I first participated in Operation Christmas Child when I was going to college. I attended a small church, with a big heart for the hurting world around them. I was far from home and needed something bigger than myself to participate in. I love children, and Christmas, so buying toys and gifts for hurting children was a perfect fit for me.
Packing shoe boxes really doesn’t cost a lot in the way of time or money, but it does require some thought and prayer – lots of prayer. This year, I’m coordinating the OCC collection efforts for my church. Each November, we enjoy having a church wide Packing Party, where we lay out hundreds of small gifts and pack them into shoe boxes. As we prepare for that fun event we will be collecting a different item, or set of items each month. The month of January was pretty simple: bar soap, and wash rags. February moves into the fun stuff, so here we go.
This February we will be collecting toys, and gifts for little 2 to 4 year old girls around the world. In preparation for leading these efforts I have come up with several gift ideas that would be great to include in shoe boxes for this age group. All of these items can be found at Walmart, and no single item costs more than $10, many less than $5. However – and this is important- I don’t like to see these OCC gift boxes packed with cheap stuff. These shoe boxes go to desperately hurting children. Children who have seen more pain, and hurt in their short lives than most Americans will ever need to think about. Children who are often malnourished, orphaned, alone. These kids don’t need a box full of party favors that will break in a week or two. They need boxes that show real effort. Real love. Real investment.
So, without further ado: 12 ideas for 2-4 year old girl shoe box gifts.
These small, brightly colored blankets come in bundles of 4 for $7.97.
Imagine not having a bed. Or a pillow. Not even a blanket. And even if you did have a blanket, imagine that it was old, worn thin, dirty, and ugly. Now imagine opening up a gift from a complete stranger and finding a beautiful new blanket to call your own? Precious.
Stuffed Animals or Dolls:
Less than a foot long and flexible these stuffed toys are perfect for shoe boxes. The Monkey on the left was only $2.98 in the Valentine section at Walmart. The other 2 are $5 each in the toy department. (The Minnie is actually Gracie’s. She loves it and I hope to find more like her to brighten another child’s life.)
If you had no family, only a dirty orphanage to call “home,” how amazing would it be to have a soft animal to hug and hold? Life changing.
(I have no idea why this one won’t flip up-right. Some time when there is less chaos in the house, I will work on that.)
These sweet little cups can be found just about year around, in various colors, depending on the nearest holiday. And at $.98 for 4 of them, anyone can afford to send these much needed gifts!
Imagine drinking dirty water. Water you, or a family member, had to walk to retrieve. Imagine sharing the same cup with the whole family. Or maybe having no cup at all. How excited would you be to open a shoe box and find a beautiful cup to call your very own. Wonderful.
Blocks and Balls:
Our children have largely forgotten the joys of good old fashioned blocks and balls. But in other countries such toys are a luxury. Bless 12 little girls, each with a fun tennis ball for just $7.44. Or bless a single girl with her own set of blocks for only $5.96.
If you had no toys, and some one came to give you blocks or a ball, how would you feel. Excited.
Socks and Shoes*:
These cute, sturdy little shoes were $4.87. Of course, flip-flops are also welcome, but to have real shoes is such a blessing. The six adorable pairs of socks were only $4.47. A whole package could be included or 2-3 boxes could get 2-3 pairs each.
Imagine walking barefoot every where you went. To town. Through the pasture. Over hard, sharp rocks. All with no shoes at all. This is reality for many children who receive shoe boxes gifts from Operation Christmas Child. Imagine the shock of finding your very own shoes and socks inside your box. Overjoyed.
Shirts, shorts, pants, skirts, and dresses all make wonderful additions to the gift boxes. Try to keep shirts fun, but avoid culturally specific clothes. Stick with stripes, flowers, bright colors, and avoid words or movie icons that won’t mean much to children in other cultures. Garanimals brand is pretty long lasting, and super cute. This shirt was $3.88 and the dress was $4.97. Remember all clothes must be new. This is not a reason to clean ot your kids clothes, unless they have things that still have tags.
Imagine showing up to school one day for a shoe box distribution; your shirt is too big and and you have no pants at all. What joy to find a new, clean dress inside your shoe box. Loved.
It’s good to include underwear in every box that is packed, but it can be difficult to keep sizes straight once packages are opened (to only include 2-3 pairs in each box.) This whole little package of 3 can be packed in a shoe box. They were only $4.43.
Imagine wearing the same dirty pair of underwear for days, weeks; maybe until they just flat wore out. That isn’t at all something we can relate to here, but it is reality for many children who will receive shoe box gifts. Imagine finding your very own package of underwear – all yours to keep. Thrilled.
Odd and Ends:
Bracelets, necklaces, sun glasses, hats, hair bows and clips… these all make great treats to help fill the last corners of the boxes. These bracelets were only $.98 for 12. By the way, this is permission to include some party favors in each box AFTER you have packed it with great, life altering gifts.
Above all else be sure to shop, select, pack, and ship these boxes with prayer. Pray that the right child will receive the gift she needs in the moment she needs it. Pray that these gifts will open hearts to hear the Love of Christ. Pray.
*Many people fear buying the wrong size clothing. This is a logical fear, but we can’t let it stop us from packing these much needed items in our boxes. I tend to shop on the middle to high end of sizes for each age group; knowing that a young child will get extra use from a garment that is slightly too big when she receives it.