Moving Day: How to Ease the Transition for Toddlers

Moving with a Toddler? Make the Transition Easier with these Tips.


Toddlers love consistency and routine. They take comfort in familiar daily tasks, performed in an environment in which they thrive. And nothing messes with a beloved routine more than moving.

Relocating can create anxiety for the whole family, whether the move is across town or cross-country. But there are ways to make the transition more seamless and less stressful for your toddlers.

Sperry Hutchinson, moving and product expert and spokesperson for U-Haul International, Inc.

, offers these helpful tips on how to make a successful move with a toddler in tow.

Q: What is the best way to talk to your toddler about the concept of "moving"?

Hutchinson: [We use] the phrase "Adventures in Moving," and kids love a good adventure. While every family's moving experience is different, focusing on the positive aspects of this adventure will help your children approach the process as an exciting change. Talk about where you'll be going together and be sure to mention any fun places along the way. Of course, scouting out the area and telling them all about parks and restaurants that will be near your new house will have them imagining the fun times ahead. If you emphasize all the good things about your move and destination, then that will be how your children think of it, too.

Q: Toddlers can get very attached to things -- especially their house. What are some suggestions for getting a toddler excited if they're really sad to leave the only home they've ever known?

Hutchinson: It's natural to feel a little sad about leaving a familiar place. One way to help a child be positive about the process is to minimize the mystery of what's to come. Of course, the new house will be an exciting place to explore. If you can, show your child around the new place before you move, offering a solid idea of what the house and neighborhood is like.

Tell him or her all about any moves you may have made in the past, and share the good things that transpired as a result. Show your child a map of where you'll be going, planning together how you'll drive there and what things you'll see along the way. Again, being positive is essential.

Q: What are some tips for packing when you have a toddler (who loves taking everything out of the boxes that you're trying to pack)?

Hutchinson: As with so many things involving children, scheduling is key. Having some time when you can focus on packing may be best done during nap time or after your child has gone to bed. If you can enlist the help of a sitter, do so. You may also rediscover the true importance of bubble wrap as a fun distraction, and packing tape to keep busy little hands out of any already packed items!

Q: Should parents encourage young children to pack some of their own boxes or is this just asking for trouble?

Hutchinson: Absolutely! Children love to help and should be encouraged to pitch in. Packing items such as stuffed animals, books, durable toys or clothing is a low-risk activity that will keep them busy and doesn’t require extreme organization. It may also save you some valuable time in the end.

Q: Moving households is always a good time to clean out stuff you don't need -- but every toy you try to put in the "garage sale" pile is suddenly your toddler's favorite. What's the best way to address this?

Hutchinson: This is a tough one, but a little creativity beforehand may be beneficial. If you can help your child imagine he or she is taking a trip where only the absolute favorite toys can come along (consider making a rule, such as only half can fit on the rocket, ship, airplane, etc.), then that will help you identify those key items before you pack. You may want to consider sorting these items while your little one is busy elsewhere, reducing the risk of a loudly tearful tug-of-war.

If your child notices some things have gone "missing," be honest and help them understand that those items are living happily with another little boy or girl (think “Toy Story”), and emphasize all the wonderful things that they still have.

Q: Do you recommend marking some boxes as "open first" or something similar so your child has familiar items and toys ASAP when you arrive at the new house?

Hutchinson: Definitely. We always recommend labeling and loading in a way that allows bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens to be set up first. But quickly identifying and unpacking your little one's toys and other items will help him or her feel more at ease in the new home while you finish unpacking.

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