Painted postcard, brush and paints

Keeping Connected When they Head to College

How to send Care without the Package

Two years ago, when my Oldest was packing to leave for University, I started googling about care package ideas. The internet revealed many ideas that were extensive AND expensive.  As I was looking at lists, shopping carts, I started getting emails from a company that would send monthly care packages and add a message from you for a (not small) fee. I stopped and thought about WHY I wanted to send a care package. 

painted postcard of mini rainbow hearts in a grid

I knew I wanted to stay connected with my oldest in this next phase of her life. I didn't want to go overboard, over the top, or seem like I wasn't letting go. I was so excited for her and knew she would be busy and I just wanted to do something a little bit more than a text with an emoji. I mentioned care packages to Grace and she actually said "I don't have a lot of room and I don't need a lot of treats and I can only use so many face masks and that feels over the top really"  

I realized the Connection is more important than the package

painting of blue flowers in a pattern with purple centers

I found the answer from my past

My Grandmother Elvira was an amazing artist and she hand painted/drew every card I received  She did that for every member of the family, and I still have a box of those cards which I cherish.  My mom would write simple notes to me when I was at college, sometimes on the back of envelopes of junk mail just to say "Hi"  It let me know she was thinking of me without me feeling obligated to write back. 

handpainted vintage cards

some of my many many cards from my Grandma

And there was my Uncle Marshall who loved travel and was a postman.  He always sent postcards. When our family traveled together he would search for postcards with my girls and they would find post offices to mail them to friends.  My Uncle would also hand paint cards for the holidays   Both of my girls had loads of his postcards on the walls of their rooms and when we traveled, buying postcards to remember the trip and to send to him became a tradition.  As I saw Grace packing her postcard collection to put up in her dorm, an idea came together...  

Postcards for Grace

I don't like writing like my mom, but I love to paint and I had some watercolor postcards, so I set the intention of sending one postcard a week to Grace. I also have a huge Pinterest board of just quotes I love (you can check it out here), so I would add a quote on the back and one to two sentences along with it.  That is how #postcardsforgrace started.  I left the first one in an envelope in her dorm room desk drawer while we unpacked and I send one every week she is away.  At Christmas her first year she sent me this photo. 

a college dorm room desk with postcards displayed on the wall next to it

When she moved into her apartment her Sophomore year, she decorated her wall with her travel and art postcards and her favorite ones from me, leaving room to add as I send them.  Some are funny, some are cute, some have deep quotes but they all mean something to me that I am sharing with her.  She bought a box for the ones she doesn't hang up, they don't take up much space and for the cost of a stamp it's the cheapest thing for university I pay!  

college apartment bedroom with postcards displayed on the wall as decoration
the start of sophomore year


When I told Grace I was writing a blog post, she smiled as it's something that is between the two of us, but she can share with others as well.  I remember a silly song when I was younger that had the line "It's the thought that counts, so give it instead, thoughts don't have to be wrapped at all"  I think that's why I enjoy doing this: it's a thought about my daughter that's tangible, not on a device, that she can hold and know.  

Postcard with small illustration beach houses and palm trees with Bob Marley quote, "live the life you love, love the life you live"

"Live the Life you Love, Love the life you Live" Bob Marley

Here are some ideas if you want to give it a go:

These are "rough" guidelines for my postcards: figure out what works for you 

1. I leave one in the dorm when we drop her off and I send one to arrive every week while she's away.

watercolor painted postcard, watercolor paint and paint brush.  Card has a pattern of blue diamonds

The card that started it all

2. The painting/drawing doesn't have to be perfect, in fact we've gotten some laughs about a few that are quite bad.  (if the art part of this stresses you out, I've listed some other ideas at the end of this)

hand painted postcard illustration of a dog and flowers

My attempt to draw our dog and her favorite toy

3.  I add a quote on the back, and a couple of sentences usually about something we've chatted about. painted postcard of a heart with sea life in it along with paintbrush and watercolor paints

4. I always tell her that I love her because parents need to say that as much as we can. 


a watercolor postcard with many hearts of different size shapes and colors

5. I put it in an envelope to mail so it's just her reading it.  

watercolor postcard with an underwater abstract scene and paintbrushes and paint

6. THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT I don't expect her to call me or send some long thank you or commentary about it.  I am sending it for me as much as her.  She usually sends a snapchat of the envelope when she gets one and I will ask if she's checked mail to let her know one is on the way (we've had some delays and then she'll get 3 in a week)

watercolor postcard with abstract swirls in bright colors

That's it. It's not hard, it's not expensive, but for me it's giving her something tangible to hold and know I care.

Here are some ideas to start your own Postcard project:

1. You can paint/draw/doodle/use markers.  Go abstract and make some colorful lines. Draw stick figures.  If you have younger siblings at home have them give it a go.  Have a pictionary contest and see if they can figure it out, make them laugh. Write a recipe, your favorite word of the week, Make a square or dot or squiggle and give it an art gallery title.  The goal is to connect. 

watercolor postcard with bright pink and blue and green abstract painting

 just paint some blobs, lines and circles with your favorite colors

I use Etchr Labs Cold press postcards (cold press is textured, hot press is smooth).  You can get a box of 100 for under $40 which will last probably all 4 years. (not sponsored...I just love the quality and price)

watercolor postcards, paintbrush and a postcard with sailboats on it

If you want to try painting or sketching or drawing, head to YouTube for tutorials on everything (I also love Skillshare).  If you want some ideas feel free to check out my Instagram hashtag #postcardsforgrace - I usually include a quote there as well (If you post yours, please tag me or the hashtag! I'd love to see them)

2.  If you really don't want to draw then start collecting some postcards that connect you to your student.  I have a friend who does a ton of traveling with their student's sport teams and I told her to start finding those quirky or weird spots in the towns they go to and buy some postcards while there.  She'll then have them ready to go when college starts. 

3. Does you kid love a tv show, movie, comic can get postcards from all of those things with a quick internet search. Or print some things out and make a collage on a postcard. 

4.  If your student is into fashion, art, can find postcards at local museums, galleries or online. Do some vintage shopping at antique shops or even look for letterpress companies that do fun things. 

5. If quotes are not authentic to you try some of these instead: Corny jokes, Puns, Favorite TV or Movie sayings, Favorite cartoon quotes, Jeopardy or trivia questions on the front and answers on the back. What do you want to tell your student about yourself to connect...

Because it's the thought that really counts!  

"Connection is why we're here; It is what gives purpose and meaning to our Lives"  -Brene Brown

Here are a few that I've sent over the past two years! the #postcardforgrace on IG shows all of them

watercolor postcard of the sea and beach
watercolorpostcard of sunflowerswatercolor postcard of palmtreewatercolor abstract postcard in pinks and blues and purple fans

watercolor postcard of purple and green palm leafwatercolor postcard of blue waves

watercolor postcard of various potted plantswatercolor postcard of abstract sunset

watercolor postcard of monochrome sunset with palmtree and sailboatwatercolor postcard of sea urchins

watercolor postcard of conch shellwatercolor postcard of bouquet of flowers



July 27, 2021 — Krystin Mann