5 Creative Ideas for Shoebox Packing

September 23, 2021 • United States
Theresa Bell themed this shoebox around camping with a picture of a deer on the outside and a stuffed bear, an animal t-shirt, and a water bottle inside.
Theresa Bell themed this shoebox around camping with a picture of a deer on the outside and a stuffed bear, an animal t-shirt, and a water bottle inside.

Whether this is your first time filling a shoebox or you’ve been at it for years, use the list below to jump-start your packing!

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Shoebox season is here! As you pray about how your shoebox can bring great joy and the Good News of Jesus Christ to boys and girls in need, take a moment to check out our short list of innovative packing ideas. If you implement one or more of these suggestions and choose quality gifts, then your shoebox is sure to become a priceless treasure for the child who receives it!

1. Choose a Theme

Select a favorite color, animal, or Bible verse and coordinate the items in your box around it. This little bit of additional effort goes a long way in delighting a child!

Nicole packed this pink- and panda-themed shoebox in honor of her late daughter Amber.

“I enjoy packing themed boxes because I believe it makes the gifts extra special,” said Nicole Kingsbury of Verona, Pennsylvania. “It shows the child that they are special and loved by a creative God.” She created the pink and panda box [pictured] with visions of encouraging a child whose favorite color is pink.

“My kids have often been my inspiration when choosing a theme to pack,” Nicole said. “My late daughter Amber used to love to come up with creative themes for her boxes so I plan to continue packing them in honor of her.”

This year, Theresa Bell of Zillah, Washington, packed a shoebox around the theme of camping [shown at top] with a picture of a deer on the outside of the box and a stuffed bear, animal t-shirt, and water bottle inside. She packs hundreds of themed boxes every year and said, “I want each kid when they open it up to realize that somebody spent a lot of time on this.”

Theresa always prays that the children who receive her themed boxes will accept Jesus Christ into their hearts. “I also pray that they’ll go through The Greatest Journey,” she said, mentioning the discipleship course designed specifically for shoebox recipients.

2. Personalize It!

In addition to including a note to the child and a photo of yourself inside, you can actually personalize the box itself as well!

On a day that it was raining, Sue was inspired to draw Noah’s ark on a shoebox lid and fill the box with rain gear and a coloring book among other fun items.

Sue Luma of Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, makes sure that every shoebox gift she packs has a personalized lid, bearing encouraging words and drawings. She wants each child to know that someone loved them enough to create the special artwork for them. At times, she designs some lids to be more interactive, containing a road, checkerboard, or a dollhouse scene for the child to use when playing with the items in their shoebox. She even makes sure that the box contents follow the theme of her lids.

“I pray that their eyes will just see Jesus, that their hearts will be so filled and know that Jesus loves them,” Sue said.

3. Make Your “Wow” Item Special!

Renee Clark of Hamilton, Alabama, created this tiger-themed shoebox gift to inspire others in her church to bless children in need. She also did butterfly- and dinosaur-themed boxes as well.

Try including an instrument inside your shoebox gift as the item designed to “wow” the child when they open it. Kirby Smith of Bath County, Virginia, chose to pack xylophones in a few of her shoebox gifts and said, “Music is universal. No matter what country it ends up in, a child can enjoy it.” Maracas and ukuleles also work well!

Other fun ideas include a hammock, winter coat, rain gear, or remote-control vehicles (with extra batteries). Or if you’re a crafter, handmade doll clothes are great to include as well. Deflated soccer balls with pumps and cuddly stuffed animals are always a good addition, too!

4. Did You Know THIS Could Also Be Included?

Watercolor sets, glue sticks, markers, store-bought creative dough, and non-medicated, stick-style lip balm can all be included! Squirt guns that don’t look like real guns are also a real hit with shoebox recipients, as are marbles, plastic mirrors, and non-liquid make-up. Wet wipes are also a great idea—just make sure they’re not the antibacterial or medicated kind.

Sara Lewis of West Union, Ohio, has been packing shoeboxes for 14 years and loves to include reusable feminine hygiene products in her shoeboxes. “In a lot of countries, if these girls don’t have the supplies they need, they don’t get to attend school,” said Sara. “How horrible is that to have to miss a whole week of school every month!” In each box, she packs five reusable pads, four pairs of underwear, and 20 feet of clothesline to aid in the laundry process.

5. Celebrate with Build a Shoebox Online


Mark (left) and Pastor Alex sport their new look after their church met their challenge of packing over 120 shoebox gifts!

Our online option for packing shoeboxes provides a great way to honor a loved one or celebrate a special birthday or anniversary! This is especially true if you opt to create a goal page at samaritanspurse.org/buildonline. You can name your goal page in honor of an occasion or special someone and invite others to join you in celebrating! Some goal pages have encouraged people to build 50 boxes in honor of a 50th birthday, or to remember a late grandmother’s birthday because she had such a heart for children.

Cancer survivor Mark Giardinelli added a twist to his goal page last year by telling his Boerne, Texas, church that he’d shave his head if they built 100 boxes online, roughly one per each member of the congregation. When they got close to their goal, his pastor, Alex Lahue, raised the ante saying he’d also shave his head if the church did another 20. By the time the goal page was finished, the church had packed 130 shoebox gifts to bless children in need.

“Packing shoeboxes is both fun and exciting,” Mark said, “and it’s a great ministry opportunity to share the Gospel around the world.”

National Collection Week is coming! Don’t forget to pack shoeboxes and drop them off Nov. 15-22.

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Operation Christmas Child Through Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan’s Purse is sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with millions of boys and girls in more than 100 countries each year. Many of these children have never before received a present or heard the true meaning of Christmas—until they open a gift-filled shoebox from a person like you. Some people are not able to give the $9 per shoebox we request for shipping and related costs. By adopting a shoebox, you can partner with them to deliver the Gospel and help "bring salvation to the ends of the earth" (Acts 13:47, ESV).

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Adopt a Shoebox: $9 | Adopt a Carton of 15 Boxes: $135
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