Last December I spent an afternoon helping to pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child and learned three things:
1. Operation Christmas Child is ah-may-zing.
2. Working a packing line is nothing like a Lucy and Ethel comedy. Not saying it wasn’t fun, but no chocolates where shoved in my mouth.
3. Boys ages 10-14 are painfully underrepresented.
In case you’re not familiar with OCC, they gather thousands and thousands of packed boxes of Christmas gifts. People over around North America have prepared boxes filled with gifts for either a boy or a girl in the age categories of 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Can you guess which kids got the most boxes? Of course you can, because you’re no dummy. Girls ages 2-4 and 5-9. And I get it. I really do. All that cute girl stuff!! Who wouldn’t love to get one of those boxes?!
A boy age 10-14, that’s who. OCC is driven by the generosity of thousands and do their best to distribute what they have. But if you only have girl boxes for 2-4 or 5-9 year-olds, what can you do?
I have a friend who works at a home in India where kids get these boxes and she says it’s heart breaking to see a boy ask for a boy box and … then be given a girl box. It’s a small thing. Or is it?
If girls were being ignored, we’d go all Title IX about it and yell “Girl power!” But it’s not girls, it’s boys.
The truth is, I think you’re like me and want to pack a box for a boy, but don’t know what to get. I’ve been thinking about this all year and have done informal polling on Facebook — wow, the ideas that poured in. Thank you.
Good news, this is a solvable problem! Here are 11 gift ideas for boys ages 10-14 with a few reminders from my friend:
- Aim for the lower end of the age range, in this case age 10.
- These kids are raised without IPADs or computer games—don’t think North American boy. These are the poorest of the poor.
- Boys in that age range like coloring books too.
- Dollar stores have good stuff for boys!
1. Card games —it doesn’t matter that they can’t read the rules, they’ll make up their own! Ideas include: Old maid, crazy eights, or Go fish
2. Items with Super heros, sports, or cars (maybe not American football and you know it pains me to say :)). Boys are boys are boys. Oh, not stuff with war toys or weapons. But there’s a lot out there with super heroes, sports or cars!
3. Small toys—like yo-yo’s, balls on a string, I found a small board game for basketball involving a dice and two pegs (dollar store type of place), marbles.
4. Legos—turns out this is really popular! They can get expensive. The cheapest (and good for small boxes) are creator lego sets and they go for $4.95 at Barnes and Noble. or Target.
5. Round things—small balls, nerf balls, and I’ll say it again, marbles.
6. Logic games and puzzles—guess what, Rubik Cubes are big in the junior high scene in America this year. So, you can find them fairly easily. Or variations for Rubik Cubes (remember those snakes? and circles?). Puzzles — I found small puzzles with cars, trucks, or cartoon characters playing basketball. Dominos are good too!
7. Toothbrush and comb—You can also put a bar of soap in the box (but no liquids like toothpaste). Hey, they might prefer a box of all toys, but their teeth will thank them later.
8. Coloring books and crayons—just not princesses or too girly. Sports, super heroes, animals. You might think this is below them, it’s not. Other school supplies too — colored pencils, markers, small notebooks.
9. Flash-lights and batteries—Can’t you picture a group of boys playing with flashlights?!
10. Solar calculator—How else will they learn the magic of 43046721? (Take the square root, take the square root, take the square root, take the square root and what do you have? Other than a whole lot of fun?!) These are things we’ve been conditioned to think are not fun. Well, we’re wrong :).
11. Something silly—like fake teeth or plastic bugs. I can just hear the laughter now! And Jesus smiling. He was a boy after all.
11.5 What Bonnie said in the comments—We include a bar of soap and wash cloth, toothbrush, bandana, drawstring bag, ruler, a level, screwdriver (one philips and one regular), bungee cords, pair of work gloves, marbles or nerf ball, pencil pouch with pencils, sharpener, eraser and colored pencils or crayons, and a small stuffed animal.
Here is a PDF to print off and share with people at church or work who also want to help boys but feel stuck.—operationchristmaschild-boyideas-high
(Thanks Katherine for using your mad graphic skills!)
I hope that helps you with ideas and gets you excited to SHOP FOR BOYS — my new mini-campaign (#shopforboys). Care to join me? You can find more about Operation Christmas Child and how to pack a box here.
There are small and simple ways to make a difference in the life of a boy, who will grow up to be a man. The news often makes me feel more helpless than I really am. We are not helpless! We can #shopforboys. Would you consider helping to get this message out? Girl boxes may outnumber boy boxes, but let’s dent that ratio!
Are you with me?