Moving with Children

Advice from PSP Members about making the transition to a new home as smooth as possible.



Keeping YOU sane:

  1. Stay organized.  Keep details (emails, packing lists, estimates, contacts, etc.) in one place online or in a move book.  

  2. Purge things you don’t need. Check out the PSP Website for places to donate GET LINK.  And ask-- some moving companies will also schlep donations for you.

  3. Keep important documents in one place and move them yourself.  This includes birth certificates, passports, wills, passports, medications, irreplaceable photos, etc.  If you’re moving locally you can put these in a safety deposit box.

Pre-Move Help for Kids

Some great, basic advice:

“Make sure to leave out her favorite toys until the last minute, of course. I think it helped to visit the new place as much as possible before the move. We had the walls painted bright colors; her room is yellow, so we made a big deal about how fun and special that was.”

“During the move, be as relaxed as you can (pretend to) be. I tried to make my daughter feel this was a positive change. For unpacking I'd try to enlist the help of family or friends to keep her occupied. It will be fun for her to see all her stuff re-emerging from the boxes! Ask her where she thinks stuff should go, etc. Spend lots of time with her in her new space and have playdates to celebrate the new space. Good luck!”

Visit the new home and talk it up.

“We moved a week before my son turned 2.  He was very attached to his house and on vacation would say he wants to go home.  We brought him to the "new house" several times during the 2 weeks before we moved in, and when we started packing we gave him a box to help us, which he really seemed to like.  We talked a lot about the new house and explained what we were doing and why."

“We moved last month with our 2-year-old. In the few weeks before the move, we'd mention now & then that we were ALL moving soon (lest he fear Mommy & Daddy were moving without him) to a new house & we were bringing all his toys & all his things with us.”


“We moved from Alaska with a 1-year-old and  2 1/2-year-old. My husband built up the move so much -- how exciting it would be to live in a city -- that they never wanted to go back and visit Alaska.  With that experience, my recommendation is telling her all the positive and wonderful things about your new place. She will follow you and your example of enthusiasm.”


Let books help.

“Buying some books about moving can make it exciting. My daughter thrives on routine and familiarity, but the excitement of the move and having all her things waiting for her in place made it a pretty peaceful move.  She adjusted beautifully - you'll be surprised at how easily she adjusts and how much she really associates "home" with you and the touch posts of your house.”

“We moved when our daughter was about 2 also, and one thing that seemed to help was that I made her a book telling the story of our move and we read it a lot ahead of time.  I wrote a simple text (i.e., telling about how we would put our stuff in boxes and the movers would come, with an emphasis on how when we opened the boxes all her toys would be there and addressing whatever I thought her anxieties might be).

I cut out pictures and did simple stick figure drawings to illustrate, nothing fancy.  My daughter helped make "her" book about the move and then we read it often and it seemed to help her rehearse what was going to happen.”


During the Moving

Packing Strategies: Leave packing the kids’ stuff to the very end.

"As far as packing in the weeks pre-move, we were careful to not pack his stuff when he was up & left out enough toys so he wouldn't notice some had already been packed.  We packed his important things at the last minute in clearly marked boxes so we could easily find them & unpack them first.”

Packing Strategies: Make sure the kids (and pets) are not underfoot!  Having kids under foot makes the job of the packers and you more stressful.  If you can, get them out of the house. If not, make sure they (kids and pets) are supervised and out of the way in a separate closed room. It might be worth it to board an animal if there’s a place you trust.  Having a clear workspace will help your movers be most efficient.

“The day of our move, my mom picked him up from preschool and had dinner with him.  By the time he got to his new home we had his room unpacked (well, mostly) and he was very excited to see his toys and bed.  We talked about how this is our new house and tried to generate enthusiasm. He sometimes still misses his old house, especially if he sees it (which is fairly frequently since we still see people on the block, and you can see the building from 7th Ave).  But he will also admit that he likes his new house a lot.”

“On the day of the move, we went through a whole "bye-bye house" routine & blew kisses to the old apartment.  We left him with his babysitter who had him out in the playground for the entire day. Meanwhile, we moved & set up his room enough so it would look really familiar:  crib had all his regular blankets, his favorite blankie & stuffed animal were right there, as many of his favorite toys as we could unpack were right there where he could see them.  When the sitter brought him over that evening, we paid tons of attention to him until he went to bed (& let him stay up late since he was pretty excited). I must say it went really well.  He was excited to have his toys in a new place but spent much of the time exploring."


Packing Strategies: Let kids help with the move.  Let them decorate their moving boxes and let them pack some of their own boxes.  (Make sure to pack one box as their “OPEN FIRST” box.). Keep these boxes light so they can carry them and feel helpful and responsible; like they are part of the process.    A trick with purging before you move is to hold up two toys and say, “Which one do you want keep and which one will go to a new child who doesn’t have very many toys?” (You can couple your favorite toys with least favorite toys to help purge the things you like the least.


Adjusting to the new home

Unpack the kids’ rooms first so they feel at home. “We moved one block when our daughter was [around 2].  It is best to set up her room first and have her come to her room with her bed, toys, and pictures while the rest of the move is going on -- it helps for them to have a familiar, safe touchstone.  

It’s going to be okay!  “There was zero adjustment!  We were shocked! I think it has to do with being where their stuff is -- so make sure to unpack her room first and to take her right away to her usual places so she knows she is the same neighborhood."

Final words:

Be especially gentle with yourself and your family. Moving is one of those top 5 stressors in life (along with death and divorce) so know that the whole family will be feeling it, even if you’re only moving a few blocks away. Keep hydrated, remember to eat, get an insulated cooler if you don’t have access to your kitchen. 


Books to help Kids with the Move

Boomer’s Big Day by Constance W. McGeorge and Mary Whyte (Ages 2-4)

Covers Boomer's confusion, anxiety, concern, and ultimate delight on this day familiar to all moving days.

Big Ernie's New Home: A Story for Children Who Are Moving by Teresa Martin (Ages 2-5)

Affirms the normal sadness, anger, and anxiety that young children may feel after a move. Also discusses the feelings that young kids face when moving and offers suggestions for creating a smooth adjustment.

Peanut Butter & Cupcake by Terry Border (Ages 3-7)

The Berenstain Bears' Moving Day by Stan and Jan Berenstain (Ages 3-7)

This classic Berenstain Bears story is the perfect way to help prepare a child for a new move!

Bruce's Big Move by Ryan T. Higgins (Ages 4-7)

Little Critter: We Are Moving by Mercer Mayer (Ages 4-8)

Little Critter® doesn’t get a new dog— he’s moving to a new house! Questions arise.  Will he be able to bring his sandbox? What if he has to go to a new school full of bullies? What if his new next-door neighbors are monsters!? Join Little Critter as he learns moving is not so bad after all. . . .

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John (Ages 8-12)

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling (Ages 8-12)

Moo: A Novel by Sharon Creech (Ages 8-12)

Uplifting New York Times bestseller reminds us that if we’re open to new experiences, life is full of surprises.

Soar by Joan Bauer (Ages 10+)

Newbery Honor winner Joan Bauer hits a home run with her newest friend, who always sees the positive side of any situation.

Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin (Ages 10+)

An affecting story of a girl’s devotion to her brother and what it means to be home.

Shelter (Book One): A Mickey Bolitar Novel by Harlan Coben (YA)

Books to help Parents with the Move

Moving with Kids by Lori Burgan

Easy to read and useful, this is the ideal parents' helper when faced with a move across town or across the world.

The Essential Moving Guide For Families by Sara Boehm

Moving? You're in good company: 14% of Americans move each year. Despite all this relocation taking place around us it can still feel like a lonely process fraught with anxiety for you and your children. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Good Move: Strategy and Advice for Your Family's Relocation by Kaly Sullivan

Loaded with real stories from families that have been through relocation, this book is your best friend as you take on moving into a new home.