Wednesday 30 July 2014

11 Tips for Moving House with a Toddler

Two months ago (has it really been that long?!), after many months of painstaking negotiations, we eventually moved house. We said goodbye to our first family home, and moved a whole five minutes down the road. We moved while my parents were away, so we didn’t have any help in terms of packing up, but we hired removal men to make moving day easier. Unpacking is still a working progress though, I’m afraid, but we’re getting there. Anyway, we survived, and Ebony seemed to be right at home in her new house, so I wanted to share some tips about to move home with a toddler:

1. Keep stress levels to a minimum
I’ll hold my hands up here and say that we weren’t particularly good at this one. During the (many, many) months of trying to buy the house we now live in, signing papers and dealing with mortgages, we were stressed. Do whatever you can to try and keep stress levels at a minimum, so that there isn’t an unpleasant atmosphere looming in your home.

2. Prepare early
Our house buying process was quite drawn out, but I’d started packing up odd boxes soon after we sold our house. We knew we’d be moving at some point, so it seemed sensible to start packing things we rarely used into boxes. This made it all seemed more manageable, and much less time consuming, in the weeks before the move. Trying to do it all in one go is inevitably going to lead to a meltdown as your toddler battles for your attention.

3. Prepare your child
Shortly after we sold our house, I stumbled across the Usbourne First Experiences book ‘Moving House’ in my local charity shop for the bargain price of 10p. You can buy it for £3.59 from Amazon here. It’s not the most riveting book to read, but it helped Ebony to understand what moving house meant. We read the book regularly whilst we were waiting to move, and I discussed the idea of moving house with her a lot. She always seems quite excited about the new house, thanks to the lure of the play room.

4. Pack toddler items last
Ebony wasn’t at all bothered when I started packing away her clothes, but she wasn’t overly pleased to see her ‘favourite’ (read: unplayed with for months on end) toys going into boxes. I left this packing until the last minute, because I didn’t want the house move to become something that prevented her from having her favourite (read: dusty and completely unloved) things. I also packed her things separately and made sure the boxes were clearly labelled (this may be how most people pack their entire house, but our stuff sort of just got haphazardly jammed into boxes and covered in packing tape).

5. Take favourite toys with you
Instead of leaving Ebony’s stuff for the removal men, I made sure I took a box of her favourite toys with us in the car during the move. This meant that as soon as we arrived at the new house, we had access to all of her favourite things. I’m glad we did this because the removal men piled all of our boxes into an impenetrable tower in the corner of a room and it took me weeks to get through them all.

6. Keep your toddler with you on the day
This one might be a bit controversial, because I think most people take the view that it’s easier to move house with the toddler safely out of the way. We had various offers from friends and family who said they could entertain Ebony for a few hours while the move was underway, but I thought she would find it easier to witness the move. Far from feeling traumatised by seeing the removal men carry out our sofas, she seemed excited to be involved in the process. She helped me with the last minute tidy up, and then accompanied me to the new house. We arrived before the removal men, allowing us to explore the house so she could get accustomed to her new surroundings.

7. Go for an explore
Once the removal men arrived with all of the furniture, we decided to get out of their way. If you have moved to a new area, this would be a great time to check out the local park, or just have a nosy around the neighbourhood. We didn’t move far so we decided to head out and explore the garden instead. The garden was one of the lures of the new house for me. Our old garden was overlooked and never felt that private, but our new garden is totally enclosed and feels incredibly private. The house had been empty for about six months, so when we moved in the garden was completely overgrown. It was lovely to spend the afternoon exploring our new sun-drenched garden, whilst Ebony made use of the toys (trampoline, see saw and playhouse) left behind by the previous owners.

8. Use distraction
Moving always takes longer than anticipated, so to avoid having a fed up toddler on your hands, have some distraction tricks up your sleeve. I bought a slide from eBay for £11, and kept it hidden in the shed until moving day. When we arrived at the new house, Ebony was thrilled to see the slide, though it was somewhat overshadowed by the trampoline, and spent ages happily playing in the garden whilst the removal men finished unloading.

9. Unpack their room first
Make sure you have all of their things to hand, so that you can get their bed for the night set up before bedtime. Have their favourite bedding, cuddly toys and pyjamas to hand so that bedtime feels as normal as possible. We were still co-sleeping at the time, so I just made sure our bed was set up and made in good time.

10. Stick to routine
Routine helps toddlers to feel safe, and while we don’t have a strict routine, bedtime was between 6 and 7 when we moved. I made sure Ebony was fed, bathed and in pyjamas at the usual time, and she fell asleep with no trouble at 6pm, completely exhausted after a busy day.

11. Unpack slowly
Moving house is a major life event for you, so imagine how it feels for your toddler! Being a toddler is hard enough as it is, without these huge changes, so expect at least a few difficulties in the weeks following the move. Chances are your toddler has been feeling a little left out of late, with all the packing and organising you’ve been doing, so now is the time to spend some quality time with your child. It doesn’t matter if some of your boxes stay packed a little longer than you’d like, or if you haven’t quite sorted out the spare bedroom, what matters is that your child feels safe and happy in their new home.

Have I missed anything off this list?

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