And here we go again. I have not one gift for my family or friends for Christmas but I do have three shoe boxes filled with gifts and candy for three children that are not as great off as I am. Packing my shoe boxes for operation Christmas Child is a wonderful way to start get into the Christmas spirit.
And as some of you already know since 2018 my youngest sister and I are volunteering at the Christmas factory. There are two Christmas factories here in Germany. One is located in the south of Berlin and so we usually pick a day and a time to do a 4-hour shift of helping to sort through all the donations, check the items if they go through customs and to pack it all up so it can be loaded to the trucks.
Our volunteering day is coming up this Friday. We will spend the evening shift from 5-9 pm at the logistics center of the German branch of Operation Christmas child. I guess by now we are somewhat pros. This will be our fifth year doing it. I love this sisterly tradition and we are always so excited when the newsletter is delivered to our mail boxes letting us know that the schedules are. We then pick a date and sign up.
I usually push to have an early day – preferably in November because then I can focus on other things in December. My sister likes to have it at the start of December so she can be a bit more into the Christmas spirit. We usually find a day. Sound that time and we are both happy.
In the past couple of years I have been trying to also put together some shoe boxes for children I don’t know. This year I have again done three boxes.
I was a little late gathering some gifts. Usually I buy gifts at the stores when they are reduced and collect over the year. This year however I have tried to not have any when moving. And ever since I didn’t really come across anything or thought about it. So a couple of weeks I started buying a little randomness things I figured could fit the box.
And now that I packed it up I am not too happy on how I ended up with one box that has almost double the value than the other. It is not fair in my opinion but I can’t really do anything now. I guess it is the thought that counts. But next year I think I will set myself a budget and be a bit more mindful about buying things.
Packing a shoe box for age 5-9
Anyway I decided to pack two boxes for the age of 5-9. I personally dont really like that you need to buy for girl or boy. I am trying to steer clear of the gender blue-pink trap but it is not easy here. Nevertheless I at least managed to have the color scheme a bit more neutral – at least for two boxes.
Here is my box for a little boy.
I packed the following items:
- playmobil figurines
- coloring book
- coloring pencils
- wash cloth
- toothbrush and tooth paste
- bandaids – thank you Elisabeth for that suggestion last year.
The boys box cost me around 15€ in total.
Here is my box for a little girl.
This box included the same items as the boys box with additional:
- hair pins
- festive earrings
The girls box cost me around 20€.
Packing a shoe box for age 10-14
This year I really felt like I wanted to buy for a teenage girl. I have no idea why. And I went a bit overboard. But it was just fun to put a pink box together. I originally wanted to get a big fluffy scarf but nothing was cute enough and I didn’t want to spend too much money. I ended up going with perfume as a major gift. Here is what went into the box:
- cosmetic bag
- shampoo, conditioner and body lotion
- festive earrings
- candy and cocolate
- fluffy socks
- coloring book and felt tipped pens
- note book
This box cost me around 30€.
Next year I think I am aiming for a box around 20 € each. That should be a nice budget for it. I am wondering if you also pack a box. Do you set yourself a budget? Would you just go and by what you like at the spur of the moment? Do you collect pieces throughout the year?
I’d love to hear your experience here.
For now I say good night. It is rather late and I am tired.
Happy Shoe box packing
Previous post about Operation Christmas Child and our volunteering at the Christmas Factor can be found in the following posts.
What a lovely tradition you have. When I was a teenager girl, all I wanted was fancy pens and journals. Turns out that teenage me and now me have similar desires!
Right? fancy pens and journals. This is why I’ve gotten the special pastel ones. Those are hopefully a hit. The lovely polka dot journal is actually one I bought for myself but I decided to minimize a bit and so it can move on and hopefully sparks joy.
Oh my goodness, what a lovely tradition to take part in! And the contents of the gift boxes are wonderful — those children are going to be delighted to open these beautiful gifts.
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Thank you so much Suzanne. I love our tradition and look forward to this for the entire year. I hope I can put some smiles on at least 3 children’s faces with sending off my box.
We DO pack Operation Christmas Child boxes every year; generally two, but sometimes we buy too much and add a third.
We do it so that our kids mirror their own gender/age onto a box; so our son packed a box for a 5-9 year old boy (though we also try to keep things relatively gender neutral) and our daughter did a 11-14 year old girl.
We don’t set a budget; most years I would say each box costs about $50 CAD + we’re asked to include $10/box to offset shipping costs. We always include things like Band-Aids, pencils, paper, hair elastics, bar soap, socks…I do also have a gift box that I keep in my basement where I add little things over the year so I also “shop” from that. We also try to buy fun things too, like putty, a stuffed animal, or a small game. We’re not allowed to include ANY candy now (when we started packing boxes we could do hard candy, but now NO candy is allowed, so it’s hard to find a “treat” to include). We also can’t include any lotions or gels. Hence the bar soap!
I think you can also buy contents for a box online, and sometimes I’d rather do that…but doing it in person helps the kids get engaged.
Some of my nieces in the US live close to a distribution center and they have volunteered before. Each box gets checked and, apparently, most get modified in some way – removing some items, adding in others so they are more “equal” when they get shipped out – at least at the distribution site they worked at!
I love that you are a fellow box packer. And I love that you want your kids engaged. I think it is important to know that not everyone is as cared for as we grew up.
In our distribution center we also ad things is a box is very poorly thrown together. You can tell if someone really put a heart Ito it or if someone just wanted to get rid of junk. Last year there were many boxes I was ashamed of to be honest. I usually try to leave the box as the person who packed it though. It is also showing personality and often people have a concept. I hate that to be messed up. But others just put more stuff in.
What a great tradition! I never heard about it but I love the idea. I think you did a great job putting the boxes together! We have a holiday toy drive in our area where they put up collection bins in different areas what makes it really easy to donate.
Thank you. It is fun to shop for random people because you can get creative.
The toy drive sounds fun too. Did you donate there before?
The Operation Christmas Child is actually an American charity I think.
I have never heard of this charity, it sounds wonderful.
We generally shop for 2 different local charities for the holidays. For one, I pick a name of a foster child from a local independent pharmacy, and it has a couple of items that the child would like. I try to pick teenagers. I think that younger kids are often more fun to shop for, and so they tend to get picked, and I don’t want the teenagers to feel left out. Since my daughter is an adult, the factor of trying to pick someone her age isn’t a factor anymore.
The second charity is also a wish based one, where we are given the (first) name of a homeless person in our community, and a wish list for them. It is usually clothes. Socks, gloves, things to keep them warm.
For both there is a price limit, which I think is a good idea. Sad for one person to get $100 worth of things and the person next to them $10 worth of things. On the other hand, if you only have $10 to spare, you should still be able to participate, so that’s another side of the issue I guess.
It is a wonderful charity and my sister and I really enjoy our volunteering. I like that you do a more local charity. And helping out homeless people is a nice thing to support. I usually try to observe which age and gender group get the least amount of boxes and try to pack one for that. Last year though there were lots for teenage girls and boys and not many for the youngest age group. So I guess it is always a bit random. We’ll see ho it is this year and if I can take away any learnings for next year.
You already know how much I love that you do this every year!! And don’t worry about the value being different – first of all, they won’t be able to compare and second of all, it just always doesn’t work out equally. The most important thing is that someone is getting a package from you that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. <3
It is true, three people get a present that is all that matters. Maybe next year it will be different maybe not. I should pay to much attention and just do what I feel like with these shoe boxes.
I love this so much! I have sometimes done charitable gifts like this at Christmastime, but it’s been a bit of time since I’ve done it. I like the shoebox idea – I need to see if there’s an option for that near me!
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The organization behind is actually an American charity so you might find them near you. It is a very cherished tradition I have with my sister to go there.
What a lovely, giving tradition. I don’t have options near me but might look for a local one that is similar. I suspect all of the kids will love their individual boxes – you clearly put thought and care into them, and it will show. :)
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Thank you Anne. It has become of one of my favorite traditions to kick off the season. Hope you can find something near you.