Tips for Moving House with Toddlers
Moving to a New Home? Have a Toddler or Preschooler? Here's How to Make Your Move Go More Smoothly
Moving house can be stressful enough for adults, but it can be tough on young children too. Parents can find the mountain of 'to-do's' of a move looming even larger with taking care of a busy, curious toddler at the same time. Here's a great guide to help both parents and children cope with the changes, tasks and transitions of packing, moving day and adjusting to your new home.
I can't move for you, but hopefully these tips will add some fun and structure to your relocation process.
You can even turn sitting in a box into a fun game. Read more about the packing activity I played with my daughter (shown here).
photo credit: BunnyFabulous
Ever Moved with a Toddler?
Have you ever moved to a new apartment/home with your toddler-aged child?
Helping the Home/Condo/Apartment Search Go More Smoothly
Yes, it's definitely easier to go house-hunting without your toddler in tow. For the smoothest house-hunting experience it's usually easiest on everyone to have a sitter watch your child so that you can give the time and attention you need to finding a new place to live. However, sometimes that's just not an option, like in the case of my last move. If you're bringing a toddler along to look at houses, here are some tips to make the experience better for everyone.
- Bring along drinks and snacks. Everyone, especially a young child, is happier when they're hydrated and well-fed. However, save the food and beverage for a break, or eat them in the car. You want to be respectful of the current owners/inhabitants of the homes you're looking at. No one wants extra Cheerio or Goldfish cracker crumbs in their carpet.
- A favorite toy or two for your child to play with in transit from property to property can be really helpful to keep him occupied.
- Make it an adventure! Getting in and out of the car a bunch of times while visiting multiple houses is few preschoolers idea of fun...at least at the get-go. You can change that. When we took my daughter looking at rental homes, we told her that we were going 'house exploring'. At each house I asked her what she could find there. We discovered green tile, apple trees, interesting closets and much more. Ask your child questions that help you move through to see the house like "Can you find the kitchen?", "Where are all the bedrooms? Can you find them?", "What color is the bathtub in this house?"
- Keep curiosity under control. On the other hand, if you have a really curious child like I do, you'll also need to temper their enthusiasm for touching everything in sight, especially if there are breakable items in the residences you're exploring. Here are some suggestions: Teach your kiddo the 'One Finger Touch' principle. My daughter has a really hard time not being able to touch anything and it can be rough saying 'Don't touch that' to everything. So, show your child beforehand how to touch things with just one finger. For stuff that's caught their curiosity but won't break by being touched with one finger, it's a great alternative. That way your child can satisfy their curiosity without being able to pick something up or manhandle it. You'll definitely have to practice beforehand, and of course, some things will need to remain 'no touch'.
If 'one finger touch' won't work for your child, there's always putting them in a small umbrella stroller to tour the houses.
- Tag team. If you're going house-hunting with a spouse, have one of you do the indepth investigating of the home while the other child-wrangles. Trade off when you need to.
- If you can, schedule touring homes during the time when your child is most awake and alert to ward off fussiness and tiredness.
Note to Self: Plan Ahead!
As much as you can plan ahead for where your toddler's going to be, who will be watching them and what activities they can do will help your child a lot. Sticking to their routine as much as you can, and giving them a heads up about what's happening goes a long way too.
Preparing for the Move - Talking About the New House
So you've found a new home. Talk about it with your toddler in a positive light.
Some kids naturally take the news of moving to a new home as exciting and happy, especially if they've seen the new place and it has features that are really appealing to them. If they're thrilled that you're moving to a house with a pool, keep talking it up with them. Talk about the fun things they'll get to do and about their great new room.
At least during the toddler and preschool years, though, most kids thrive on routine and predictability of their environment, so don't be surprised if there's a hesitancy about the prospect of living in a new house, especially as you start packing and moving day draws closer. Talk up the things about the house that your child would enjoy, like having a bigger room, a larger back yard or a great park just a few blocks away.
Especially if your child hasn't seen the home to which you'll be moving, see if you can get some photos of the inside of the house, back yard and other features. You may have taken some yourself, but if not, it's always worth asking your Realtor (if you are working with one) to see if they can get pictures or a link to an online home tour like this one. You can point out which one will be your child's room and further familiarize him or her with the great things about where you'll be living. When you get there, the home will seem more familiar and will hopefully ease your child's transition.
Or, if you're moving in-town like we were, we were able to take our daughter to the house we'd be renting after we signed the lease and walk her through it. Of course, everything's different without your own furniture, but we were able to point out where her bed would go, where her playroom would be, etc.
You are Your Child's Interpreter
As a parent, one of your most important jobs is to help your child interpret the world around them. During a move, this is very important. If you explain what's going on in age-appropriate language and have a positive attitude, it will go a long way in helping your child view the move as a positive thing.
Packing! Make It Easier For You and More Fun For Your Child
If you don't have the money to hire the movers to pack for you, here are some helpful tips and options
You'll definitely need some 'on your own' time for moving. If you have a spouse who can take your child for a fun outing so that you can have some uninterrupted time to pack, utilize that time wisely by packing breakable items or other stuff that's hard to do with a curious preschooler underfoot. Or, enlist a grandparent or a trusted sitter to play with your child while you pack.
Inevitably, there are times where you'll need to be packing while your toddler is around. Using the time to help him 'pack' his room will help give him ownership of packing his own toys and solidify the idea that all of his prized possessions will be making the move to the new house. Keep his very favorite toys out until last and, if possible, have them make the move with him inside a small suitcase or backpack.
Let your child play with a box or two. Boxes are some of the most versatile of 'found' objects for kids, and they can be a source of endless fun. My daughter really enjoyed packing herself and her stuffed animals into moving boxes and just hanging out in them.
photo credit: BunnyFabulous
Packing Time Games
These can range from really simple and productive to just plain silly and unproductive.
Packing Game #1 -- let your child pack and re-pack the same box with her toys, preferably ones that can stand a lot of dropping in and dumping out, like blocks or stuffed animals. Your toddler loves to imitate you, so she can easily play this alongside you as you pack.
Packing Game #2 -- same as above, but your child can pack herself too (A.K.A get in the box). This was a big favorite with my daughter. She liked hanging out in a box with her blankets and stuffed animals.
Packing Game #3 -- this one isn't as productive, but it's a lot of fun. Your child hides in a box and then pops up to 'surprise' you. We called it 'gopher pops up', but your child could pretend to be a jack-in-the-box, or whatever suits your fancy.
Packing Game #4 -- with your child either in the box, throw stuffed animals into it. My daughter giggled in delight when she saw her toys flying in. If your child doesn't like having stuff thrown in at him or her, teach them to toss stuffed animals into the box and cheer each time their shot makes it into the box.
Then there's always stuff like 'helping' you tape boxes, drawing on boxes with crayons and making forts out of empty boxes.
Everyone's Coming Along!
Remind your child that the entire family is moving. Some children can be afraid to be left behind. Reassure her that all of the familiar furniture, pictures and especially TOYS will be making the move too.
Moving is an Adventure
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barretthall/295854074/
It's Moving Day! Tips for Making Things Easier for Your Toddler - ....And You
Planning for moving day is a situation where you definitely need to put yourself in your child's shoes. Watching people put the entire contents of your house (the only one you've ever known!) on a truck can be pretty disconcerting when you're a toddler. Or, you may have a child who thrives on watching all the activity. Whatever the case, take your toddler's personality into account as you think about which of these suggestions would be best for your child and your situation
- Pack a 'day bag' of essentials for your toddler for moving day. Include plenty of snacks, beverages, diapers/pull-ups/underwear, favorite toys and other entertainment. Include medications, bedtime routine stuff (bath gear, books, etc.) and other items that your child will regularly use or would need right away when you get to your new home. The last thing you want is having to dig through boxes to find your child's favorite blankie to sleep with on the first night in a brand new place.
- Have your toddler stay at a friend or relative's house for moving day. For us, this was the best solution. Our daughter is highly curious and loved to get into things so it was much less stressful...not to mention safer...for us to not have her there underfoot when the movers came. She and I spent the day with a good friend while my husband coordinated everything with the moving company.
- If going to a friend's house isn't practical, consider having a friend or relative take care of your child on-site during the move. It's easy for toddlers to put themselves in harm's way with all the carrying of heavy objects going on, so having an extra set of eyes dedicated to watching your child is extremely helpful. Your friend could even take your child on a special outing to a park, favorite restaurant or somewhere else they'd enjoy.
- Say goodbye to the house. Whether they think about it or not, most kids highly benefit from having this type of closure. Whether your child is around during moving day itself, take some time to go through each room of the house and tell it goodbye. Maybe talk about a memory of what you did in each room. I know it helped our daughter to tell her that we had to say goodbye to the house because our turn for the old house was over and it was someone else's turn.
- If you haven't already, take pictures of each room of the house. If you're like me, you'll already have a truckload of photos just from everyday life, but it doesn't hurt to take a few more. Why? Sometimes kids like to see the old house again, and most times it's not possible to go back into your old house. That way if they ask to go back or to see their old house again, you have something to show them. It was helpful to tell my daughter that we couldn't go back because our turn for that house was over, but she could look at the pictures instead.
- When the moving truck gets unloaded, set up your child's room first. Even if it's just putting the furniture in there and making up your toddler's bed, do as much as you can to make your toddler's room as familiar as possible as soon as possible. Toddlers are creatures of habit and need the comfort of familiarity.