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Moving with a toddler was not at the top of my bucket list. Moving with a toddler we adopted less than a year ago sounded terrifying. Yet here we are, post-move and settling into our new home. Or, at least, attempting to. After my research and thinking about our recent move, I came up with an ultimate guide on how to move with a toddler and keep your sanity. This is a fairly lengthy post, so be sure to pin or bookmark it so you can come back and read during each step of your moving process.
Initial Packing Tips
- While you pack, get rid of what you don’t need! This is common advice, that, on a practical level doesn’t always happen. By the last couple of days, we were just throwing things in boxes. What you can purge though is less to move and less to unpack.
- Even if your move is a few months out, try to pack a box or two a day. Off-season clothing, holiday decorations, anything that isn’t essential can be packed up and put in a closet or garage.
- Label each box with the room. You can also assign each room a color and place a sticker on the box to speed up the process. If the box has important contents or should be unpacked quickly, make sure you mark it. If you need extra boxes (and are cheap like me), ask your local grocery store or place an ad on Craigslist.
- My friend Erica said that she would set a timer and pack while her kids played independently. Once the timer went off she would return to playing with them/giving them her complete attention.
Preparing Your Toddler for the Move
- Once you are sure that you will be moving and start to pack things up, it’s time to start preparing your toddler for what to expect.
- Take pictures with your child of the old house, neighborhood, park, and other favorite places. Put them in a photo album to look at after the move.
- Visit the new house (if possible) right before the move so they can explore. Talk about the new house, what is different (“look at how big this yard is”) and what is similar (“there is a window in your new room too!”). Pray together that you will use this new space to bring glory to God.
- Go on a walk of the new neighborhood to meet the neighbors. If you’re in a new area, explore it beforehand, taking pictures of the grocery store, parks, schools, etc. Pictures of the new house and area would be especially helpful if you are moving a long distance and can’t take your child to see it in person.
- Act the move out with toys. If you have a dollhouse or playhouse, set it up in your child’s bedroom. Then pack it in a box and move it with your child to another room. My son plays with this playhouse in speech therapy and absolutely loves it.
- Read books about moving. I couldn’t find any books about moving that were geared toward toddlers at my local library, but here are some that others have recommended.
The Week of the Move
- Pack a bag with a few days worth of items. Clothes, diapers, travel size shampoo/soap, washcloths, towels, toothbrush, toothpaste, extra set of crib or bed sheets, pillow, favorite toys etc. What are the essentials for each person for the next few days? (Yes, baseball caps and dry shampoo are essentials) Put these in one place and keep it with you in your vehicle (if you’re hiring movers). Thanks for the suggestion, Nicole from Faith Unscripted!
- In addition to each person’s bag, pack a “first to open” box. On one of my Instagram posts, a follower (Thanks for the tips!) suggested packing a box of new “house first day must haves…hand soap, toilet paper, Clorox wipes, granola bars, paper towels, etc.” You don’t want to be searching for snacks while moving with a toddler!
- As you are getting closer, get your kids involved! Let your toddler “help” pack their toys as you explain that they will be at the new house. Then, let them “help” label the box!
- Ask a friend, family member, or hire a babysitter to watch your child(ren) while you do some extra packing and cleaning in the days leading up to the move.
- Make a couple freezer meals to keep in a cooler. My son is on a restricted diet, so we couldn’t just order pizza for him the first couple of nights. Having food ready to go made life so much easier.
It’s Moving Day!
- Do a final walkthrough and goodbye of the old house once it’s packed. Briefly explain that this is your old house and we have a new house now. Pray together for the new family who will move in. If you are moving close by, it is sometimes also helpful to drive by after the new family has moved in to show that someone else lives there now.
- Try to set up your child’s room first (put in on the moving truck last) so they can sleep in their normal bed. This will help tremendously with the transition. If it’s not possible, have a Pack ‘n Play and a noisemaker accessible for naps during the chaos, but with a familiar blanket or pillow.
- Buy a moving day toy. Give your child a special surprise to make the day more fun and to keep them entertained.
- Make everything about moving day special with your attitude. No dining room table? Act excited about having an indoor picnic!
After the Move
- Moving with a toddler is stressful, but we frequently forget about preparing for life after moving day. Toddlers need routine, so try to stick to your normal schedule as much as possible. At the same time though, as my friend Erica said, “give grace to yourself and family. We didn’t eat as healthy as normal or have the same screen time limits as normal. Sometimes we just survived until the normal started setting back in.”
- Don’t feel like you have to unpack everything. The items that you packed first (holiday decorations, etc) can wait. Unpack a little at a time.
- If you don’t have help unpacking, get your spouse involved. Erica and her husband took turns taking the kids to the park or just out of the house so they could unpack or set up rooms.
Did you just move with a toddler? Expect Regression
I followed all of the advice listed above, and my son has still struggled greatly with nightmares and other signs of increased anxiety. Other children may regress in potty training or struggle to fall asleep. This is completely normal. You are not alone if you find post-move to be more stressful than the move itself. Try to get out of the house and explore. Look at the pictures of your old house together. Label your child’s feelings (“You feel sad because you miss your old bedroom”) and give them new tools to cope (“When mommy feels sad, she asks for a hug.”). Pray together for comfort and peace.
What Do You Think?
What helped save your sanity during a move with a toddler?