The kids brought home three boxes for the Operation Christmas Child campaign. If you aren't familiar, these are hinged-lid shoeboxes which you fill with fun stuff and then it is given out to less fortunate kids around the world. While I really don't like the very American presumption that every kid needs a pile of presents on Christmas, or the very sketchy "let's give them a lot of nice stuff and then tell them about Jesus" semi-bribe-to-Christianity tactic, I do happen to love the idea of giving less fortunate kids things they almost surely need.
So the kids' boxes are loaded and returned already. I try to stash away things all year that will be good for the boxes so we can save our house from clutter and our wallets for even more giving. To that end, birthday party treat bags tend to get dumped into a drawer for just such an occasion. Pencils, bouncy balls, stampers, stickers...lots of fun stuff. The kids do get first pick and usually keep 2-3 things out of a birthday treat bag, but if it's something they already have or can share one of, they're great about acknowledging they don't need to own everything. Candy doesn't go in the boxes so it gets eaten at home.
The dentist gives them nice individually wrapped toothbrushes, which are a pain to find at the store. I can buy a six pack and split them between the three kids and two bathrooms and save the dentist ones for the boxes. I don't want to give a kid an unsealed toothbrush.
I know a lot of people that stash the restaurant boxes of crayons away and just pull a family set out at restaurants, leaving the mini-packs un-opened and then donate those. However, I always wonder about heat and how well crayons will hold up, so I prefer to buy a few 12-packs of colored pencils on the back-to-school sales. I also like to include a very basic solar calculator (around $4 each), a small pencil sharpener (less than $1 each), and some kid scissors, so the back-to-school shopping is a good deal if I plan ahead.
This year for fun stuff I hit Amazon and Target. I bought each kid a (brand new still bagged) beanie baby ($2 each), some slipper-socks ($12 for a three pack), and a Chinese jump rope ($4 each). For Katie's box, which she wanted to label as appropriate for a 6-9 year old girl, I got some some hair ties (these were really cute and at 6 for $6 are sort of pricey, but the original price was $69 for the 6 pack so somehow it felt like a steal! I also got a plain multi-pack.) Finally, I found the Johnson & Johnson kid-marketed bar soaps which my kids love. We aren't supposed to include any liquids or lotions which can get hugely messy in shipping, so bar soap is a must but hard to find in kid-friendly ways. I didn't want to just do a box of Dove. Each box got one of those and one of those wash cloths that are condensed down into a little shape. I found some generic ones at the Dollar Tree ages ago and have them in a bucket in a closet so that they can get tossed in to gift bags or stockings. The boy boxes got dark blue with whales on them, the girl box got one covered in flower pots.
And from the Target dollar-bin area and clearance racks I found a small wooden case of mini-dominoes, some baseball sized bouncy balls, a paddle-with-ball-stapled-on-with-a-string thing, little wooden cars, harmonicas, whistles, deflated beach balls, and some socks.
Operation Christmas Child: Done.