Holiday Gift Guide: 25 Under $25 for College Students and Young Adults

Mary Dell writes: Looking for inspiration for holiday gifts for a high schooler, soon to leave for college or a recent grad in her first apartment?  We browsed real and virtual aisles at The Container Store, Nike, Apple, J Crew, Microsoft, LL Bean, and Amazon and found these ideas so, look no further! Here is our Holiday Gift Guide: 25 Ideas Under $25.

1. Electric Kettle < Hamilton Beach Ensemble Cord Free Pouring Kettle

Kids in college and those right out of school have one thing in common: living space with tiny (or nonexistent) kitchens. Having an ability to boil water for tea or hot chocolate is a little bit of luxury achievable with this cute electric kettle.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 6.56.42 PM2. Card game Cards Against Humanity

Sometimes a grown up toy is just what our grown up kids will love the most.

Cards Against Humanity- gifts under $25

3. Scratch Map Luckies of London Scratch Map (USLUSCR)

How to rekindle memories of all those family vacations or inspire discussions about study abroad? This scratch map would be a perfect way to brighten up a drab dorm wall.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 6.58.45 PM

4. Battery charger  Jackery® Mini Premium iPhone Charger 3200mAh Power Pack – Ultra-Compact Aluminum Portable Battery Charger External Battery Pack for Apple iPhone 6 Plus, 6, 5S, 5C, 5, 4S, iPad, Air, Mini, Samsung Galaxy S5, S4, S3, Note, Nexus, LG, HTC, Moto. Power Bank, iPad Charger, Portable Charger, Backup Battery, External Charger, USB Battery Charger (Orange)

This little charger packs a big punch with a wide range of devices.


Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 6.59.39 PM

5. Ironing mat As Seen on TV IRONEMO-MC24 Iron Express the Original Portable Ironing Pad

Wearing a wrinkled shirt to class may not trouble your college student but he should look crisp for an interview.  Space saving ironing mat to the rescue!

Ironing mat - gifts under $25

6. Sunbeam hot shot Sunbeam 6131 Hot Shot Hot Water Dispenser, Black

How cute is this cup-at-a-time hot water dispenser?  This is a great choice for a dorm room.

Sunbeam hot shot- gifts under $25


7. Lap top desk LapGear Classic Original Wood Lapdesk (45364)

Your college student will study in bed as much as at her desk so help make it easier and safer to do so with this handsome, and non flammable, laptop desk.


laptop desk - gifts under $25

8. Dorm safe SentrySafe P005CBL 0.05 Cubic Foot Combination Compact Safe, Blue

Wallet, passport, valuable jewelry all fit snugly in this dorm safe.

Dorm safe - gifts under $25

9. Brita water filter Brita Slim Water Filter Pitcher, 5 Cup

Buying cases of water in water bottles is costly, environmentally wrong and a space hog.  A Brita water system solves each of these problems.

Brita Pitcher - gifts under $25

10. Whirley Pop popcorn Wabash Valley Farms 25008 Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper

Better tasting than microwave-cooked popcorn, this Whirley Pop claims to cook without sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Whirley pop - gifts under $2511. Storage hanging bag 

Storage is at a premium in apartment living.  This is a stylish, lightweight, and inexpensive way to add extra shelf space in a closet that has none.  Plus, as young adults move frequently, this “built-in” is one they can take with them to their next abode.

Container Store hanging bag - gifts under $25

12. Serving tray 

This tray, in cheery lacquered red, will add a festive touch to any apartment.  Extremely versatile, it could find a home in the kitchen, living room or bedroom. Container Store red tray - gifts under $25


13. Ceiling bike lift 

Holding a bike up to 50 pounds, this unique bike life mounts on a ceiling, freeing up floor space.

Container Store bike lift - gifts under $25

14. Mixing bowls 

For those getting used to cooking for themselves for the first time, a set of mixing bowls is a must-have.  Here is a cute set we would love, too!

Container Store mixing bowls - gifts under $2515.  Nike kit bag

This cute Nike bag is the perfect size to go inside a gym bag for storing keys, ID, and other essentials.

Nike kit bag - gifts under $25

16.  Nike Elite socks

Socks may seem like a mundane purchase, but how about a new pair as a stocking stuffer?

Nike socks - gifts under $25


17. Apple organizing bag

Who doesn’t need help rounding up their collection of gadgets, cords, and chargers?

Apple store organizing bag - gifts under $25

18. Apple laptop lock

Losing a laptop is a traumatic experience.  Consider packing off your college student with a combination laptop lock like this one. Apple store laptop lock - gifts under $25


19. Noika headphones

Brightly colored and an upgrade from the basic ear buds that come with many devices, check out these headphones.

Microsoft store Nokia headphones - gifts under $25


20. Nokia Coloud Bang speaker

Lightweight and capable of eight hours of playing time, this Nokia speaker can enhance the quality of listening with any device. Microsoft store Nokia speaker - gifts under $25

21. J Crew headband

A festive touch for your college daughter, this J Crew headband is adorable with just the right amount of glitz for the holidays.

J Crew headband - gifts under $2522. J Crew boxers

And, a festive gift for your college son!

J Crew boxers - gifts under $25

23. LL Bean tote bag

A classic, this small-size tote comes from one of our all-time favorite store, LL Bean.

LL Bean tote bag - gifts under $25


24.LL Bean ragg wool hat

We can only hope that our kids wears a hat when it is freezing cold outside. With this ragg wool hat, lined with micro fleece inside, they just might do it!

LL Bean ragg wool hat - gifts under $25

25. LL Bean Nantucket bike basket

We fell in love with this Nantucket bike basket.  Maybe your young adult daughter will, too.

LL Bean Nantucket bike basket - gifts under $25

Bonus idea! 

Millennials love a gift of experience even more than a “thing” so consider a gift certificate for your young adult: car rentals, Zipcar, Getaround, Uber, Lyft, airlines, sporting event, classes, college book store, philanthropy, museum membership.

Early Decision, Regular Decision, No Decision

Guest blogger, Darryle Pollack, writes: I finished college in 1971, a member of the first class of women to graduate from Yale. I would not describe myself as overly ambitious–still, I like to be first, and I like to be best. Of course I want the same for my children. And I have to confess, by this stage of my life, I feel as if my kids have become one of the standards by which I am judged. Pack them off to the Ivy League, early decision if possible, and you get an A-plus.

College graduate - "better late than never."

So when people ask where my 21-year-old daughter is going to college, I wish I could answer that she’s following in my footsteps. But Alli’s not at Yale. She’s not in the Ivy League. She’s not at UCLA, or USC, or even CSU. My daughter took her 4.0 average from a top California prep school, and she went to UPS–United Parcel Service.

At her high school graduation, I had to congratulate all those other parents who had brilliantly aced the child-rearing final I had so clearly failed. That summer, while my friends were attending parent orientations on college campuses, my daughter was moving into a shabby apartment and shipping boxes for other people’s children heading off to start their adult lives.

I came to dread running into the mothers of Alli’s former classmates. With Kathy, Alli’s status came up in the third question, right after “How are you doing?” (busy) and “How’s your husband?” (traveling a lot).

“Alli’s great,” I deflected. “How’s Lauren?”

I received a rundown on her relationship (over), her major (economics), her summer internship (amazing experience!) and her plans for grad school (Hopefully NYU or UCLA). Then she circled back…

“So, what’s Alli up to?”

I sighed inside.

“Working really hard.” (It’s the truth.)

“Did she ever go to college?”

Perky as possible. “Not yet.”

Kathy gave me the look to which I have become accustomed–concern mixed with pity.

That first year, I’d mumble something about Alli taking a year off–which seemed acceptable, even trendy. Three years later, the story’s tougher to spin.

Some parents feel burdened by the college application process. I actually looked forward to it. For years I had interviewed prospective students for my alma mater, and I always welcomed any contact with academia. I daydreamed about visiting beautiful campuses with Alli, and allowed myself to imagine what could be the end result. Providence? New Haven? Princeton?

Then one afternoon during Alli’s sophomore year, as I was driving her home from field hockey practice, I suggested we visit the University of Pennsylvania during our annual Thanksgiving trip East to my family in Washington, D.C.

“You promised I could visit Jen.”

“Jen lives right outside Philadelphia. We could stop first at Penn.”

She pouted. “But then I lose time with Jen.”

“Aren’t you curious? Just to see it?”

My real agenda remained unspoken. We can start with Penn, and soon I’ll take you to New Haven.

It was a textbook mother-daughter moment. She had studied her subject for a lifetime and knew the course material inside out.

“It’s a waste of time. And you can forget about me going to Yale.”


“There is no way I’m going to college on the East Coast.”

“How do you know if you haven’t even seen these places?” I tried to keep my eyes on the road.

“I just know. You always think I’ll want to go, but I don’t. I told you I wanted to go to UCLA.”

Yes, she did–back when she was six and thought she’d want to live with me forever.

But she had a point. The East Coast idea had begun with me and remained there. It had never taken root in her heart. She loves California, and she hates to fly. Okay, so now I knew. I would not push her to apply.

By junior year, Alli was announcing her intention to take a year off before beginning college. I was calm. Teenagers are fickle, I thought. Maybe she’ll change her mind.

But senior year came, and Alli had not abandoned her idea of taking time off. Still, the college process continued. She had the grades,the scores, the resume–and dutifully got her applications in by Thanksgiving.

That spring, as each fat envelope arrived, I allowed myself to hope. I remember handing her the UCLA envelope, with a big smile. I don’t remember her smiling back.

“What did she say about UCLA? ” her father wanted to know when he called me that night. We had remained cordial after our divorce eight years earlier. I had remarried and moved with the kids 300 miles away. We usually spoke a few times a week; during this time we were speaking several times a day. Neither of us was sleeping.

“She didn’t say anything.”

“Well, what should we do?”

I had no answer for him. I had no answer for myself. I had been to college, however, and I knew basic child psychology: Whatever her parents wanted, she would do the opposite.

“Don’t pressure her.”

“Okay”, he agreed. “Just remember she only has until May 1.”

Actually, we only had until May 1. Alli had all the time in the world.

One morning Alli appeared downstairs with a fistful of letters.

“What’s that?” I asked, in the most casual way I could possibly make myself sound.

“Just the letters to the schools, telling them I’m not going.”

Gulp. “All of them?”

“Uh-huh.” A quick wave and she escaped out the door.

What had I done wrong? She was my first child, and I had been an overprotective mother. Had I crippled her, was she afraid to venture out into the world alone?

She had attended the best playgroups, classes, schools, lessons. if one program didn’t meet my expectations, I switched her into a better one. Had I created a perfectionist who would never be satisfied?

She had always been self-motivated and intellectually precocious: from age two, when she taught herself to read, through high school, when she studied three languages. Had I allowed her to burn out?

I had put parenting ahead of my television journalism career. Now it seemed I had failed at the most important job I’d ever held.

Family and friends tried to comprehend and covered their shock with love and logic: “Colleges like kids who take a year off before entering.” “It’s just typical teenage rebellion. She’ll be bored with UPS in two weeks.”

I wanted to believe them.

Once she was living in the real world, I thought, Alli would learn her lesson. Surely she would enter college by February.

So much for mother’s radar. College is still waiting, and so am I. And yet, life goes on–hers, and mine.

How many times do we say to our children: “Don’t do something just because the other kids do it…think for yourself.” At 18, Alli was doing just that. She had learned the lesson, and now it was my turn.

During the past three years I’ve watched in awe as my daughter developed life skills that I did not grasp until I was twice her age.

Making just over minimum wage, she has managed to live on her own, paying all her expenses, even buying a car. She knows all about insurance, credit ratings, interest rates. Before her friends left for college, Alli passed an exam, which she says was harder than the AP tests, and became a notary public (her first advanced degree, I tell friends). She has no assigned books anymore, but she reads things that most of us don’t–such as the full text of every candidate’s statement and proposition on the California ballot. She hasn’t taken a math class in three years, but she does her own taxes.

Alli will never get a bid from a sorority, but she got a promotion to manager of a UPS store, running a business by age 20. She understands a lot about real life and about who she is.

Most important of all, she is infinitely happier, more confident, and more comfortable with herself than she was in high school–in fact, more than she has ever been.

Okay, it’s not New Haven. But I have learned to be proud of my daughter. I’ve discovered that parenting is far more difficult than anything I ever had to learn at Yale. It’s a tutorial that never ends, but I’m hoping to speed up the learning curve with my other child, Daniel, a high school junior. (I’m almost hesitant to write that he’s eagerly looking forward to college–I don’t want to jinx anything.)

Alli says that she will go to college when she decides what she wants to be–and she plans to pay for her own education. With her characteristic independence, determination and maturity, I know she will do what she says. Ultimately she will choose a career that is meaningful, challenging and right for her–and a school where she can get the education to make it happen.

Meanwhile, I still feel a stab of pain when I hear about someone else’s child who has just graduated from Yale, passed the bar, entered medical school or gotten an incredible job. I have invested as much as any other mother has in her child. But now I know I need to be invested less in her success on my terms, than in her happiness and well-being on her terms. I owe her that. And in return, she’s given me a precious gift: knowing she will always be able to take care of herself.

College graduate

Editor’s note: After attending five colleges over seven years,  Alli graduated in May, 2011, from California State University at Fullerton.

Darrlye Pollack

Darryle Pollack is a writer, inspirational speaker, and role model for resilience, with her TED talk, blog and upcoming book all titled I Never Signed up For This…. An early adopter of social media and blogging, Darryle is also a leading voice for women online, with her writing featured on websites including the Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Purple Clover, and as BlogHer Voice of the Year.

Clean is Sexy and Other Advice for Sons: Home for the Holidays Edition

Lisa writes: Earlier this year we shared Clean is Sexy and other bits of motherly wisdom for teen and young adult sons.* As our kids come home for the holidays the impulse to shower them with even more parental guidance seemed irresistible. So along with the gifts and good cheer here is our two-cents worth of advice for sons during the holidays, or anytime.

Home for the holidays - Clean is sexy and other motherly advice for sons home for the holidays.

1. For years, your parents showered you with holiday gifts, even beating back other overzealous parents in Toys “R” Us to get you the last Talking Elmo. Now you are thinking of showing up at home for the holidays empty-handed? Who raised you? Buy something small but thoughtful that lets them know how much you appreciated your Beanie Babies, Pokemon cards and their love.

2. And while you are at it, siblings do not grow on trees. These are the only brothers and sisters you will ever have and, God willing, you will have them forever. They are the only people who will accompany you on almost your entire life’s journey. Show them some appreciation at the holidays, too.

3. If it is going to be a long night, make beer, drunk slowly, a big part of it.

4. When you were a child, holiday meals seemed to appear by magic. Now that you know the truth get off your behind and help your parents in the kitchen.

5. When you come home for the holidays you may realize how much you have missed your friends, want to spend every minute of your short stay with them and come away hoping that you will be close forever. Do not forget your parents feel the same way about you.

6. Some women love men’s hands. I am not sure why, but you might want to remember this when biting your nails.

7. Your dorm room or apartment floor may be covered in dirty clothing, indistinguishable from your laundry basket. That is your business. When you are home for the holidays things are done differently.

8. When you are driving never think, “WHAT’S the worst that could happen?” rather “What is THE worst that could happen?” and then drive accordingly.

9. Office holiday parties have long been an excuse for bad behavior. It is almost a cliché. Don’t become a cliché. The party is short and your career will be as well if you cannot remember to behave yourself.

10. Popular press will tell you to follow your dreams, but just remember you will need to afford them.

11. Being smarter or richer than someone else doesn’t make you a better person. It just makes you fortunate.

12. People who do not share their good fortune and their good cheer, especially during the holidays, but, truly, all year, are not a credit to their parents, or themselves.

13. If you want to be a better person give generously of your of your time, your wisdom and your wealth.  

14. Your dorm room looks a little bleak? Apartment just doesn’t look like home? Take the time, and it really is only a little time, to put up a few decorations for the season. It will make you feel better for weeks.

15. Eggnog only seems like a good idea at the time.

16. There is a certain level of untidiness and disorder that your parents may have learned to tolerate from you at one time. They love you so much and are so happy to have you home for the holidays that they may tolerate it from you again. Don’t make them.

17. Travel will only open your world, if you open your eyes. Just being in a new place does not mean you have experienced it.

18. WiFi is not on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, but love is. Put down the laptop and look at the world around you, and into the eyes of those whose love matters most.

19. Never lose more at a casino than you are willing to pay for an evening’s entertainment.

20. Always keep a decent untouched bottle of wine at the ready. You never know when you will receive a last-minute invitation to dinner.

21. If you get picked for secret Santa, go with food and you will never go wrong.

22. You will overeat when you are home for the holidays, do not try to fool yourself into believing otherwise or feel guilty for a moment. Plan for it. Just add a bit more exercise and some days of sensible eating to your pre-holiday routine.

23. When you are home for the holidays and your parents have not fully acknowledged your adulthood, don’t push them. If they are not happy with sleepover guests, or hangovers or having you walking around the house, in front of guests, dressed only in boxers, try to remember it is only for a couple of days.

24. In the end it will matter less how good an athlete you were and more how good a teammate you were. Talent fades, camaraderie and memories endure.

25. Never buy the large size of popcorn. It is overpriced, oversized and only seemed like a good idea.

26. If you have a girlfriend, boyfriend or partner and you wait until the day before and cannot find the right gift, the right size, or the right color or you can, but it cannot be delivered in time, it is not the store’s fault, it is yours. Blame no one but yourself.

27. A working knowledge of 1970s and 80s rock will make you happy and a stand-out in trivia contests.

28. Eating too much turkey once a year is not overindulgence, it is your birthright as an American. Go ahead, enjoy.

29. The first days of any experience are recorded in our minds in bright living color with routine dulling the memories of later days. Take it all in during those early days.

30. Manners are more important in the digital age when we are lacking the subtleties of facial expressions. Forget yours at your peril.

31. You are not a little kid anymore. If you are going to do something that might not thrill your parents, don’t just try to get away with it, talk to them first. They are proud that you are grown up and make your own decisions. They have no interest in seeing your inner 14-year-old.

32. Learn to cook at least one truly great meal. Underwhelming people with your cooking will never lead to good things.

33. Who you are working for can be every bit as important as what you are doing. Interview prospective bosses as they interview you, politely.

34. Holding doors open, paying for a check or swinging by and picking someone up may be old-fashioned, but that does not mean that those kindnesses will not engender gratitude.

35. Read great books, even if you read them slowly and infrequently. They will keep you in touch with human history.

36. Keep your mind open to other people’s life choices, and be happy for them.

37. Envy serves no useful purpose and is often misplaced. All too often we are mistaken about others’ lives so mind your own knitting.

38. Benjamin Franklin only had it two-thirds right. To the list of death and taxes, add your parent’s love.

39. Your parents cheered you on when you took your first step, rode your first bike and started your first summer job. Listen for that cheering sound when you most need it, I promise it will always be there for you.

* In the earlier post we remind our kids that, “Clean is sexy. Thoughtful is sexy. Being blindingly drunk is pathetic.”

Photo credit: SalzerE

Why I Love My Empty Nest

Martha Handler, a guest blogger, writes: The kids have all grown and flown, as the last of our four headed off to college this past fall, and I find myself repeatedly being asked, “How is it being an empty nester?” While I’m extremely supportive and understanding of my friends who find this transition period difficult, if I’m being perfectly honest, for me, the empty nest feels great.

Family with adult kids

My career as a full-time mom began over twenty-three years ago and, I think most would agree, that’s a long time for any career to last. So, while I loved every minute of it (lol), I’m actually very excited about what lays ahead. I’m still sorting out exactly what that will entail, but for now I’m enjoying the empty nest.

My day is now considerably longer because it no longer ends when the school-closing bell rings. I can schedule appointments and be assured that I won’t have to cancel at the last minute because I was up all night trying to stop my kid from scratching his chicken pox or because I have to abandon my plans to retrieve a child who’s suddenly come down with stomach flu.

I can now enjoy long, carefree evenings out with my husband and our friends without worrying that I’ll receive a text mid-dinner that says “I’m going to flunk my biology test tomorrow if you don’t come home and help me understand the difference between a molecule and a macromolecule,” or “I have to bring homemade Spanish cookies to class tomorrow because I need the extra credit points. Don’t worry – I have the recipe and I would bake them myself but I can’t even pronounce the ingredients. If I fall asleep before you get home, could you just go ahead and make them for me? Thx. You’re the best.” (Full disclosure – I added that last sentence as I have to many of their texts over the years because although I’m sure they were thinking it, they often forgot to include it!)

And while it’s true that ‘once a mother, always a mother’ and ‘you’re only as happy as your least happy child,’ the difference now is that the immediacy of their situations has been dialed way down. I’ll happily read their college papers (if given the opportunity), but I’ll no longer make edits or provide commentary because I know they have TA’s and resource centers for that (and besides, they should damn well know how to write a decent paper by the time they get to college!) And I’ll lend an ear as they gripe about their unfair professors or horrible bosses, but I’ll no longer give them advice (unless, of course, they ask) because I trust that by now they know best when to stand their ground and when to let it be.

My day-to-day job of nurturing, tutoring, teaching, disciplining (or torturing as my kids would describe it), has officially ended. And let’s face it, if we haven’t succeeded in instilling morals and values in our kids in the eighteen years they lived under our roof, it’s doubtful we’ll make much of a dent going forward. So, while my husband and I will continue to love and support them – we’ll now be doing our cheerleading from the sidelines.

Simply put, I’m embracing my empty nest the same way I’ve tried to embrace every stage of my kids’ development. I found them cuddly and adorable as infants, fun and precocious as toddlers, inquisitive and confused as middle-schoolers and challenging and bewildering as high-schoolers. And while I always enjoyed each new phase better than the last, I’m honestly finding the young adult phase to be the most fulfilling and rewarding of them all.

The “heavy lifting” is coming to a close and now we can sit back (ha ha) and begin to enjoy these four wonderful young adults. Instead of them whispering under their breaths that we don’t know what we’re talking about or we’re just plain wrong, they’re now asking us for advice, sharing their concerns, and even apologizing for their past indiscretions. We’ve somehow miraculously transformed from being really stupid to being really smart – and what’s not to like about that!

Martha Handler

Martha Handler is a freelance writer who splits her time between Westchester and Tribeca, New York. Her free time is spent traveling, protecting wolves (as president of the board of the Wolf Conservation Center) and watching silly animal videos on Youtube.

18th Birthday Ideas for Your College Kid

Mary Dell writes: Name. address. click, click. I type the info into each box, working my way down the page. Yes, three dozen freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and cold milk to be delivered to my daughter’s freshman dorm for her birthday. Yes, her cell number for the delivery person. Credit card. click. click. The order is 99% complete. But the final question – completely innocuous in every other context – Do you agree to the terms and conditions? My heart sank. No, no. I do not agree. I do not want to be 400 miles away on our daughter’s birthday. That is not a term or condition I want to agree to, ever. But then, long sigh, of course I agree. click.

chocolate chip cookies

Our daughter will wake up this morning, on her birthday, will reach for her phone next to the elevated twin bed and see dozens of texts from her high school friends and one from me, “Happy Birthday, love, Mom.” This will be a poor substitute for the big hug I desperately wish to give her.

There will be no party waiting for her after school like every one that came before – magician petting zoo-bowling-swimming-discoball in the garage – sweet 16golden birthday. No giggling girls for me to watch growing up by her side, delighting in the lit candles, the balloons, the goodie bags, the dj, and, most importantly, the friendships.

Do you have a college kid celebrating a birthday? Since misery loves company, we asked other moms for 18th birthday ideas when the party is far from home. Here is their sage, and very creative, advice:

1. Spring for dinner

“One of the things we did for my son was to give him money to treat his friends to dinner since we couldn’t be with him,” said Mindy Wells Hoffbauer. Think about calling a local restaurant or campus pizza place to see if they have a private room and book it for your son or daughter and a group of new friends.

Don’t forget this tip  “We called while she was at dinner and sang happy birthday to her,” said Diana Resnick Musslewhite. Why FaceTime was invented, in my opinion!

2. Roommates to the rescue

“I knew my daughter said she was ‘just going to watch a movie with her closest friend on her birthday.’  I secretly got in touch with that friend and arranged a ‘party in a box’ for her. In the boxes, that I sent to her friend, I included decorations, a few gifts to unwrap, the fixings for her favorite meal, lots of movie-type candy, and a few silly party favors. Her friend took it all from there, and even sent me pics of the room (complete with candy and gifts arranged) before Cait arrived,” wrote Mary Bird Lanzavecchia.

3. Birthday experience

Send tickets for a concert or a sporting event for your kid and a few others. Having a chance to venture off campus for a shared experience with new friends could be one of the best, and most memorable, gifts you could ever give him.

4. Import memories

“My son turned 18 while away at college and seemed ‘busy’ to the point where I wondered if I would get to chat with him! I did a silly ’18 Years of Birthdays’ in a box and he seemed to really like the gesture,” said Sherri Kuhn. Another way to remind your child of his love from home is to take a lifetime of photos and upload into IMovie, complete with a few favorite songs for the soundtrack.

birthday cake

5. Dining hall celebration

Does your son’s dining hall offer to serve a birthday cake during dinner? If so, best to coordinate with a roommate or a friend to make sure that he will show up to blow out the candles. If the college doesn’t provide this service, look what Lisa Carpenter found, “The college my two youngest went to had a group of mothers who took orders for cakes, baked them and delivered on the kiddo’s birthday.” Failing that, consider ordering cookies and, if  your child is fortunate to live in one of 50 locations where Insomnia Cookies will deliver warm cookies and milk, give them a try.

6. Old friends

Would your daughter love nothing more than a chance to spend a weekend with her best friend in the whole wide world? Consider sending an airline or train ticket for her to visit that BFF’s at her college campus.

7. New tradition

“Flowers. The kind of peanut butter she likes. A barrette for her hair because she always loses hers. A mom gift” are Dr. Margaret Rutherford ideas who added,  “Not to sound overly ‘psychotherapist’ on you… just knowing that you are okay will do her a world of good. So, (for the moms,) plan a way of celebrating your giving birth!”


8. Cupcakes to share

“I once baked a bunch of cupcakes and sent them, along with all the toppings (and store-bought frosting, couldn’t get around that one) in little containers, plus candles, etc. It was a ‘make your own celebration’ kit.” Whether the cupcakes are homemade, like expert baker Mindy Klapper Trotta’s were, or ordered on-line, spring for a few dozen! What better way for the birthday girl to get to know more people on her floor than to walk around sharing her birthday treats?


9. Retail therapy

Gather a fist full of gift certificates from local clothing and sporting goods stores, yogurt and pizza places, the campus bookstore, and if you have a daughter, don’t forget a nail salon, suggests Lisa Lichtenberg. Be generous with the amount so that your son or daughter has enough money to take along a few friends.

10. Cheers for your older student

Is there a micro-brewery or wine bar near campus where your 21 or 22-year-old would love to gather with friends to celebrate his birthday? If there is nothing quite this charming, consider paying the bar tab for an hour at a favorite sports bar.

11. Take a drive

Drive down and have brunch on Sunday,”  suggests Sharon Greenthal. If the distance is not too great, why not?

Finally, I took comfort with these words:

There is a part of you that never lets go of the “child” of  your children. The child who needs a hug, or a kiss on the forehead. The child who smiles at you no matter what…the one who runs to you after kindergarten, the one who cries just for you…I want Mommy! But if there is that part in us, there is that part in them. They only have one mother…and that is you. And that will never change. Donna Beckman Tagliaferri.

Photo credits: Chocolate chip cookies: aaron; Birthday cake: Will Clayton; Macaroons: Omar Chatriwala