As if moving were not difficult enough already, moving with a toddler takes it to a whole other level.
Dealing with all of the many tasks required when moving house can be overwhelming, but a cranky toddler can make it all even more challenging.
I am somewhat of a frequent mover. I grew up moving every few years and just can’t seem to stop. Some have been local, some have been far, all have been challenging.
A couple of months ago I moved for the 19th time. It was my first move with 3 kids: a newborn, a toddler, and a preschooler. 100% would not recommend.
Unfortunately, some moves are not optional.
While I was initially concerned about handling the newborn, my toddler seemed to struggle the most with all of the changes.
Toddlers are funny little things. They have such strong opinions and emotions, though often aren’t capable of expressing them appropriately.
Instead all of these feelings seem to come out in loud meltdowns and unacceptable behaviors.
So making your move easier on your toddler, will actually also make the move easier on you too. Sounds like a win-win to me.
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In This Guide:
Talk About The Move
It can be tempting to wait until the last minute to tell your toddler about a move, but it can help to get the conversation started early.
They may pick up on your stress or be confused by the preparation so it can help to take the lead. Explain in simple terms based on their ability to comprehend.
We talk about the process, packing, loading the boxes in the truck, driving to the new house, unloading, and unpacking.
Make sure they know that all of their belongings will move too. And though it may seem obvious, make sure they know who is moving. Worrying that toys, pets, siblings, or even themself might get left behind can cause a lot of anxiety.
Also try to keep the tone and focus upbeat. We chat up the new house and get excited for new bedrooms.
They may be resistant to it, but this gives them time to process the coming changes, ask questions, and get used to the idea.
Read Books About Moving For Toddlers
My kids love stories so of course, I had to find a book about moving to help us prepare.
A book can get the conversation about moving started and help little kids understand what will happen.
There are lots of books about moving for kids, but I noticed that some focus more on the negative emotions. I preferred these because they seemed more positive or at least neutral and I didn’t want to introduce the idea of moving being scary.
By Constance W. McGeorge
This book tells about moving day from a dog’s eye view which my kids seem to find hilarious. Since the dog doesn’t understand what is going on, it gives a straightforward explanation of what to expect for little kids.
By Alexandra Cassel
A great book for Daniel Tiger fans telling the story of a new friend moving in next door. This is a sweet book and good for even younger toddlers. Like the show, it includes a little song that your toddler can drive you nuts with sing.
By Stan & Jan Berenstain
This book tells the story of the bear family moving to their tree house. While it doesn’t focus on the negative, it does talk about leaving behind friends and ways to stay in contact which was nice. I also like that it specifically mentions that toys and books will be moved. The only drawback is that it has a lot of words for some younger toddlers.
Toddlers learn so much through play. While they may not fully understand your conversations about moving, they may “get it” by playing it out.
So have their dolls or stuffies pack up and move to another room. Or let them use a bag or box to pack, load, and unpack toys from room to room.
This is a great way to practice moving day and gives you a chance to show how everything will work while keeping it fun.
We did this over and over and over with different toys.
Take Pictures Of The Old House
I have to give credit to my oldest for this idea. When we moved a few years ago he asked to take pictures around the house so he would remember it.
Anyway, I thought it was so sweet so of course I did it. We literally went from room to room and took photos, sometimes even from multiple angles.
This really seemed to help him in a couple ways. He felt better knowing he wouldn’t forget things. Also as we took the pictures, it gave him the chance to ask if certain things were coming with us.
Yes, your bed is coming too.
No, the toilet is not.
He liked to look at the pictures so much that I had them printed and put them in a small, inexpensive album so he could flip through whenever he wanted.
Show Them The New House
Letting them see the new house can help get them excited for the move.
Obviously, this works best for local moves. They get the chance to see their new room and where their toys will go. Show them fun things about the house like a backyard or playroom.
Even if they don’t seem thrilled about the house at the time, and they very well may not, at least this makes it a familiar place come moving day.
When visiting the house is not an option, showing them pictures is another option. I walk them through the photos like a little story.
This is where we come inside. This is where we eat our food. And this is your room. Where should we put your bed?
My kids liked seeing the pictures and definitely recognized the house from them.
Stick To Their Schedule
Toddlers thrive on routine and a move is sure to disrupt that, so try to keep to their usual schedule as much as possible.
Make their schedule a priority. Make sure their meals, snacks, and naps all happen as close to normal as possible.
Will it be perfect? Nope.
Just do your best. We all know an overtired, hangry toddler is a nightmare so let’s try to avoid that if it is at all possible.
Have A Child Care Plan
There seems to be two schools of thought about it. For some kids seeing everything loaded up in the truck can help them understand what is happening, for others it can be confusing and upsetting.
Personally, when possible I prefer to keep the little kids away on moving day. You will save your sanity if you plan for child care.
Moving day is chaotic already. A toddler running around and getting underfoot is not only distracting but can also be dangerous.
Ideally, plan for child care somewhere else for both the loading and unloading. This keeps your toddler safe away from the action and you can focus.
Obviously, that is not always possible. In which case…
Make A Safe Space
When your toddler must be present for moving day make a safe space to contain them.
Pick a room that will not have much foot traffic, make sure it is toddler-proof, and have some activities to occupy them.
I fully abandon our usual screen time rules on moving day.
Hopefully, they stay within their space and out of the way. For a lot of kids, this is not ideal, but you gotta do what you gotta.
Packing Tips For Moving With A Toddler
Organize and Purge
While this falls under just general moving advice, it is especially important with a toddler.
Little kids tend to spread. Everywhere.
Their toys end up all over the house. If you move my couch right now, I’d be shocked if there were less than 4 toys hiding under it. Organizing stuff so that similar things are all together will make your life so much easier when it comes time to unpack.
Also, kids accumulate so much stuff, use this opportunity to shed some of the broken and outgrown toys.
I know this is probably not what you want to hear, but I want to be honest. It can easily take weeks to pack yourself. Movers will pack your whole home in one or two days.
If your budget allows or your employer is paying, opt for the full service move.
I totally understand that this is not always an option, more often than not we have moved ourselves.
Pack Last And Unpack First
When it comes to how to pack for a move with a toddler – pack their things up last and unpack them first. This minimizes the disruption to your toddler on both ends of the move.
I know there’s so many other things that you probably want to get unpacked asap like the kitchen, but making your toddler’s room habitable and familiar right away can help them adjust to their new surroundings.
Be sure to include all of the toddler-proofing items like gates, cabinet locks, electrical covers, etc. You want your old house to be safe up until the last minute and you need to make your new house safe as soon as possible.
First Night Box
Pack a box with everything you will need to make the first night in your new house comfortable. While this can help in any move, it’s really essential with a toddler. Even if you try to follow my advice above, sometimes it just does not work out that you have time to unpack their room before bedtime.
After a long day of moving, do you want to search 10 boxes to find a crib sheet? Doubtful.
So pack up everything your toddler needs for bedtime, like bedding, nightlight, sound machine. Toddlers are finicky things and you know much better than I what yours needs to go to sleep. Pack that.
Mark this box really really well. Use some bright colored tape or markers and make it stand out among a sea of boxes. Consider keeping this box accessible if there is room in your car.
I have to admit that I actually didn’t pack a first night box this last move. I don’t know what I was thinking (I was sleep deprived with a newborn) and boy, did I regret it.
Keep The Essentials
Keep your child’s most essential items on hand.
My rule about the essentials is that it must stay in my possession. It doesn’t go on a truck, there can be no risk of losing (even just temporarily) these items.
These essentials include things like medications, lovies, diapers, wipes, and snacks. If it meets a physical need or my toddler will have an epic meltdown without it, then it is essential.
Depending on the specifics of your move, for instance if you are moving yourself across town, you may be able to put these essentials in your first night box.
Be Prepared For Regressions
It’s not uncommon for toddlers to have regressions during times of stress.
Moving is a major life change and may totally shake up their little world. This stress may cause them to back track.
Some toddlers may become extra clingy, others may begin waking up at night or having potty accidents.
As frustrating as this can be, staying calm, reassuring, and supportive can help them get through the regression and back to their old self.
Discuss with their pediatrician if you are concerned about their behavioral changes or they persist.
Do you have any other tips for moving with a toddler? Let us know if you have some more ideas to help ease the transition.