OK, you probably think I mean electronic "tools," such as the standard laptop or tablet, cellphone, MP3 player, docking station, TV, and so on. Not so. I'm talking about hand tools.
Before our son and daughter left for college, I outfitted each with a toolbox that included screwdrivers, small socket wrenches, pliers, wire strippers, a hammer, an adjustable wrench, and so on. I even threw in a small soldering iron and rosin-core solder. (By this time, both kids knew how to solder.) At first, my suggestion to head to college with a geeky toolbox met resistance, but the kids humored me, and we packed everything and left for freshman orientation and move-in day at the dorms.
During the first weeks, our son got to meet and know almost everyone on his co-ed floor. He had the tools residents needed to put up a corkboard or posters, repair a stereo connector, and tighten screws in bed frames, desks, and dressers. As he loaned his tools, he made new friends. Our daughter had similar experiences in her dorm room and later when she lived in a module on campus with six or seven other students. You never know who might need a screwdriver late at night to tighten a towel bar. Even in his fraternity, my son was the go-to guy for tools.
Before sending kids off to college with tools, though, they need to know how to use them, and that education starts at a young age. It's easier to ask a spouse to "look after the kids" as you tackle a project than to let the youngsters help, but they learn best by doing. So let them hammer nails into wood scraps, use a square to mark lumber, handle screwdrivers (point down, please), and practice with a small saw. They will bang fingers and get cuts and scrapes, but that's part of learning.
Our kids watched as I changed the oil in our station wagons and got under the car when I replaced the filter. I thought they should know what the job involved, and why cars needed oil changes, even if they never changed the oil in their own cars. That knowledge and those skills help later in life.
When I turned 12, my dad showed me how to safely use his radial-arm saw and band saw. Under his guidance, I helped with projects at home, and after taking wood shop in junior high school, he let me use the saws on my own. So far no injuries. I still have the old band saw and refurbished it a few years ago. (Kids need to learn how to take care of tools, too.)
Our kids learned to solder at first by melting globs of solder on my workbench with a low-wattage soldering iron. Then they graduated to soldering wires and junk-box components onto PCB scraps. Eventually, they could apply solder without splashing molten bits all over. Neither became an engineer, though.
The point here centers on helping kids learn how to do things -- giving them the right tools, and letting them develop useful skills -- as much as on equipping them with knowing how to think about things.