‘Can This Go in My Shoebox?’ FAQ

Why aren’t playing cards allowed?

Our overseas partners have requested we do not send 4-suit playing cards because they can be associated with a culture of gambling and drinking that negatively affects some of the communities of the children receiving boxes. However, we encourage you to include other card games like Snap or Uno.

How about little toys like spiders, bugs, snakes, etc.?

These items are allowed unless they are extremely life-like and could frighten a child.

Can we include batteries?

Yes. However, if the batteries are loose, both ends must be covered with tape.

Can we include paint sets or glue bottles?

No, both of these items are liquids and can’t be included in your shoebox gifts. However, dry paint sets (such as watercolours or paint pallettes) or glue sticks are OK to pack!

Can we include a toolkit with nails, screws, screwdrivers, and hammers?

Yes, for shoeboxes in the 10-14 age category. The only tools that cannot be included are saws or pocketknives. Please ensure anything that is loose or sharp is wrapped so as not to harm the child when they put their hands in the shoebox.

Are scissors OK?

Yes, as long as they age appropriate (preferably those with a round nose or those that are part of a kit).

Can items with camouflage be included?

If the child can wear or use the items without looking like a soldier, they are OK to include in your shoebox gift. Pink or coloured camouflage is safe as are pencils or wallets.

Are water pistols allowed?

We do not allow anything that resembles or could be mistaken for a weapon.

Can glow sticks go in a shoebox gift?

No, we are not able to send liquids of any kind.

Can we include wet wipes?

Yes, wet wipes do not have enough liquid to spill out into the shoebox so they are OK to include in your gift. We recommend that you place them in a plastic bag.

Can rubber balls be included if they have liquid glitter inside?

No, these would be considered inappropriate because of the liquid.

Are sweets allowed in shoebox gifts?

Sweets are no longer considered appropriate items, as more exacting import regulations are starting to be implemented within the countries that receive UK shoeboxes. Detailed evidence of ingredients and expiry dates, which logistically cannot be supplied, will soon be a requirement. By removing sweets, we hope to prevent potential barriers and maintain the access to reach children in all receiving countries.

Is lip gloss OK to pack in a shoebox gift?

Lip gloss is a liquid and can’t be included. However, Chapstick, lip balm or lipstick can go!

Can I include toothpaste in my shoebox?

Toothpaste is no longer considered an appropriate item, as more exacting import regulations are starting to be implemented within the countries that receive UK shoeboxes. Detailed evidence of ingredients and expiry dates, which logistically cannot be supplied, will soon be a requirement. By removing toothpaste, we hope to prevent potential barriers and maintain the access to reach children in all receiving countries.

Is Play-Doh OK to pack in a shoebox gift?

Yes, Play-Doh can be included in your shoebox gift. However, some children might think it is edible, so it is best packed with cutters or as part of a kit.

Can compact mirrors go in a shoebox gift?

Yes. Compact mirrors can be included because if the glass shatters, it will be contained.

Is clothing or footwear allowed in my shoebox?

We do not recommend that you add large items of clothing or footwear to your shoebox, as it takes up so much room. We want the child to receive a gift that has a good variety of items that they can love, learn from and play with. Small items like hats, gloves, socks, flip-flops or a rolled up T-shirt are fine as long as they do not dominate the box.

Are handmade and knitted items suitable for shoeboxes?

Yes, high quality handmade items such as hats, gloves, scarves, bags, purses, pencil cases, puppets and toys can all be packed, providing any stuffing used is proper toy stuffing and not dried beans or newspaper etc. Toys made from recycled wood are also great gifts to pack, but crafts obviously made from waste items such as bottle tops cannot be sent.

Can I include reusable sanitary pads?

Sanitary items are not recommended, as the shoebox aims to be a fun gift rather than aid.

Can I include a sewing kit?

Yes, for the 10-14 category. Please ensure anything that is loose or sharp is wrapped so as not to harm the child when they put their hands in the shoebox.

Do I need to leave labels and packaging on my items?

Feel free to remove packaging as long as it does not contain information that is needed e.g. building instructions. We would also suggest leaving packaging on hygiene items e.g. toothbrushes and bars of soap.

Can my note include my address?

It’s a personal choice really. Putting your own address in can sometimes leading to begging letters but on rare occasions can also lead to personal thank you messages. One alternative, if you are concerned, might be to use a neutral address such as a church or school. Whatever you do decide, photos of who sent the box always go down well and are often kept for years.

How do I know what climate to pack for?

Unfortunately, we are not able to tell you where your shoebox will be sent before you send it. However, it is our experience that items like hats and gloves are enjoyed in a range of climates. In fact, putting on these items is often the first thing a child does upon opening their shoebox gift. If you do have concerns, we suggest packing items that can be enjoyed wherever the box is sent.

Why can’t we send religious literature?

We do not send political or religious literature in shoeboxes as the gift itself should be simple and uncontentious in nature. This also allows the local church to manage sensitively the relations with their communities. Literature that comes from the donor’s context and in the donor’s language – including Christian content – can confuse and mislead the children.

Instead Operation Christmas Child works hard to support the overseas churches to share the Christmas story of new life in Jesus in a child friendly way both verbally and through The Greatest Gift and The Greatest Journey materials in the local language. Where local partners assess it’s not appropriate to offer these materials, they don’t do so.

Can we send second hand items?

We cannot send obviously used items as most customs regulations require items to be new. Also, many children are more worldly wise than we realise and would be aware of the difference between someone’s unwanted items and a box of brand new gifts bought just for them. We feel that as the children have so little they deserve the best we can offer.