Do you ever get stuck on what to send to your loved one that’s deployed? You realize the snacks and hygiene are necessary, but the desire is there to add a little something special, some pizazz.
I felt that way during our son’s deployments. I realized he needed the practical, but I wanted him to anticipate each package, to be eager to open each package, knowing there would be more than just his necessities inside. I knew that he didn’t have much space available to store or items, which meant I had to be practical, yet I was determined. So by using my daughter-in-law (his fiancé’ at the time) as a resource, and asking others for ideas, here are some of the creative care packages we sent.
Birthday Party in a box: He celebrated #21 in Iraq, so I really wanted to do something special. We made it a surprise by sending to a buddy in his unit. I contacted him ahead of time to let him know they were coming. I sent a Happy Birthday banner, Zebra cupcakes (a favorite), candles, goody bags complete with party favors and noise makers, pin the tail on the donkey game, even a piñata and candy to fill it. I included a disposable camera and a postage paid envelope to return it to me so I could enjoy his birthday celebration.
Another project I did for his birthday was to have family and friends email me a fun memory they had of themselves and my son, along with a photo if they had one. I then simply cut and pasted these onto pages, included one photo from each of his previous birthdays, added some fun clip art, made an easy cover page, then printed it all out and put it in a clear report binder. It wasn’t fancy and I didn’t put a lot of expense into it because I wanted him not to feel bad if it got ripped or something. I also was sure to save it on a disc so I could make a better copy when he returned home. I’ve shared this with other moms and some have gotten more detailed, others have simplified it even more. Every deployed child that’s received one of these paper books has really appreciated it.
Summer Fun: Sunscreen, beach towel, beach snacks (keep in mind the sand), flip flops, aloe vera gel, book or magazine, fun sun glasses, beach hat, sand toys.
Summer Survival: Sunscreen, nasal spray, chap stick, bandana, hard candy, gum, goggles/sunglasses, etc.
For Java Drinkers: If they are able to warm things up, Tea, cocoa, coffee singles, creamer, international coffee tins, cream and sugar packets, cookies for dunking in coffee.
Misc. fun items: Bubbles, small bouncy balls, marshmallow shooters, squirt guns, hacky sacks; brain teaser toys, playing cards, dominoes, slinky, Frisbee; nerf balls; coloring books & colored pencils (crayons may melt), Pez with dispenser, etc. (Dollar stores are great places for this type of stuff)
Stress Relievers: Back scratchers, bubble wrap, yo-yo, squeezy tension ball, bubble gum, laffy taffy, jigsaw puzzles, hand held games, water balloons, word searches, etc.
Correspondence items: To help him keep in touch; notebook paper, envelopes (pre-addressed to family members), pens, stickers, blank holiday/birthday cards, SMALL calendar with special dates marked.
Female Pamper Party: A friend’s daughter really appreciated these items, but remember that the less scent the better. Hair accessories, facial mask & scrub, salt scrub for hands and feet, nail care kit, flavored chap stick, tweezers, fashion magazines, quality candy, bold bandanas, etc.
Christmas in July: wrap everything in packages this month in Christmas wrapping paper and include peppermint hard candy, favorite Christmas cookie, etc.
Sports Fan Fun: Anything related to sports: nerf balls, toy ball and gloves, wiffle ball, bat; sports magazine, baseball or football weekly, bagged cotton candy or popcorn, cracker jacks, peanuts, sports apparel from favorite team, even recorded dvd of team playing, etc.
Thanksgiving Dinner: I wasn’t sure if our son would be near a base for the traditional Thanksgiving meal, so just in case I sent him his Thanksgiving favorites. Later I learned he was in the middle of the dessert, but he received the package and with the small heating element from his pack warmed it up and shared it with a buddy: Canned turkey, cranberries and gravy, instant mashed potato cups, hard breadsticks, Hostess apple pie, canned yams (I included a Ziploc bag of mini marshmallows and brown sugar), cider mix. Obviously this can be adapted based on family traditions and favorites. I also included paper holiday tableware.
Remember when sending anything to take into account the weather and the amount of space available (ex. At Christmas don’t send a 3-foot tree unless they ask). Don’t send expensive items. This is a time when the little things, especially items easily disposed of are invaluable.
Most important with regard to care packages is that when opened, your loved one will know that his box was packed not only with necessities, but with personal fun touches from home that express your love.