca W (author) from Atlanta, GA on November 06, 2017:
@firstname.lastname@example.org The shoebox should be of "average" size. The boxes provided by Samaritan's Purse are quite small, like a shoebox you'd buy new flats or sandals in. I've used both those and larger boxes from hiking shoes. Extra large shoeboxes limit the number of gifts that can be shipped in each large box which then increases shipping costs for the organization so I'd advise against anything too oversized. I'm not sure about the floss picks but given that they are generally single-use and made of plastic, I think regular floss is a more environmentally conscious idea.
email@example.com on October 09, 2017:
I have wanted to do this for many, many years and I am finally going to make it happen this year! I have 6 beautiful kids and I am going to have each of them make a special box for a child in each of the age/gender options. My youngest daughter is 9 years old (with Autism) and she is truly very excited to be giving a gift to another child that she gets to pick out all on her very own. I do want to ask, does the "shoebox" have to be a specific size? Can we select a larger size plastic container from the dollar store? I know my kids, and they are going to want to send so many things that I am afraid it won't all fit. Also, the floss pick like things, are we allowed to send those? I'm asking because they have a sharp point like a toothpick on one side. I admire everyone who participates with this program and I am looking forward to making this a family tradition for each of my children every year at Christmas. God Bless!
Daphne on September 05, 2017:
The rules have changed for 2017: please do not pack any sort of food items (including candy) and do not pack toothpaste.
Deanna on July 17, 2017:
love this program. I always pack washcloth, soap, toothbrush combs, necklace, stuffed animal, slinky, hair wraps, sewing kits, crayons, colored pencils, pens markers, small note book, pillow cases, and I always use a plastic shoebox container you can get them for $1 and they can use them for so many things.
Kim on November 03, 2016:
These are great ideas, thank you so much. I wasn't sure what to pack for a teenage girl until now!
Akeba on December 12, 2015:
Menstural protection and washing products and include one fun thing for a child that is age approbiate.
Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on November 01, 2015:
I'm back again! With the holidays approaching I'm getting ready to fill my shoebox with items for young girls ages 5-9. This is my first year participating and I want to get it right. I'm so excited!
Tee on October 27, 2015:
Just received info from a missionary where they recieve the shoe boxes. And she said she has been in several places that recieve the shoeboxes.
A few things to keep in.mind. the countries that they deliver too do not get cold weather so no need for scarfs or gloves.
Barb Johnson from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula on October 01, 2015:
Some of the simplest and most practical ideas seem to escape us. Thanks for the informative article. Hope it encourages more support.
Joyfulcrown on December 17, 2014:
I love Operation Christmas Child and what they do for children. I encourage anyone who can to participate, it is worth it.
Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on December 17, 2014:
This is such a wonderful idea. The best time with the girls shoebox is now.
Franchesca W (author) from Atlanta, GA on December 17, 2014:
@peachpurple & @LadyGuinevere: It's not too late! If you live near one of Operation Christmas Child's processing centers, they accept hand-delivered shoeboxes through the third week of December (this week!) -- and shoeboxes can be mailed to the processing centers all year round! It is also possible to build a shoebox online. You pick what you'd like to include and Samaritan's Purse will make it for you. :)
Debra Allen from West By God on December 17, 2014:
I am going to share this. Even if it might be too late, I think it is never to late to get anykind of gifts such as these.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on December 17, 2014:
i would like to do that. Where can i participate? I want to send them some shoe box with gifts.
Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on December 17, 2014:
I would like to participate in this project. Where would I send the shoeboxes? Excellent and informative article. I voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting. Happy to share this and thanks.
Mary from Cronulla NSW on December 16, 2014:
I was glad to read your extensive list ideas wildsimplicity..we pack one up each year and sometimes run out of ideas..your list will help those of us that do..good job
Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on December 16, 2014:
This is a really cool project and thoughtful. A good project for children too. Nice of you to think of what the older children might need and what would make them happy.
Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on December 16, 2014:
I just did a hub on this topic but yours is full of great information. Hope anyone who read mine will also read yours! Merry!
Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on November 23, 2013:
Great lens with great suggestions!
Kirsti A. Dyer from Northern California on November 13, 2013:
chrisilouwho on November 09, 2013:
Those are wonderful ideas, some I wouldn't have ever thought of, thank you!
Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on November 09, 2013:
Enjoyed this article very much.
I have never heard of this before but like the idea of a child's shoebox christmas gift.
Even learnt something, I never knew you could buy reusable cloth menstrual pads, it brings back memories of when I first start my periods in early 1950's before tampax type came into use.
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on November 09, 2013:
You've put a lot of thought into this. Very commendable.
Joebeducci on November 09, 2013:
What a good initiative and a wonderful lens. I donate money, but haven't done this before, maybe I should :) Greets, Joebeducci
tonyleather on November 08, 2013:
I love the practicality of the suggestions. Great lens!
Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on November 08, 2013:
Our church is doing this too. Great ideas, thanks!
siskiyoucowgirl on November 08, 2013:
This is an excellent lens and wonderful ideas for an older girls shoebox. My family and I love packing them every year. :) Thank you for sharing!
DebW07 on November 08, 2013:
Our church participates in this wonderful event every year. Great gift ideas and great lens!