Expert / 24 July, 2017 / Elizabeth Pantley

Moving with a Baby or Toddler

Moving is considered one of the most stressful experiences. Stress, disruption, and emotional swings are normal during a move, and little ones thrive best in a calm and stable atmosphere with clear routines, so a move can seem completely overwhelming. Yet, with careful planning and the right approach, you may be pleasantly surprised at how well your child does with the move to your new home.

How to move successfully

The first thing to remember is that your child will take her cues from you. If you are frazzled and stressed your little one will pick up on that mood and mirror it. If you can remain calm and upbeat, your child likely will adjust remarkably well to the hustle of the move.

So how do you remain calm and upbeat when you feel as if your entire world is being turned upside down? Try thinking of your move as three different phases: before the move, during the move and after the move. Then plan carefully for each phase.

Preparing for the move

  • Packing is the central feature of preparation. Leave your child’s room, toy area, and kitchen until last to minimize interruption of your routines.
  • Kids love boxes! Give your little one a box of her own and some items to “pack” (and then “unpack”). Toys, plastic plates and cups, and stuffed animals work well, and your child will have a lot of fun filling and emptying her box while you fill yours.
  • Your child will need your undivided attention many times throughout the day; you may as well accept that! Taking breaks will be good for both of you: go for a walk, or cuddle up for a book. If you can, hire a babysitter, perhaps a to take care of your child near you while you pack.
  • While decluttering is part of every move, don’t throw away too much of what is familiar to your child. She might become upset to discover that a favourite cup or toy somehow disappeared. You can get rid of these things later, you are settled into the new house.
  • Always be mindful of safety, no matter how much chaos you have around you. Be very careful with medications, vitamins, chemicals, and the like, clearly marking and securing their boxes. Also, while plastic bins with lids are a good way to transport toys and clothes, they can pose a suffocation hazard so seal them with packing tape.
  • If a moving van is taking your things long distance, be sure to keep your child’s most favourite toys with you. You can even mail a few boxes of favourites and familiar bedding ahead of time and have a family member or friend set up your child’s room in advance.
  • Talk to your child about what is happening. Explain that you are going to make a new home together and how nice it is going to be. You might write a “book” about your move with pictures of the family in the old house. Then glue in a picture of a moving van (perhaps from a magazine) and boxes; then finally, put in pictures of your new house.

During the move

  • Be sure to have an “emergency bag” ready with whatever key things you need to get your child to sleep the first evening: nappies, wipes, pyjamas, books, dummies, and essential food and drink supplies.
  • Your top priority upon arrival should be getting the kitchen unpacked enough to prepare an easy meal for your baby and yourselves. Then move on to create some semblance of order in your baby’s room or sleeping area. Don’t forget some basic babyproofing. Put covers on electrical sockets and ensure that dangerous boxes are out of reach.
  • Keep your child’s room as similar in set up to the old room as you can. You might leave a little present on her bed: a stuffed animal, book, or toy to celebrate the new room.

Settling in

  • The first few weeks in your new home will be rather chaotic, but stick to routines as much as possible. Feed her normal meals at normal times, let her nap when she usually naps, and if she gets a bath, a book, and a song before going to bed, continue to provide exactly that.
  • Get unpacked as soon as possible, but take time to settle into the new house and neighbourhood. Go for walks to the park or join a play group (both great ways to meet other moms).
  • Your child may have an adjustment period of several weeks or more in the new house. She may have sleeping problems and be more demanding and irritable than normal. Your toddler may have more tantrums and setbacks in potty training. All of this is normal and requires patience and understanding on your part.

There will be difficult days before, during, and after a move. After all, moving is stressful on parents and children. Go easy on yourself. Very few people would win the best parent of the month award during a move! Sometimes the best tack to take when you are completely overwhelmed is to drop everything and take a visit to the park or a fast food restaurant with a play area. You’ll come back refreshed and ready for a new start. Soon you and your child will drive up to your house, and you will hear, “home, mama, home!” At that moment you will think to yourself, finally, “Yes, this is home, sweet home.”

Article written by Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Solution series

Elizabeth Pantley is a mother of four, grandmother, and author of the bestselling book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution plus 8 other books in the No-Cry Solution Series, which helps mums and dads through all key stages of parenting.  Visit her at

This article is a copyrighted and may be shared only in its entirety. 


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