Crowdsourcing the ULTIMATE College Care Package

The Ultimate College Care Package!

Our youngest, The Boy, is our third kid going through the away-at-school process and I was running low on the groovy care package ideas.

I needed help!

I think
most of us with multiple children have encountered the problem of keeping the momentum alive when it comes
to the youngest.

My daughters, The Piglet and Decibel, have reaped
many benefits from being older – not that they would ever
agree that there were any benefits.

They believe that we have always favored “The Prince” —
as they call him — and that from his first breath he was
all that we paid attention to.

In reality, The Piglet’s baby book
is impeccable. Ultrasounds, baby shower cards, locks of hair,
countless photographs, even hospital records from the time she
shoved a whole serving of peas up her nose — it’s all in

The Spawn -
One of many stage shows – weren’t they the CUTEST?

And when Decibel
came along, we had discovered the camcorder. The video footage
of her exploits — from her first steps to butt-scooting around
with a broken leg in a cast are lovingly documented.

Big homemade productions
that she directed and starred in were never missed. She created grand performances costumed in
feather boas, dozens of necklaces adorning wild dresses and giant
shoes. All of this was captured on
miles of video tape.

I’m not even
sure The Boy has a baby book. If he does, it’s probably more
like a baby pamphlet. Nor can I think of a single photo or video
of him as a youngster that doesn’t include one or both of his

Hardly the chronicles we would have kept for the favorite.

Our Readers to my Rescue!

When the time came for The Boy’s first care package, I realized
that I had once again lost my edge with him. The excitement
I had felt while creating fun packages for The Piglet and Decibel was
gone. I really needed some help. I decided that I should hand
it over to the experts. Our wise readers.

I figured
they could help me create a care package so amazing that it would
make up for the fact that The Boy’s baby book is a mere leaflet
and that he never achieved more than supporting actor status
in our family videos.

The #1 Suggested Item – Homemade Baked Goods

a reader from our Facebook
suggested: “How about brownies and ch.chip
cookies – NOT out of a box! Nobody gets homemade any more
it seems.”

also from Facebook added: “Homemade caramel fudge brownies…”

I am SO not a
baker. And brownies? Don’t get me started. My only attempts have
turned out runny goo or a black brick-like substance.

Jane had inadvertently
suggested the impossible. But since we have the smartest and most
clever readers, I dove right in.

we are purposefully homeless, I borrowed a kitchen (don’t
ask) and started with Jan’s cookies.

Easy, really anyone
can do cookies. I didn’t burn the bottom of a single one!
The trick is to actually allow the oven to preheat.

packing, I put four to a baggy, for busy
college student grab-n-go ease.

it or not, the brownies were perfect! Well, until the caramel
topping part.

<– That’s not cheese in the picture.

I really thought
I had followed the directions to the letter, but as usual,
things went terribly awry.

The caramel wouldn’t spread without
decimating the brownies underneath and
then it cooled into
a rock-hard mess. Cutting them into squares (squares being a very flexible term) took a
Herculean effort that required sculpting tools.

sent them on anyway with the hope The Boy doesn’t yank a filling

Things I couldn’t mess up by cooking them

from Twitter said: Anything local that they can’t buy where
they are now
. My kid is from Hawaii, live in NYC, so
Crack Seed Shop care pkg is (love.)”

I really
related to Wendy (after googling what crack seed
was — it’s safe!); our kids all graduated high school
on a small tropical island. The conch shell horn
is family tradition, The Piglet drove her dorm-mates crazy with her incessant

The Boy went to a college with a rich sports tradition, so the horn came in handy at football games.

from Facebook:
Rolls of quarters for the laundromat were
always a hit!”

Anne exclaimed, Money!”

the rolls of quarters. Especially since we expected our kids
to work for daily basics while in college,
it’s a good way to give them a little money without ACTUALLY giving
them money.

College is ridiculously expensive and we feel
strongly that to appreciate it, they must pitch in. Though, like
Mary Anne, we sneak them checks for their birthdays and such.

Another no-money cheat is gift cards for groceries, restaurants, clothes,

The Ultimate College Care Package

Another Twitter pal: “Lots of storage solutions if there is a
dorm involved!”

Absolutely wonderful idea.

Dorms are tight spaces and
anything you can find to create space would be most welcome.

The Boy received
a laundry basket for this suggestion, as he was post-dorm.

No one is
better at cracking an inappropriate, yet wickedly hysterical joke
than The Boy’s “Uncle” Rich:

“How about
a stack of nudey magazines and a 5 pack of Red Stripe?”

While The Boy may well enjoy those things, I found a magazine
that I hoped he would find equally stimulating: Entrepreneur.
The lead story?

Young Millionaires, How They Did It.”


Also see: 9 Things We Wish We’d Known BEFORE We Sent Our Kid to College

friend, Devin, was equally as scary: Technology.
Some cool gadget he doesn’t have yet… but for entertainment,
not education. (ipod, psp,video watch…) Or, the funny
option: Magnums.”

crap! Devin’s kids get video watches?

We got The Boy a movie (movies are technology,
right?), he’s a pilot, so Airplane! is a cult classic among his

I’m ignoring the condom suggestion. The Boy would kill me for blogging about his condom situation.

Another note
on movies
. We sent both The Piglet and Decibel “best of” video
DVDs in their first care package. They included funny clips of them,
family antics, theatrical productions, band & choir recitals,
etc. They LOVED it! Of course we have no footage of The Boy, so
he didn’t get one.

you notes.
Make sure you include stamps. Get the most
masculine ones you can find if your spawn is a male.

Doesn’t mean that they will actually be sent, but it ups the
odds. I’m happier to get a thank
you phone call myself, seems much more personal (and fun!) but am
satisfied with an e-mail.

But, the older crowd considers
those means of communication rude – my mother-in-law included. So
my kids send real live old fashioned thank you notes (I think).

Microwave mac ‘n cheese / soup / ramen noodles. These just-add-water comfort
foods are great for care packages, and college students
put these way up on their favorites list.

They also work as a nice
packing buffer for breakable things!

Other nice packing materials:

— local newspaper sections (homesick babies read these)

bags of chips (the ones with lots of air in them)

and sanitary products
(sounds strange, but these are EXPENSIVE and are appreciated).

More GREAT ideas from our brilliant readers:

Favorite snack foods

Lynn @MamaSays, says (from the comments below): A cookbook aimed at new cooks, some essential spices

Melissa suggests (from the comments below): Kites (for spring) and the little guns that shoot nerf-type balls. Stress relievers!

TSogge says (from the comments below): Couple pairs of new underwear!

More ideas from Your GypsyNesters:

The Boy uses his conch shell horn
at a football game!

Toiletries: Shampoo, creams and potions, deodorant, contact lens solution,
special soap, acne lotion, perfume — that kind of stuff. The
Boy got toilet paper this time. He and his roommates can’t seem
to keep it in stock. We sent it as a joke, but I’m sure it will
be put to use.

for their computer:
Print cartridges, computer paper,

Pics from Home: Stick ’em in a frame if you are feeling
fancy. Or not. They’ll love ’em either way.

Make sure
you send enough food to share:
College kids are ravenous wolves.
No better way to make a new friend than to share a cookie or two.


More: 9 Things We Wish We’d Known BEFORE We Sent Our Kid to College

YOUR TURN: Any ideas to share? Let’s brainstorm and come up with ideas for our newly “empty” nested friends!

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27 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing the ULTIMATE College Care Package”

  1. Thank you, I love these! I’m looking for ideas for our babysitter who just went away to college, and these are great. I don’t know enough about her to know her favorite things, so I need to go a little generic.

  2. I can’t believe my son asked me for a care package. I was really flabbergasted, never having received one myself. Your website will save me and if I come up with anything new to add to the package, I’ll share. Thank you!

  3. My second daughter started getting care packages when she went to Japan to teach. The most expensive included winter boots because Japanese ladies don’t have large feet and underwearr (same reason)and they were packed in bags of All Dressed Chips as Japanese treats tend to involve tiny dried fish and wasabi peas. Cost about as much as a plane ticket to mail.

  4. I love the suggestions in this post! Like the first commenter, I’m not very handy, so I decided to go with a pre-made option. I sent a box full of bacon snacks and sweets to my son from Broquet (like a “bouquet” for men). My son really liked it, and the company even hand-wrote my gift note on a card which gave it a more personal touch! Here is their college care package gift shop:

  5. love these as I am a college care package fanatic.. just shared one of my favorite ideas for making monthly care packages using the letters of every month and putting a seasonal spin where applicable.. our 4 kids loved these and laughed so hard at some of my creativity.. for example for December, one of the ingredients was Door Decorations for the holidays.. I sent a candy wreath.. they could decorate and munch off it at the same time! Here is the link to the ideas with a free printable of monthly suggestions:

  6. Pardon the re-post. I mistakenly posted this comment as a “reply” to another commenter–a total non-sequitur.
    Both our sons have graduated from college. I was such a bad mother. I never sent care packages. I don’t even think our sons knew where to get snail mail when they were at college. I am severely challenged in the baking department. The first time one of our son’s teacher requested that I bake cookies for a class event, I was stymied. My mother-in-law then taught me a valuable life lesson. When asked if you can bake cookies, reply that you can “provide” cookies.

  7. This is so timely for us, as we will bringing our older child to college in a week, first year. Thanks for the great suggestions!!

  8. Excellent ideas! As we pack for our daughter’s first year of college, I’m already starting to think about care packages. I’m an inveterate knitter, so I’ll probably be including at least one hand knit item in the packages we send…

    1. Both our sons have graduated from college. I was such a bad mother. I never sent care packages. I don’t even think our sons knew where to get snail mail when they were at college. I am severely challenged in the baking department. The first time one of our son’s teacher requested that I bake cookies for a class event, I was stymied. My mother-in-law then taught me a valuable life lesson. When asked if you can bake cookies, reply that you can “provide” cookies.

  9. Just after college my boyfriend and I traveled around Europe at Christmas time. His mother sent a gift with each of us (to open on Christmas) and in it she included a couple pairs of new underwear! It was funny, practical and much needed! 🙂 Including a package of new underwear in a care package is both a good filler and will probably mean they can skip laundry for a few more days!

  10. When I left for college, I had been dating the same guy for two years (married him two years later), and I was enough a part of the family that his mom would send me care packages too. Which was great because she’s like Betty Crocker and my darling mom is more of the “buy lots of Oreos” type. So I had the best of both worlds.

    Anyway… so one of the best things my future MIL sent me was a St Patricks Day care package in which she sent Mint Chocolate Rice Krispie shamrocks. I’m not even kidding.

    She made green Rice Krispie treats…. cut them out in shapes of shamrocks… and then dipped them in mint chocolate.

    It’s entirely possible that I married him just to get this sort of treatment for the rest of our lives. 🙂

  11. I used to help make “finals kits” for our Aggie Moms club – two of the favorite items we put in were kites (for spring) and the little guns that shoot nerf-type balls. Stress relievers!

  12. Great ideas for a college care package. Now that my creative thoughts are flowing I’m thinking about a laundry basket,cookbook aimed at new cooks, some essential spices, a roll of quarters, popcorn and a homemade treat.

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