Now that my kids are no longer little, I’ve come to realize this fact about the intersectionality of parenting and shopping: You really miss out on a ton of innovation and information about products that are specifically designed for certain ages and stages of kids when you are in a different stage with your own.
I remember when my kids were about eight and ten and I went to go buy a baby shower gift for an extended family member. Having not set foot in the baby department of a store in many years, I was rather blown away by the latest products and by how much cuter the clothes had gotten! When had the fashion fairy floated through with her wand and turned little boys’ clothes into runway-ready looks, rather than just blue t-shirts and shorts with baseballs on them?
Just as with technology, the clothes, accessories, and gadgets associated with each stage of parenting children morphs and advances every few years.
And if your kids haven’t yet reached the transition from high school to college, you may be unaware of all the amazing and helpful items that currently make up “Dorm Essentials.” Buying stuff for a kid’s dorm room is the biggest and baddest of all back-to-school shopping experiences, and it’s become a huge business, if you haven’t noticed.
The good news is that most dorm essentials can easily be used for kids of all ages and can be helpful in many rooms of your house. The better news is that all the dorm stuff goes on sale in late September, and we can all take advantage of the savings.
Stores and sites that have abundant options for dorm stuff are Target (of course), Bed Bath and Beyond, Walmart, IKEA, Homegoods, and TJ Maxx. Here are some of the best dorm items to look for when sales begin:
Most dorm beds are a “Twin XL” size. The only difference between twin vs twin XL is in the length measurement, with twin XL being 5 inches longer. There is no difference in the width measurement – 38 inches, sometimes 39 inches. Stock up for the future, when your younger kids want a change of bedroom scenery, or for when a permanent marker somehow ends up all over their comforter. Also, think about buying college bedding in advance for your high school student if they see a color/pattern that they really like. Buying on sale is the only way to go, as there’s no guarantee they’ll need the same size after their freshman year of college. (And permanent stains happen at college, too!)
As you probably remember, most dorm rooms are quite small and getting creative with storage has moved far beyond utility when it comes to containers and pieces of furniture that do double duty. Dorm storage items like desktop organizer shelves, over-the-door tiered storage racks, bedside storage caddies, and rolling underbed carts can all be used in kids’ rooms to help keep toys, books, stuffies, and clothing organized. Dorm storage pieces are also fantastic to use in playrooms, laundry rooms, and in home offices.
If you haven’t seen photos of over-the-top dorm décor in the past few years, go check out Pinterest, YouTube, or Tik Tok videos. While the girls’ rooms at big, Southern colleges seem to be the most “extra”, dorms all over the country sure don’t look the way they did back in the day when we used plastic milk crates and posters to create our campus vibes.
So, take advantage of the decorating hacks that college freshmen use to make their dorm rooms look like five-star hotels, and upgrade your younger kids’ spaces. Use peel-and-stick wallpaper to give any wall some dimension and visual variety. You can find all kinds of patterns that look just like brick, tiles, or distressed wood, among others. The adhesive used is especially created for wall applications and won’t pull off paint when they’re removed.
Using tapestries is another popular way that students cover up blank wall space. You can find tapestries of all sizes, with nature scenes, like beaches and forests, or ones with fabulous patterns in every color palate imaginable. This is an inexpensive way to change up the look of a kid’s room, a bathroom, or a playroom.
String lights and expansive photo displays are also fun dorm décor staples that can easily be used in baby nurseries and in kids of all age’s rooms. Any style of photo display or collage can be utilized throughout your home for kids’ artwork as well.
Happy September (dorm) sales shopping!