I know, I know. It sounds a little strange to give Valentine’s Day presents to my kids, but it’s a tradition I’ve had ever since they were little. Just because they are off at school or have Valentines of their own now doesn’t mean I have to stop the tradition, does it? Of course not! It’s a simple way for me to remind them I love them. Besides, I’ll always be their first love, won’t I?
In their younger years, my kids would wake up to find candy, a stuffed animal, or video game or movie to share, and a heart-felt note letting them know why I think they are special. Sometimes, a little extra spending money would be there instead of something I picked out, but candy and a note were always included. As my kids started leaving for college, I would mail the treats (it is Girl Scout Cookie time!) with some ever-needed cash, and—you guessed it—a love note! Now my college kids are all about eating healthy, so I can save money on shipping (and eat the cookies myself) and find other thoughts that might be a better fit. I figured I might as well share some gift-giving ideas with the other moms (and dads and grandparents) who continue to celebrate the love of their college children as if they were still little kids. I’m pretty sure they still appreciate the gesture. Besides, it makes my Mama heart happy to have an excuse to tell them why they are loved!
There is something about cookies that brings back fond memories of being at home. College kids love to indulge in cookies made by Mama with love…or bought from the store with love…or given to them by a complete stranger who doesn’t love them at all. If you freeze the cookies and mail them frozen, they survive the trip to college better. If you aren’t a baker, then consider a local bakery with a delivery service. Some college campuses have students who make and deliver cookies as a way to earn extra money. You could even have Oreos delivered from the local grocery store. As I mentioned, Valentine’s Day falls right in the middle of Girl Scout cookie season (it is a season, isn’t it?). Go to the Girl Scout web page or download the cookie finder app. (Yep! There’s an app for that!) If you post on a Facebook page that is local to the college that you need a parent willing to deliver Girl Scout cookies, you will have a large number of volunteers who want your business.
2. Gift Cards for Video Games, iTunes
If your college kid plays on Xbox, PS4 or even just games on the iPhone, chances are they will be excited to add more funds for more games, bonus outfits, extended memberships, etc. Just be sure you know which video console is their favorite.
3. Snack Box
If your kid was set free with no money limits in the snack food aisle of the grocery store, what would the cart have in it? Grab some of those things and pack them into a box. If your student is health conscious, consider sending healthy snacks. You could even make some homemade granola bars. Nuts, fruits, jerky (there is even a vegan jerky available), dried veggie chips, protein shakes or mix, nut butters, crackers, trail mix, popcorn, and juice-infused water are some ideas that are easy to keep in a dorm room and throw into a backpack.
4. Love Note
Of course, you could include a love note with any of the other gift ideas mentioned, but you can also just send a love note. I don’t mean “just” like it isn’t enough. I mean it as in “it’s all that’s needed.” You don’t even need to spend money on a card. The meaningful part of the card is what you write it in it anyway, so you might as well put your thoughts onto paper, fold it, put it in an envelope, and send it on its way. College students are not used to getting mail and it would be a welcomed surprise. If your kid is like mine, you may need to send a text suggesting they check their mailbox or it might sit there all semester. Perhaps you could tell your student why you love them and let them know why you are thankful that God put them into your family. Trust me when I say less is more when it comes to decorating and embellishing, especially with boys. We don’t want to embarrass them by dousing the plain white envelope with red hearts with “Mama loves you!” written in each one.
5. Entertainment Gift Card or Groupon
Most college kids would love to get out and do fun things with their friends, but are limited due to funds. Contribute to their social life by sending a gift card to a fun place like a local bowling alley, movie theater (Fandango if you don’t know which one to choose), miniature golf course, Topgolf, 4-Wheeler rental, jet-ski rental, zip-lining, playhouse, etc. If you aren’t sure what is nearby the college, Groupon is a great place to get ideas—and big discounts. Just enter the zip code of the college to find local entertainment. Be sure to include extra for a friend (especially if they don’t have a car)! Subscription services for hobbies they have is another option. If they like to hike, for example, get them a year’s subscription to the AllTrails app. The possibilities are endless.
6. Fruit Arrangements
Flowers are always nice to receive but let’s face it, you can’t eat them. Fruit cut into fun shapes with or without being dipped in chocolate is sure to be loved by college kids and their roommates. Guilt free eating (almost) at its best!
7. Restaurant Gift Card (on or off campus)
I often feel like my kids are the ones who have to tell their friends they can’t go eat out every other night off campus because they don’t have enough money. I know that isn’t the reality, but none of us want our kids to be the ones left out. Consider sending a favorite restaurant gift card. Lots of chain restaurants offer cards with multiple restaurant options on one card. If your kid lives on campus and doesn’t have easy access to transportation, then add funds to their account so they can purchase food at a restaurant on campus that isn’t part of their meal plan. Most campuses at the very least have a coffee shop that students can enjoy.
You might be thinking that all college students already have a favorite water-holding container. That is true when they go to college…and when they return after the breaks. However, had is a more fitting word. They lose them. They leave them in the library and on camping excursions in the woods, and in classrooms, and probably in other people’s cars. If they don’t need one now, they will soon. There are so many varieties! Think about if they like to carry around a gallon-sized jug or an insulated double-vacuum-sealed thermos. Pick their favorite color, team, or college logo, and they’ll thank you later. Oh, and remind them to put their name on it.
9. Summer Coupons
If your college student will be home for the summer or other breaks, coupons are a fun gift. Think of activities they like to do, places they enjoy, or chores they hate, and make corresponding coupons on your computer. They could be good for things like “lunch out with mom,” “one week of not cleaning your room,” “good for one get-out-of-a-chore-with-no-questions-asked,” “you pick dinner menu for 2 nights,” or “free gas fill-up.” Customize it with what fits your kid and how much money, help, and time you are willing to sacrifice. If you are not tech savvy, just use whatever word processing program you usually use and insert some text boxes or tables. Type in what you want using some fun fonts, then color or bold the borders and voila! On Valentine’s Day, send an email with a sweet note and attach the document with the coupons to be cashed in when they come home. If your kid likes to play jokes on you, be sure to save the document as a PDF file or mail the cut-out coupons so they don’t alter them to surprise you with interesting things when it’s time for them to be redeemed.
10. Venmo, Zelle, or Cash
It might seem boring or impersonal to you, but if you ask your college student what their favorite gifts are, chances are cash will be included in the list. They spend their time in class, studying, and working hard…okay, perhaps they socialize some, too, but we’d like to believe they are mostly studying. For those who have jobs, the money they earn is often needed to save up for a car, gas, and to pay for college. They don’t have a lot of extra to spend on whatever they feel like. Having money that doesn’t already have an assigned purpose, is always welcomed. And it doesn’t just have to be cold, hard cash. College kids don’t care if they can touch it; they just want to be able to spend it. In fact, they probably would prefer you just send it via Zelle or Venmo. If those two words are foreign to you, look them up! It’s the fastest way to send cash and make the college kids happy.
Have fun sending your college kids some love!
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
~1 Corinthians 13:1-8~