Just uttering those words can strike panic into the heart of grown adults everywhere. Add moving with children to the mix and watch the anxiety skyrocket.
- So many variables.
- So many moving parts.
- So many opportunities for this dream to become a nightmare.
Unless, of course, you’ve got a good director!
I have moved twice with two kids under three in the last four years. In the last decade alone–we’ve probably moved close to ten times, so you can trust me as your comrade in eternal Packingland.
Here’s what I’ve learned: Without a script, moving with kids can quickly veer off the road towards “family comedy” and straight off the cliff into “horror film.”
While I can’t promise you’ll emerge from the experience of moving with kids without one hairy tale to tell, I can ensure that these smart moving tips will get you started on the right foot.
Moving with Children Nightmare #1:
The movers have arrived. You have half the stuff packed, the other half is in haphazard piles and shoved into boxes and you’ve decided labeling is for the weak. It’s fun to search for the diaper rash cream, right?! Your baby is crying, the toddler won’t stop emptying all the packed boxes, and your preschooler is trying to make a box fort in the living room. You HAD a plan to get it all done…but that plan got eaten by the baby. Literally. Here you are: defeated in moving land.
All too often when it comes to moving with kids, we overestimate what we can do in a week and underestimate what we can in a month. To combat this irritating predisposition, you’re going to need extra reinforcements to reign in all that packing and planning.
There is weight to the old adage: many hands make the work light. I would add in many well-delegated hands make it even better. So start writing lists, break the packing into phases and put your hair up in a bun. These tips below will help you make the toughest part of moving with kids a breeze.
Accept Your Fate: Recruit Help
If you are fortunate to have help nearby–the nanny, aunt or grandma who wants to lend a hand, LET THEM HELP YOU. Let me repeat: do not turn down the extra set of hands to baby wrangle, entertain and help you with all of the things.
You will need to delegate and let them know exactly what you need done, sure, but “managing” an adult is nothing compared to managing a toddler hell-bent on “helping you” by taking up your whole dining room table with her “farewell art project” RIGHT where you are staging your glassware for wrapping.
Pack with Your Tots in Mind
Pack the fan favorites last and make it dead-simple to find the boxes when you arrive in your new home. Let your children break out the industrial marker and crayon set and go nuts decorating the toy boxes so they are clearly visible at the new place.
Since you’re waiting to do the toys last, now would also be a good time to pack individual backpacks.
On a normal day, when the beloved blankie is misplaced, your day is ruined. Having that happen on a moving day is opening the door to the Zombie Apocalypse. Nothing pleasant is going to happen there, friend.
Declutter NOW, Not Later
There is nothing worse than packing all the things just to unload them at Goodwill at your new place. Save yourself that extra work and take care of the donations now. Remember the Queen of Your Castle cluttering clue: A box for keeps, a box for toss, a box for donate.
Production Booster: Pack after Bedtime
This may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how easy it is to forget that there is a time everyday when you and your spouse actually don’t have kids underfoot…after bedtime!
Instead of battling your boy who is trying valiantly (and succeeding) at unpacking the boxes you just filled, stick to packing after bedtime, while your angels are dreaming of fresh walls to color on.
Just remember these crucial words: Color Coded Duct Tape.
Each family member and each room gets a color. The movers will love your sense of organizational flair and that they don’t have to ask you 375 times where every single box goes when they unload the truck. Of course, if you want to get really fancy, you can get moving labels and enlist your older kids (who aren’t sleeping at 7pm) to start labeling boxes as they are packed.
Don’t Forget the Snacks
Finally, order your child’s favorite snacks from Amazon and have them shipped to your new house for the date you will arrive with kids in tow. Dealing with the grocery store–a new one at that–AND with moving chaos added on top is just asking for it. Hangry kids are literally Creatures from the Black Lagoon, but in your kitchen. No good.
Not only will they have a PACKAGE to open (which is its own excitement), there are delicious tidbits inside! Fan favorites in our house include things like fruit and veggie snacks, minute muffins, and these great granola snacks.
Moving with Children Nightmare #2:
The new neighborhood is different. Your kids don’t care about the bigger room you put them in or the shiny bike you bought and put in the garage to help bolster some excitement. They dreamed up what it may look like and this is NOT it. The trees don’t even look the same. The swingset doesn’t have a climbing wall! Your kids burst into tears upon seeing this new house for the first time and scream that they want to go home.
It’s no secret that kids love, crave, and need structure to feel safe and secure. Moving is actually the direct opposite of those feelings, albeit temporary. It’s NEW. And sometimes new can be scary. (Even for adults!)
- The old house and neighborhood was a treasure trove of moments that will have to be set aside as MEMORIES.
- The grocery store, with its familiar aisles and grocers who knew their names and gave them free apples, will be replaced with new aisles and unfamiliar faces.
- The playmates they’ve had won’t be seen as frequently anymore.
Sure, it’s tempting to sweep the kiddies aside while you deal with the move logistics, but resist the urge to silence them with the iPad. The more you include them in the moving plan leading up to moving day AND on the day of, the easier everyone will find this new transition.
Here are some dream solutions that will help everyone navigate the unfamiliar:
Drive by Your New Place (Often, if Possible)
Without seeing the new home, they will not know what to expect. If possible, drive them by your new home and bring them with you if you get to check out the inside. If it’s too far to drive to, even browsing the real estate listing can be helpful for a visual.
Moving far away? Send away for a maps, brochures and travel guides to the new city.
Involve Your Kids in Planning the Rooms
If your kiddo is over one and half, chance are they can be included. From deciding which room they want to be theirs, to what color they want the walls to be, there are a lot of small decisions we can give kids to help them feel more in control, involved, and a part of the process.
Use the opportunity of moving to let them choose new room themes and sheets along with paint colors. Moving is not a cheap endeavor, but a new duvet or piece of wall art can do wonders for tipping the scale from lukewarm to a little more enthusiastic about the move.
Make Moving Fun and Exciting
Have your kids been begging you for a bunk bed? Maybe it’s time you finally give in to age old request and reclaim that extra kid’s room back as an office for you!
Or, if you don’t need more furniture, play tourist in your new town! Find the best ice cream, coolest park or best spot downtown for a bite to eat with the kids. It’s a great time to help generate excitement and explore together as a family.
Utilize the Power of Story
My family is a big believer in the power of story. Especially for younger kids. You can find a book about almost any transition, and moving is no exception. Here are some of our favorite books to prepare your kids for moving day:
- My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary, Big Move: A Workbook: This is for older kids, but it’s really, very brilliant and will help process moving in an interactive and engaging way.
- Big Ernie’s New Home: A Story for Young Children Who are Moving: This book is perfect for younger kids and will help put words to all the feelings they might have about their upcoming move.
- The Berenstain Bears Moving Day: This classic read will address moving fears and please your preschool-aged kids.
- Henry and Mudge and Annie’s Good Move: For those Henry & Mudge fans out there, this will help kids who are feeling especially nervous about moving to a new place.
As you adjust to the unfamiliar, make sure to not discount the adventure for the grind. Unpacking boxes and establishing order among the chaos is important, but so is learning your way around your new neighborhood. Go find the library, pick a new favorite park or just break for ice cream. The more you integrate into your community, the more familiar your new home and city will feel.
Moving with Children Nightmare #3:
Before the move, you were living the dream. Quite literally. You got 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep and your eyes looked as fresh as when you were a teen. Okay, a 20-something. Your kids went to bed without a peep and stayed that way. Now it’s up every two hours, tears at bedtime and a total free for all when it comes to schedule. Perhaps THAT’S why you accidentally packed your toothbrush with the dog’s stuff?
In my house, I take every step there is to avoid this nightmare. Sleep is the most important, sacred piece of the moving puzzle. There’s not much worse than trying to organize boxes with overly exhausted kids grabbing onto your ankles. To that end, here are some of my best dream solutions for helping kids sleep during the moving process:
Move Kids’ Rooms First
We swear by this, always. If you can do it, the night before is your best bet.
Load up the cribs and twin beds, grab the stuff you need for bedtime, have the kids grab their backpacks they have ready and head over. Yes, the adults sleep on an air mattress, but chances are, you’ll be so tired from packing you would probably sleep on a two by four if you had to.
The next day when the movers come into the mix, your kids won’t be in their old house full of commotion and crazy. Instead, they are already established in their calmer new space. Their rooms are all set up and ready to go for naptime and playtime if you need to get them away from the fray. It makes all the difference!
Long Distance Moves: Divide and Conquer
Even if you can’t drive over and camp out the night before the movers, you can still take them early. Divide and conquer is the name of the game. Have Mom fly out early with the kids–and bring the grandparents along for reinforcements and an added dose of comfort. Dad can stay behind and work out logistics with the movers.
Even if you can’t get into your house yet, you can always score a cheap Airbnb and acquaint your kids with the town you’re moving to. Score some ice cream and tour kid-friendly town favorites, such as the library, museums and parks.
As for sleeping, make sure each kids brings along their backpack packed with all of their favorites and essentials.
It also helps a ton if you’ve established a familiar resting place while traveling. We ADORE this Baby Bjorn Travel Crib and have used it a ton with our kids. Our youngest despised change, but came to associate this travel crib as an extension of his crib at home and refused to sleep in anything else while traveling. It folds up into a lightweight briefcase like bag and it works like a dream!
Don’t Forget the Sleep Essentials
Above all, when you’re packing, don’t forget to keep your sleep essentials readily available. If there is something your child normally relies on for sleep, keep that structure in place, and everyone will sleep more soundly through this transition. Here are a few things we always keep at the ready for our kids:
Kicking off Your Move:
As I like to say, the only way through, is through.
Moving is tough. It really is. But I am a firm believer that with some tried and true tricks and tips it’s so much more doable and not nearly as terrifying as it first seems.
The plan takes away the terror. It’s amazing how simple it is to turn moving with kids from Nightmare on Elm Street to a much more enjoyable Miracle on 34th Street.
Your kids will be okay.
It’s hard on those little hearts, but kids really are resilient. Don’t forget, their constant in all this is YOU. Your love. Your care. How YOU handle adversity and stress, not the zip code they live in.
The days may feel long, but the years are really way too short. This moving experience will become a memory that you look back on with pride and joy.
Take a deep breath, don’t pack the chocolate just yet and start with that first box. You can do this!
Have You Read These Yet?
- 6 Stunning Porch Upgrades that will Triple Your Home’s Curb Appeal (For Under $25)
- How to Survive (and Actually Enjoy) the Toddler Years
- How to Make Your Preschooler’s Screen Time Free of Mom Guilt
- 18 Easy Picnic Food Ideas That Will Make Your Kids Crave Seconds
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Most recently, she’s a new homeowner and already dreaming of house number two. A lake house with a yard full of pine trees is up next and to that end—she fosters an unhealthy relationship with Zillow. When she’s not writing, cooking or kid wrangling, you can find her reading a book or the New York Times, traveling, drinking iced tea and on a good day, all three of those things at once. Learn more about Sabrina here.