operation christmas child

It's a shame to throw away shoeboxes. I've often reused them to hold household items such as mail, CDs, coupons, odd small toys, photos, over-the-counter medications and to organize dressers. By accident, I realized they make great gift boxes, too. I bought some travel toys and crafts for my kids and placed them in spare shoeboxes. I've used ice-cream buckets, zip-enclosure bags and plastic lunchboxes, too. They're simple containers to keep toys, books, games and activities contained while in the car. Once we got back home, I placed their filled boxes in the closet. The next time I brought their boxes out, they were happy to look through their goodies. The boxes were like a mini version of our large-sized activity boxes that I assemble for rainy days and treasure boxes I made to use as a reward system. Watching my kids rummage through their boxes gave me the idea that the boxes would be a great tradition for holiday gifts. They're easy to mail, so they would work well for long-distance gift-giving, too. They can easily be personalized or made into themed gift boxes.
Here are some gift ideas. Not crazy about reusing a shoebox? Try using purses, tote bags or backpacks, buckets, dishpans or baskets. If you have any gift-theme ideas, let me know.

BACK-TO-SCHOOL KIT: Add crayons, scissors, ruler, colored pencils, markers, pencils, glue, sharpeners, erasers and hand sanitizer, etc.

CRAFT KIT: Include items such as yarn, chenille stems, pompoms, stickers, beads, play dough or clay, wooden craft sticks, glitter, glue, watercolor paints, foam shapes, construction paper, magazines or paper bags. For adults, you can include knitting, crocheting, scrapbook, gardening or sewing supplies.

TOYS: There are plenty of small toys you can add, such as cars, yo-yos, hand-held games, Legos, DVDs, bubbles, trading cards, stuffed animals, jump-ropes, paddle games, glow necklaces, puzzles, playing cards, etc.

OFFICE KIT: Add items such as a hole punch, stapler, thumb tacks, paper clips, pens and pencils, sticky notes, calendar, mouse pad, facial tissue, label maker, calculator, rubber bands, tape, stamps, etc.

AVID READER: You can include items such as paperback books, bookmarks, gift cards, cocoa, teas, mug and snacks.

CAR KIT: Include tire gauge, facial tissues, air freshener, car-wash coupons, car wax, CD, chamois or a key chain, flashlight, space blanket, hand warmers.

COLLEGE KIT: Add things like razors, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, lottery ticket, over-the-counter medications, hairbrush and snacks.

PET KIT: Add a leash, treats, toys, grooming supplies or collar.

GET-WELL BOX: Chicken soup, puzzle books, magazine, tea, cold medicine, slippers, cough drops, etc.

Popcorn, DVD, candies and pop.

UNMENTIONABLES: Shoeboxes are a good way to wrap socks and underwear, too. You can include a pair of socks or underwear for each month of the year. For example: red or heart-themed for February, green for March, bright colors for April, fall-themed for October, etc.

TEEN-GIRL KIT: Include nail polishes, cosmetics, brushes, hair accessories and journal, lotion, T-shirt, etc.

KITCHEN-GADGET LOVER: Add a whisk, melon baller, cookie cutters, apple corer, dish towels, recipe cards, spoon rest, potholders, herbs and spices, etc.

DONATIONS: Consider giving to Operation Christmas Child. You can pack and send a box that will provide hope to needy children whom will greatly benefit from your generosity. National collection week runs Nov. 17 to Nov. 24. For more information on local drop-off locations, contact Samaritan's Purse, P.O. Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607; (828) 262-1980; www.samaritanspurse.org.

photo by journeyguy