My son made it very clear that he expected care packages from home when he went out to the East Coast to go to college. And…they had to be surprises. That is, it had to be surprise timing when I sent them and surprise items inside. Whew, tall order from a boy that is not easy to figure out in the gifting department, let alone surprise gifts!
Well, I’m on my fourth surprise care package now, and there have certainly been hits and misses, but all-in-all it has been fun for both of us. Here’s a few things I have learned about college care packages:
Ideas & Categories for a College Care Package:
- Home: no matter how cool they appear to be, the college kid really does miss home and family (I was most surprised by the amount of phone calls I got in the middle of the day from a kid who hates to talk on the phone. So, always include something personal that makes them feel they are still very much a part of “back home”. Pictures, recordings, something about the neighbors or the dogs;
- Humor: It’s OK to be corny; anything to make them smile. In one package I put a little flip book of me pretending to be a mixologist and it was the thing he mentioned the most. In the Halloween package I put a toy monster that made haunted noises every time it moved so when he walked back to the dorm with it in his backpack it was screaming the whole time 🙂 This Easter of course, he gets a toy chicken that lays bubble gum eggs (see photo)
- Food: It’s nice to send homemade food if your kid liked that from you when he lived at home. I started off making bars and cupcakes, etc., but what he really liked better were Tanka Bars , packages of granola, and K-cups of tea. He’s an athlete and needs healthy things he can grab and go in the early morning before breakfast. Tanka Bars are always a hit and he gets a full box of those in each care package. His suite-mate, however, is from Czechoslovakia and appreciates specialty food that his mom made him for home dinners, so she makes his favorite dinner items, freezes them and ships them. You just have to know your kid on this one, rather than go for the Martha Stewart homemade game plan even if they don’t really appreciate homemade food.
- Money: College kids hate paying for laundry and things that are mundane that they never dreamed they’d have to pay for. Always change it up though, so you don’t set up expectations for a certain amount each time (surprise, remember). Once I sent no money, but a gift certificate for a favorite restaurant. The Easter basket includes 3 eggs with varying amounts of money in each;
- A hug of some sort. I try to include a card with some thoughts about what I miss about him or what makes me proud about him. He seems to appreciate it.
- Room accessories: With my daughter it was posters, decor, and organizers. My son shares a suite with 5 boys and apparently they don’t like to clean. I send him things like scented candles, odor neutralizing gel beads and small fans.
- Seasonal items: The Easter package includes a swim suit, the Valentines package had a long-sleeved body armor T-shirt, etc.
- Light reading material: They have plenty to read at school, but most kids like magazines about their hobbies or outside interests. My son is a golfer who already had all the golf magazines, but really enjoyed the Men’s Health and Men’s Journal type of magazines. I don’t think he would have thought of picking up one of those for himself, but is really enjoying them now. My daughter was a glutton for the pop culture magazines.
- The “Surprises”: I’ve probably had more failures here than successes, but I keep trying. The Frisbee was a miss, as was the magnetic wall board organizer and a pair of “old man” tennis shoes. Oh well, when you ask for surprises you’re putting your trust in a parent and they don’t always “get it”.
Packaging the College Care Package:
The Postal Service’s Flat Rate boxes are the best for this, especially if they are going to school far away. It’s about $15.00 to ship a large box (they provide the box), no matter how much weight you put in it. It’s fun to wrap each item in some tissue paper also so they have to unwrap a bit before they see each item.
Whatever you do, have fun with your care packages. The kids love them. Who doesn’t like getting a surprise in the mail where you get to open things? It also makes you keep on top of what your kids’ interests are at this time in their life.