10 Non-Essentials (But Fun) for Your Student’s Dorm Room

As your student gets ready to head off to college in the fall, there’s a lot to do. One of the things on your mind may be helping your student prepare for living in the dorm.  This is a big shift for most students, who have never shared a room with someone.  And this shared dorm room is now going to be their bedroom, living room, rec room, and part-time kitchen as well.

As parents, there are many ways we can help our student prepare over the summer by having some conversations to help them anticipate what they may encounter, but we often jump into helping them think about their dorm room – possibly because it is one of the few concrete, measurable things we can do. And we want to make sure they’ll be comfortable and provisioned.

There is no shortage of lists of dorm-room essentials. Almost every store or website will offer you a myriad of suggestions.  And the list can get longer and longer as the summer progresses. Packing the car for move-in day can be one of the biggest challenges your family will face.

So rather than add to the already steady supply of suggestions for the essentials, we’d like to suggest ten items that your student doesn’t “need” but that could be fun additions to liven up their dorm room.  You won’t want them all, but adding one or two to your summer shopping list might be fun. Some are mildly practical and some are just plain silly.  See what you think.

LED Photo clip string lights

Lots of dorm-shopping lists suggest string lights as something to perk up your student’s room, and some also suggest some way to display photos of friends, home, and family.  Why not combine the two? This string of lights also has clips for displaying your student’s favorite photos in an easily changeable gallery.

Ostrich pillow – travel or nap pillow

OK, this one is just plain silly – or at least it looks that way. That’s part of the fun. But college students love to nap. (Remember when you couldn’t get them to take a nap when they were two? Those days are gone!) And this pillow allows them the quiet that they need for a good sound nap. They may enjoy how silly they’ll look as well.

 Clocky alarm clock on wheels

Silly? Yes.  But this might be just the thing for your college student who has a tendency to sleep through that early morning class.  Built on wheels, this clock emits a beeping sound when it first goes off.  Then – after a snooze cycle, it rolls off the nightstand and starts scooting out of reach.  To turn it off, your student has to get out of bed and chase it down.  Fun!

Poster sized bubble wrap calendar

Sure, your student can keep track of the date on their phone. But there’s nothing quite like a calendar on the wall to help you mark the days and weeks. Combine that with the fun we had as kids (OK, as adults as well) popping those little bubbles in the bubble-wrap packing. Who doesn’t love doing that?

Amazon Echo Dot – Smart speaker with Alexa

Your student can have fun with this – playing their music, controlling their devices,  answering questions, checking the weather, and calling home hands-free!

Bed tent – pop-up privacy tent

Sharing a room can be great, and lots of fun. But if you want to nap and your roommate needs the blinds open, or you’re ready for bed and your roommate needs to study or has a friend there, it’s hard. And sometimes, as much as you like your roommate, you just want a little privacy. Enter the pop-up bed tent. Instant mini-room.

Wall tapestry

Your student can brighten up their room and make a decorative statement with a wall tapestry that brings the outdoors – or even outerspace in.

Felt letterboard message board

This has changeable letters and is a great way for your student to leave messages for their roommate, post a favorite or inspirational quote, make a statement about how their day is going, or post a reminder to call home!

Zen indoor table-top water fountain

Dorms can be noisy places. Being a college student can be stressful. The combination may make it harder for your student to sleep and study. This fountain can provide that soothing sound of running water that can be relaxing.

Removable wall decals

One of the difficult things about decorating a dorm room is not being able to put nails in the wall or use anything that will damage the paint. These removable wall decals will allow your student to add some color and fun to the room without damaging anything. When they move out – or just get tired of them – peel and remove.

Whether or not these specific items appeal to you or seem right for your student, find one or two fun things to add to your dorm shopping list.

Note: Some links in our post are for affiliate products. If you use our links, College Parent Central receives a small percentage of your purchase price. This does not change the cost to you.  We think it’s only fair to let you know that.

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Check out our other gift suggestions!

Beyond Bedding and Mini-Fridges: 12 Dorm Room Ideas You May Not Have Though Of

Gift Ideas for Your High School Graduate

Gift Ideas for Your College Graduate

Holiday Gift Ideas for Your College Student


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