I was recently asked if I had any tips for packing and moving with young children…luckily I have recently done just that and I sought advice from my dear friend, who also happens to be an OT and a Play Therapist, Belinda von Wielligh. I will include some of her really great tips and throw in a few others I gathered along the way!
- Before you start packing up your little one’s world as they know it, have a chat about moving house and what that may entail. For really littlies keep the information short and simple, for slightly older littlies give them as much information as they are asking for as generally toddlers love the details and it helps them to process what will be happening. Repetition will be important and you can use toys to help. Play games with monkeys, squirrels, ponies, lego people or anything else that can be a family. The family will need to pack up where they are living (a house, a tree, a nest, a hole in the ground), get their belongings to their new home and “ta da” they are there! Include variations where their belongings go on a truck, in a car, get stored somewhere before they get to the new home etc. The main theme of these games should be that the family all get to the new home and are there *together*.
- Make sure you talk about what will be coming to the new house and what will be staying at the old house (e.g. your bed, toys and cereal bowl will be coming with…the kitchen counter, the built in braai and the bath will not be coming with).
- If you can take some photos of the new house it will help your little one to picture where they will be going. Print these and stick them up, together with a countdown calendar.
- Make a countdown calendar which has an action for each day. Groovy Adventurers need something physical to do to mark off a day e.g. pasting a sticker on each day, pulling off a paper tab from each block, stamping each block.
- Label and decorate a box just for your little one’s extra special goodies. Write his name on it and decorate it with paint, stickers, coloured paper, stamps, photos etc. In this box must go all his favourite toys, teddies, blankie, cup etc. The aim is to take this box with him on the move day. So if he goes to Granny for the day it should go with him there and then with him to his new house (not in the moving truck). Allow him to unpack this box himself, if he is able to, and find a spot for each item in his new home.
- A day or two before moving day use all the boxes you have packed (and those still needing to be packed) to build a castle or fort! Try to create an entrance and some tall walls. We surprised our boys with this box castle after their bath and we had a picnic supper inside it! They LOVED it and spoke about it for ages afterwards. It’s a great way to block out all the chaos that comes with packing up your house and enjoy some family time.
- Allow your little one to help as much as they (and you) can manage. Passing your items to pack into a box, sticking the tape down to seal a box and even bringing the next empty box to you can make him feel part of the process and like he is helping. Of course, you need to allow some time for box playing as well…boxes make such great cars, trains, tunnels, spaceships, boats, planes and moon buggies!
- Consider using a moving company on the big day, it can really take so much of the stress out of this day. Talk to friends in advance and get some referrals.
- Arrange some extra hands on the day. Whether your Groovy Adventurer is with you or not it’s always great to have help to hang curtains, unpack toys and make you a cup of tea!
- Arrange for a friend to drop off a meal for the first night or two or have some ready made frozen meals ready for these busy days.
- A special night light may help sleeping in a new room a little less daunting as well as being surrounded by familiar bedding, teddies and furniture. So try not to “re-do” the whole room so that he doesn’t recognise anything at all. Allowing him to unpack some of his toys and clothes will also help to cement the idea that he is surrounded by HIS things and that not everything is strange and new.
Once you have unpacked a bit, the box playing fun can begin again! Remember that it will take a while to fully settle into a new space, so give yourself and your family the time (as stress-free as possible) to do this.
Happy packing and moving!