Here are some suggestions for packing shoeboxes for the 2-4 year olds for Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes.

Boy or Girl, the items are almost the same!  Something to hug and something to play with – would be the biggest priority for these little ones 🙂

Boy and Girl 2-4 year olds boxes.jpg

Let’s list some items that would be perfect for any 2-4 year old!

Some items have links to Amazon.  This post may contain affliate links.  Check my Disclosure policy.

Stuffed Animal or Doll:  In this age category, generally choose a slightly larger one than for the other 2 age groups.


  • Hat, Visor
  • Gloves, mittens
  • Scarf
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Shoes
  • Flip Flops
  • T-shirt, any shirt
  • Pants
  • Jacket
  • Bandana

Concerned about size? Remember bigger is better than smaller.   HERE is a handy printable size chart you can bring with you to the stores!

Hygiene Items (many of these items will be shared with their family):

School Supplies:  Even though this age doesn’t attend school, it’s still great to include these both for practice AND for their families to use:

  • Pencils and sharpener (Sometimes they have the chunky larger size, but any will do)
  • crayons
  • coloring pages or coloring book
  • all kinds of different paper–pads, construction paper
  • easy to use safety scissor (when I worked at a nursery school, I found that the children may not be able to use them well, but they love trying and learning.  We would start practice with the 2 and 1/2 year olds!)
  • watercolor set and brush
  • big chunky markers

Fun Items:

  • Balls (tennis balls, wiffle balls, bouncy balls, paddleballs, hacky sack, football, nerf balls, beach ball, juggling balls)
  • Cars or trucks (every boy seems to LOVE “matchbox” type cars)
  • toys that light up, talk, squeak or make a noise
  • totebag, purse
  • Large Blocks (Duplo type)
  • puppets, finger puppets
  • board or cloth books
  • Sunglasses
  • toy jewelry, even boys like those rubber bracelets
  • for boys, maybe plastic tools
  • very simple puzzles
  • Silly Masks
  • Sippy Cups
  • Rubber Duckies

Hard Candy – check the expiration date and place in a baggie (HOWEVER 2016 is the last year to include, as of 2017 candy and toothpaste will not be allowed to be packed in the US).  Lollipops or candy necklaces are great ideas.   Avoid any candies that might pose a choking hazard.  And make sure to double bag!! So many candies have ruined the inside contents of boxes!

Finally a letter or definitely a picture.  Every child loves to see the picture of the people who packed their box.

One girl in Lithuania found a photo in her box and asked who the people were. When she learned that they sent the gift, she took the photo and kissed all of the people in it!”

Not every box has to be the same!  Not every box has to include every item!! ** These are just suggestions. **  Pray and Pack!


  • War related toys (soldiers, guns, etc).   No camo clothes or items.
  • NO knives or saws.
  • No Harry Potter or Pokemon
  • Liquids or lotions. So no bubbles or shampoo or liquid glue. It might leak and ruin the box.
  • Dirty/used/worn items.  Anything obviously used or worn will be removed from your shoebox.
  • Food or chocolate.  It might melt or spoil.
  • Medications and vitamins.
  • Aerosal cans.
  • No seeds

Action figures, Star Wars, Teen Aged Ninja Turtles and knights are allowed –  weapons must be removed.

HERE are directions for simple “lovey” blankets I made for this age group.

HERE is my Pinterest Board listing some fun ideas and craft tutorials for the 2-4 Age Group.
 I had posted HERE that the fewest boxes they receive are for the 2-4 and 10-14 Boys.



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21 Responses to What to Pack for the 2-4 Year Olds

  1. Thank you so much! We’ve been gathering goodies since last year, and I usually end up stumped with what to do for the little ones. I’m printing this list!

  2. Cathy says:

    Hi, Could you give some suggestions for the 10-14 year old boys and girls. Thanks!

  3. Kay Medved says:

    Most toys say for children 3+ which makes it hard to pack for 2-4 year olds. One thing I found that said for 2+ is a Mr. Potatoe Head and I found smaller ones at Dollar General. Just a suggestion.

    Children that are 2-4 years old probably don’t need too much to make them happy, but we fill up the boxes for them. Good rule of thumb: We generally use the smaller shoe boxes for this age group and go up from there. The larger boxes for the 10-14 year olds.

  4. Cat says:

    Well said, Kay. Besides the usual toiletries and school supplies, I keep it simple– stuffed animal, a tennis ball, coloring books. Plus a clothing item and/or flip flops. I generally buy 4T if I find a good clothing clearance. Finish off with a happy meal toy or two and you’re good to go. Easy, same stuff forboth genders, too…just different colors.

  5. lin says:

    I always include a stuffed animal and clothes, toys, candy, school supplies and anything else I can stuff in there. I’d never go smaller for my boxes, because they can always share with their siblings if they didnt get school supplies. I use tupperware shoeboxes for all 4 of mine, just because they can save it and reuse it. I currently watch a 2 yr old and he’s happy with anything from cars to wooden blocks, books, puppets, paints, or even stickers to put on blank paper. I started a pinterest board with ideas. if you want to add to them with me that’d be great to pass around for others . Happy Packing!!

  6. Mark says:

    Children at distributions are supervised by adults, so if you include toys that a child is too young to play with yet, an adult can set them aside, or supervise play. I do try to put in child-safe items, but beyond that I don’t worry too much.

    With 2-4 boxes I am careful about two things particularly, though. I try to choose candy that is either crumbly or powdery (Nerds, Pixy Stix, Razzles, and so on), rather than hard. I also avoid putting balloons or magnets in boxes for little kids. They are great fillers for older kids’ boxes, but dangerous for little kids.

  7. Mark says:

    I’ve heard people express concern about whether certain clothing would be right for the climate where the child lives. Because you don’t know where your box is going, it’s hard to know if the child lives in a warm, cold, dry, or wet climate. My experience is, it doesn’t really matter. Nice clothes that are suitable for the climate are especially good. But even if they’re not, nice clothes are a fun thing for kids to put on. They are colorful and decorative, and to the kids they are like an ornament or costume.

    On a distribution trip, the kids all immediately put on the wool hats, gloves, scarves, caps, T-shirts, and sunglasses from their boxes and wore them the whole time.

  8. Olivia says:

    Rubber duckies! 🙂

  9. Cat says:

    I love the posts here–I’m learning so much.

    Regarding clothing–I avoid winter items, and I mostly send tshirts and socks. I figure in cold weather, the tshirt can be layered with another shirt. Tshirts are forgiving size-wise as well, but even an enormous t-shirt is comfortable for sleeping.

    I have also sent a lot of flip flops in past years. My thought is that in cold climates, a child may need them for shower shoes.

  10. Cat says:

    Toothpaste question–I’m way over my OCC budget and I have no children’s toothpaste, only the regular adult kind. If I don’t find a dentist to donate, it’s safer for me to leave it out of the 2-4 boxes, correct?

    What about 5-9 boxes–is my adult colgate ok to send?

    • Michalene says:

      This didn’t even occur to me, so thank you for bringing it up! Now I need to be on the lookout for kids toothpaste..

    • Mary says:

      I just noticed today that in the brand new brochures “Toothpaste” is not even listed. Nor is candy. I am going to make a few calls to see just what that means!

      I think it would be fine to leave it out, and adult is fine for the 5-9 boxes. Not all the boxes must have the same items. These are only suggestions.

  11. Cathy says:

    Mary, I actually asked about candy on the Samaritans purse site just last week. A friend who is new to OCC was telling me that candy is not on the list of suggested items and they dont put it in the Build A Box shoeboxes. They response I got is that candy is still ok, but they suggest sending “lasting” items instead. I bet this is the case with toothpaste as well. But you could make the same argument for soap and crayons.

    Not to open a big can of worms here, butI would rather OCC took a firm stand on the candy issue–I hate to think of some kids getting it and others not.

    • Mary says:

      I find it confusing 🙁 I am calling about it today. I’ll write a post when I know.

    • Mary says:

      I don’t have a full answer yet, however, candy and toothpaste have expiration dates and that can be an enormous problem at customs and could hold up an entire container of shoe boxes. Also, candy melts. Not all. But many people don’t double bag, and just throw in handfuls because they think it would be fun for the child to discover. However my friend Samantha just came back from the Philippines, and saw a number of boxes ruined by Jolly Ranchers and Tootsie Rolls that were not completely sealed and leaked all over the box. 🙁 Toys, school supplies, soap, etc., just don’t have that problem!

      • Mark says:

        The video on the website still mentions candy. Just remember to double-bag it. I agree candy and other items that get used up quickly shouldn’t be the main feature of the box, but a small amount should be fine.

        Candy and toothpaste should be new, not near (or past) its expiration date. Some boxes take a while to arrive, and some countries’ customs agents are sticklers for expiration dates.

  12. Marla says:

    I love to put in Playdough in the 2-4 age shoeboxes and simple puzzles, memory cards, etc. And cars are not just for boys!

  13. […] What to Pack for the 2-4 Year Olds […]

  14. Swan says:

    For 2-4 year olds I would make sure the toothpaste doesn’t have fluoride in it. Most children’s toothpaste is for six and above and usually has the same amount of fluoride as adult toothpaste.

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