Five College Care Package Ideas for Parents

If you're looking to send your student a box of goodies, consider these options.

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Your student may have been in school for one week or one month. No matter when they started classes, however, they are undoubtedly feeling the stress of college life kick in. One of the most classic remedies for the chaos of college is, of course, the care package.

Unfortunately, care packages can be a bit more complicated than they might seem at first. Many parents work full time and may not have the luxury of baking homemade items to include. And yet a quick dash to the grocery store can often result in a care package that's full of unhealthy, boring treats a student could easily buy themselves.

[See how college calorie counts are staving off the Freshman 15.]

With a little creative thinking, you can zip your student a care package that will cheer them up and let you know you care—without breaking your bank account or running you ragged.

Here are some ideas:

1. Get fun: What kinds of toys did your student like as a kid? Tinker Toys? Play-Doh? Crayola crayons? Board games? Filling a box with toys your student loved as a child will be fun and nostalgic for both of you. And simple toys for childhood can provide a fun, quick, creative break for your student and their friends.

2. Get funky: Consider sending along small items on topics you know your student loves. Chances are, he or she is so busy reading for class that there hasn't been time to revisit any hobbies. If your student loves music, throw a couple of magazines on the music industry and an iTunes gift card into an envelope. If your student loves the Hollywood scene, send a couple of gossip magazines and a one-month membership to Netflix. Small treats like these can mean a lot to a student who needs the perfect excuse to take a little break.

3. Get cooking: As much fun as the alternatives may be, however, you may still be interested in the classic care package of tasty, homemade items. Lucky for you, you can now buy pre-made cookie dough, easy-to-bake brownie mix, and lots of other instant options at the grocery store. Put each baked good in a Ziploc bag and send them along in a Priority Mail box to ensure they arrive while still fresh.

[See colleges that offer choices for vegetarians.]

4. Get surfing: There are now online companies that will make and ship care packages for you., for example, offers packages that can combine both homemade goods and prepackaged items such as teas and crackers.

5. Get calling: Chances are you aren't the first parent who has wanted to send your student a care package at his or her particular school. With a little detective work online or in the phone book, you can find bakeries, pastry shops, and restaurants that are near your student's campus. A few quick phone calls can help you figure out who delivers to campus and what options are available for purchase.

[Get more tips for keeping in touch with your college student.]

Keep in mind, too, that the sentiment with which you send your care package matters just as much as the items you include. A heartfelt, handwritten note of encouragement can do wonders for your student's mental and emotional health. Small mementos, like a framed picture of your family together during a happy vacation, can cheer your student up long after the cookies have been eaten. After all, the most important thing you can include in any care package is the care itself.