Moving With A Toddler: 10 Tips For A Smooth & Easy Transition

by Melanie on September 11, 2013

Moving With A Toddler 17

Moving homemade figurines from the old box house to the new box house.

Moving can be a real stressful event for just about every member of the family.

Everything about life as we know it is stored away in a box and carted however many miles away to our new place, where we then have to go through it bit by bit and organize it all over again. In the process, many things get thrown away, given away, or left behind. Notes are taken about what we’ll need in the new house that we don’t already have. Lists are written. Things are lost. And then there are the goodbyes- goodbye, neighbors. Goodbye, yard. Goodbye, house, where so many fond memories were formed together.

Our whole structure and routine is on temporary hold, to be rebuilt again once we’re finally settled into the new home.

It’s a lot of work. Can you tell I’m talking from experience here?

Yeah, we’ve moved a few times.

Moms get stressed out. Dads get exhausted. Dogs wander in circles with lost appetites, nervous by all the commotion in the air.

And toddlers, well, they don’t quite know what to make of it all either.

I’m writing this because we are at the tail end of a big move. It’s been quite an adjustment for all of us. Going into the move, I knew tot school would have to be put on hold, so I planned out a few other things to make moving a smooth and easy transition for the youngest member of our family. I want to share the things that we did that I found most helpful in preparing my toddler for the big change.

10 Tips For Moving With A Toddler

1) Talk about moving house.

Keep your toddler in the know about what’s going on. Talk to them throughout the entire process. To optimize your child’s language development, you should be doing this all the time anyway with your everyday activities, but it can be especially easy to lose sight of how important this is when us grown-ups are caught up in the hustle of a big move. Don’t become so absorbed in the move that you forget to be mindful of your toddler’s feelings and emotions while everything they know is getting disheveled! This is quite possibly the most unsettling experience of their lifetime yet.

The transition will be much easier for them if you are remembering to explain to them what’s happening. From their little eyes, Mom & Dad are just suddenly tearing the house apart and shattering the entire structure that they’re accustomed to, unless you tell them otherwise. To avoid behavioral problems arising from the confusing situation, talk to the kids. It’s a wonder how much they understand at such a young age and how you taking the time to give them an “adult” conversation can ease their anxieties.

2) Read books about moving.

Books About Moving

There are many of them out there! I didn’t go on a hunt for any particular titles (though, I very well may have had I been highly recommended a particular book). Instead, I just waltzed into the library a week before our move and checked the catalog for relevant books. I came home with four books, two of which have become big favorites of Rocket’s. We read them almost every day in our last week at the old house and are continuing to read them nightly now that we’ve moved.

I’ve listed the books about moving we borrowed below, with Amazon links to his favorites.

If you know of any other excellent books about moving for kids, please comment on this post to share!

3) Pack together for the move.

Moving with toddlers may seem difficult at first, but there is actually a lot that they can do to help move! In my last week’s post about age appropriate chores, I talked about how capable young toddlers are- even before they reach the age of two. They thrive on helping us grown-ups get things done. Rather than “getting in the way” during a move, they can help us along the way!

We make life easier for everyone by involving the tots. Doing so makes them feel so much more accomplished and it takes a lot of the stress off the adults too because it’s not just empty busy work; they really do contribute!

Moving With A Toddler 9

Packing up the books.

Moving With A Toddler 20

Helping Dad pack up the canned goods.

Look around your house during a move and find packing errands that you think your little one can handle. Putting them to work (with reasonable expectations and a positive attitude) will make moving with a toddler less of a chore and more of an adventure!

Moving With A Toddler 21

Even helping out with the water break!

4) Play with boxes.

Moving With A Toddler 3

Knocking down a tower of boxes.

I had to put this in here!

Everyone knows that children and toddlers love to play with boxes. In fact, any adult who takes the time to try it will probably find that they love playing with boxes too! It’s hard to go wrong with tunnels and towers.

Moving With A Toddler 4

Building the tower.

Make special time to enjoy moving. Do it for the kids, and you’ll find that you’re really doing it for yourself too. It’s hard to slow down and relax when things are as hectic as they are during a move. But force yourself to take a break, stack some of those moving boxes into a tall tower, and crash ’em down with the family. Endless hours of fun can be had with ordinary cardboard boxes. This makes moving not just the hurried process of getting from point A to point B, but a delightful memory in and of itself.

And if you ever have to move again in the future, your kids will be much better equipped to embrace the event with optimistic attitudes if you do it the fun way.

5) Use imaginative play to act out the process of moving.

Moving With A Toddler 11

Our box family.

A couple of days before the actual move, I turned two cardboard boxes into houses- our old house and our new house. I did this simply by cutting out the doors and drawing on some windows with a permanent marker.

Then, I made figurines for every member of our family. I drew quick sketches of us, allowed Rocket to color them as he chose, and taped them to wooden blocks from the schoolroom so that they’d stand on their own. This entire project could have been made to be much more elaborate if I’d wanted. I could have added more details to the houses and taken my time on the people. Instead, I opted for time efficiency and the entire process (including Rocket’s coloring) took ten minutes.

Moving With A Toddler 21

Coloring our family.

Then, it was playtime. I put the figurines in or around the old house and let Rocket walk them to the new house one by one. He loved doing this! He went back to it frequently, especially admiring the figurines of himself and Daddy. Sometimes, I found him playing with this cheap, homemade toy on his own when I thought he was packing some books into a box.

Moving With A Toddler 12

Admiring baby Rocket.

As he walked the figurines into the new house, he said, “Bye bye, old house!”

I feel like the activity really helped prepare him for the big move, just like all imaginative play prepares children for real life. They love to pretend!

Moving With A Toddler 19

Our box family, ready for action!

Moving With A Toddler 18

Moving our family from the old house to the new house. 

Moving With A Toddler 14

He walked them across the carpet, humming, “doo doo doo doo doo” as he went!

Moving With A Toddler 15

Putting the figurines inside the new house.

If I’d had doll houses or people figurines, I would probably have used those as props instead to make it easy. But this project proves that even without a bunch of money to spend on toys, you can always come up with inexpensive activities that are engaging for little ones.

Another option would be using large boxes (such as refrigerator boxes) as the “old house” and the “new house” and our own physical bodies to do the moving instead of figurines. As long as those creative juices are flowing and kids are having fun pretending, it will help them understand and cope with the idea of moving house.

6) Introduce toddlers to the new house prior to moving.

We took Rocket to the new house several times before the actual move. This helped him to get acquainted with the place and know what to expect.

I know this isn’t always an option for every family (especially if the new house is in another state), but if at all possible, it’s a good idea. Otherwise, pictures and verbal descriptions may have to do!

7) Say goodbye to the old house.

It can be very emotional leaving the only place you’ve thought of as “home.” After Rocket was born, we lived in a couple of unideal living situations before we finally wound up in our “old” house. For the first time, our family felt very much at home. We have so many wonderful memories together in that house.

On top of the house itself, Rocket became very bonded with our neighbors- an elderly couple we call D & O. They became fantastic friends of our family and they treat Rocket like their own grandchild. Our family is very fortunate to know them!

When I first explained to Rocket that we’d be moving out of the old house and into the new house, it was so sweet watching his thought process as he began to understand what it meant.

“Bye bye, old house! Hello, new house!” He said. Then his eyes seemed distant for a moment and he added, “Bye bye, D & O.”

I couldn’t believe he made that connection so early.

Of course, we will keep in touch with D & O. They have grown to be much more than just people down the street at this point. They are family! But it was important for Rocket to come to terms with the fact that they will no longer be just a stone’s throw away.

So we said goodbye to our old house. Goodbye to the trees in the yard. Goodbye to the nearby parks. Goodbye to the neighborhood. And goodbye to D & O. (We love you, D & O, if you’re reading this!)

We look forward to our new chapter, but will certainly remember the old!

8) Allow toddlers to “break in” the new house for the family.

This can be done in any number of ways. For us, we let Rocket turn on every light switch once the electricity was turned on. He was the first person to test out each light.

I took him from room to room with the stool and let him flip the lights on to make sure they were working- all this while Dad was busy unloading a truck-full of boxes. He was very pleased with this position of great importance (and Dad was pleased to have the paths cleared for unloading)!

Moving With A Toddler 6

Lights on!

Moving With A Toddler 7

The bathroom light is working, too!

Moving With A Toddler 5

Can’t forget to check the basement.

9) Celebrate the new home with a moving day gift.

Moving With A Toddler

Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks & Boards – House board.

I chose to get Rocket something that I felt we’d use for years to come in the schoolroom: a set of Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks & Boards.

I didn’t give it to him until our first day in the new house. We started with the board of a house, to represent our new home!

He took to matching the geometric shapes and naming their colors immediately, especially loving the truck and the car board.

Moving With A Toddler 2

Working on the car. He added several layers of hexagon wheels!

10) Unpack & explore the new neighborhood together.

Just as helpful as toddlers can be with the packing, they are eager little sidekicks for the unpacking. We are still in the middle of this part (I’m surrounded by boxes right now as I type this), but the hard part is over.

The boxes are here. We are here. Now to settle into the new home and make it ours!

We’ve already met a few of the neighbors (so far, good people!) and will set out to explore the neighborhood this week.


Happy moving, everyone!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

michelle September 11, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Great tips! Seems like you did a great job making sure all the commotion translated to feelings of excitement rather than feelings of fear. Hope everyone transitions to the new home smoothly!


Melanie September 24, 2013 at 5:11 am

Thanks! We are working on these boxes. It’s quite a process… can’t wait to get back to our ordinary tot school routine.


James Harrison September 18, 2013 at 5:12 am

First of all, I like your photos collections.
Yes, you are right moving with kids means you have an extra stress & need a much more care while moving. Involving kids while packing is one of the best way to grab their interest in packing. As well as, try to maintain the adventure & calm environment while packing the boxes. It will definitely cheer up to you & your kids.


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: