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How to Make a Care Package
Other than cash, nothing is more welcome to a kid away at college than a box full of goodies from home. The contents don't need to be fancy, but something that is heartfelt, fun, or at least tasty is nice. What students appreciate most is something that reminds them of home, like their favorite cookies or homemade brownies, candy or food items that can't be found at school, a t-shirt or cap, or a favorite game or movie. A Girl Scout troop leader I know sends her former scouts pictures from their scouting days, along with Girl Scout cookies to kick off the cookie season.
Top Care Package Tips
- Careful packing is a must, as any package sent in the mail will likely get jostled around quite a bit. It may be exposed to extreme temperatures as well, so keep that in mind if you're sending chocolate or anything that could melt.
- Flat rate boxes from the US Postal Service are perfect for care packages. The medium-sized boxes, in particular, are a great size and ship at reasonable rates.
- Label the box clearly and don't forget dorm routing numbers. Send a text or email when you mail a box so that your student will be on the lookout for its arrival and it won't sit in the mailroom until semester break.
- Wrap toiletries like soaps, lotions, and perfumes in either quart-sized or gallon-sized zippered plastic bags, and double bag for extra protection. In the event of a spill or leak, it will at least be contained and not spoil everyone else's mail, and your student will be grateful the rest of the package isn't ruined.
- Instead of packing peanuts, try using individually wrapped hard candies as packing material during cooler months. They can be shared with the dorm and create less waste. During warmer months, use crinkle-cut paper in different colors to add a festive air. The paper can then be upcycled for art projects, reused, or recycled.
- Try not to overwhelm your student with too many packages. Start with one every other month or so, and ask if it's too much.
Send a "Party-in-a-Box" for Birthdays
If your student isn't planning on being home for their birthday, you'll want to mail their gift. You may also want to include something they can share with their friends. Send a party-in-a-box, complete with birthday confetti, hats, fancy napkins, and paper plates. Complete the box with a few dozen of their favorite homemade cookies or a gift card for fancy cupcakes.
For a former Girl Scout away from home, send a cookie party-in-a-box during Girl Scout cookie time. Include an assortment of Girl Scout cookies and scout-themed napkins and plates. Adding a song book from her days at camp and a fun patch or two will make her smile.
For a milestone birthday, like a 21st birthday, send items in counts of 21. Like 21 small candy bars, 21 lollipops, 21 green army men, a gift card for $21, 21 rubber duckies, or 21 pairs of socks. The options are endless, so have fun with it.
Holiday-Themed Package Ideas
A holiday is a great excuse to send a care package, and party stores are filled with inexpensive themed items that can fill a box. You can use themed packing materials and include holiday candies, a card or two, or something fun that your student can share with roommates and friends.
An Easter basket in a box is always a big hit. Use Easter grass as packing material, and fill the box with candy eggs, filled plastic eggs, small plush animals that would look nice in a dorm room, and maybe a pair of bunny ears.
A Valentine's Day box has all sorts of possibilities. Pick up an inexpensive pack of valentines to fill out and include a small handful in the box. Send conversation hearts, a plush heart or stuffed animal, and a dozen homemade heart-shaped cookies. Use candy as packing material or red and pink crinkle paper for a festive look.
Halloween is always a big campus event, with students dressing up and even trick-or-treating in the dorms. Rather than sending a complete costume that might not get used, send a couple of simple masks or a wig, a Halloween-themed movie with candy, and ghoulish nail polish or decals. Use "spider web" material for cushioning.
College Goodie Box Suggestions by Month
Popcorn, hot cocoa mix, DVDs
Candy, mask, wig, ghoulish nail polish
Homemade pumpkin bread, pecans, plush turkey
Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa
Dorm decor, candy
Nerf football, team t-shirts, cheeses, salami, crackers
Plush heart, conversation hearts, valentines, heart cookies
Easter basket, Peeps, bunny ears
Chia pet, homemade cookies, indoor garden
Sunscreen, cap, summer novel, beach toys
College Care Package Services
There are commercial services that allow you to order and send pre-made gift boxes to your student. These services are convenient and are appreciated by students even if the items aren't homemade or handpicked by you. Before choosing a service, check the college's website to see if there are any companies they recommend. They may also have an on-campus care package service. Otherwise, a quick internet search of "college care package service" will generate an extensive list.
Don't forget local companies that make specialty cookies, candies, or other goods that your student can't get while away at school. You may be able to order online and have their favorite treats sent directly to them, saving you some time.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
KA Hanna (author) from America's Finest City on August 25, 2017:
Thanks for your comment Alexis!
Alexis on August 25, 2017:
This is awesome and I love how you laid our suggestions by month. Care packages are always a joy to get!
KA Hanna (author) from America's Finest City on February 06, 2013:
Thanks kj force and dreamhowl! Tea bags and PB are a great idea -could do a cute box with tea, homemade brownies, PB, scones, some cute paper plates and a bear. Teddy bear tea party in a box!
kjforce from Florida on February 06, 2013:
prokidwriter...Awesome write..very interseting and informative..brought back memories of my college/ Med School days ( which date back many moons ! ) my mom used to send me those kind of packages..and there was always Peanut Butter inside..and tea bags..
many all nighters spent studying and the PB/tea ..kept me awake..thanks for the share...
Jessica Peri from United States on February 05, 2013:
Great hub! I especially love your table. Care packages always made me feel better - college can be so stressful. Voted up!