Packing with Kids

Because we move on average every three years with my job, we keep “moving” a topic of discussion kind of all the time. The important point is to involve your kids"€appropriately"€in the moving process.

I say appropriately, meaning that for younger kids without a sense of time talking six months in advance may not be very useful, while for older children, getting them ready while they still have time to think of questions and work through concerns about leaving friends and school is valuable.

How Kids Can Help

As we approach the moving day, we have the kids start to help us sort things into sea, air, storage and luggage piles. If we have an air shipment (which will usually get to the host country soon after you do), we will allot the kids a certain amount of weight/bulk for things they want to have handy upon arrival. This usually means some books and toys, which take up very little space and weight, but can be very reassuring.

Instead of labeling a box “Kids' Bedroom” with a marker, our children have been assigned a handful of crayons and the task of labeling the box with a picture to help us know where to put it in the new place.

We ask the kids to pack up some of their own things to keep them engaged, though at their current ages, my wife and I will usually pre-select things like books and stuffed animals that won't be harmed by improper packing methods.

My youngest child's hardest move occurred when she thought that the packers were putting all her toys into boxes to take them away forever. I had said something like “the mover's will pack it all up and by dinner time nothing will be left in the house” without giving her the whole story. Since we wouldn't see the boxes again for a couple of weeks when they were delivered at our new place, it was very hard to comfort her.

Where Should the Kids Be?

The packing and moving workers are busy and may not be kid-friendly. It is best to keep the kids out of the way so that they are not accidentally whacked by a moving box. The packers also work with sharp knives, which they often leave laying around in a handy place. Careful.

If you are two parents, designate one of you as the primary person for the movers to ask questions of (and tell them this) and one as the primary “keep the kids from getting whacked” person. You can also ask a friend, or hire a babysitter, to play one of these roles on packing up day.

We don't, however, take the kids out while the packing is going on, as the shock of coming back to an empty home seemed too strong. Rather, we will assign our daughters a task, such as sorting spoons, knives and forks into piles, that they can do in a fixed place (the kitchen table) and thus stay (safely) involved.

We usually do take them outside when it is time for the movers to carry the boxes out to the truck. They usually do this near the end of their day, having shown up early to do the packing. By the end of afternoon they are tired and in a hurry carrying big, heavy things. This is not a good time for the kids to be underfoot.

If it seems right, we have the kids outside with us watching the truck load up. Other kids might have already had enough moving for one day and will benefit from a walk or a trip to the Dairy Queen instead of seeing the truck drive away as if it was the end of a movie.

A Hotel May Help

If we'll have a spate of time between packing out and flying, we usually borrow or rent a TV and video, some toys, whatever would be best to help bridge the gap. Once we stayed in a hotel for two nights near home between pack out and flying and this worked out well we thought.

The hotel was new enough to get those “we're on our way” thoughts flowing, but by being close to our now “old home”, softened the transition. The kids thought it was great fun to see their local friends once more by inviting them to play in the hotel pool.

The excitement of going to the hotel, swimming in the pool, eating in a restaurant, riding the elevators and all cushioned the impact of that very odd moment when you close the door on an empty living room in what had been your home for several years for the last time.

We recommend more books like this for parents and kids about moving here.

User Feedback

ThanksMost practical advice I could find on the web, even over-commercial sites have far less really usefull information! The preperation of your child for the move is principal, but how about more ideas on what to put into the hand-luggage. I know this is a zinger, but toys that work in tiny spaces are rare, but there must be some.Your advice on mental preperations has made us more relaxed, as we were wondering if it may backfire when our 4-year old suddenly realizes we still have 8 weeks before we actually fly. (He things we are going to visit his aunt in the UK).

PS: How will they handle the pets not comming along too, it’s prohibitively expensive?[signed, emigrating South Africa to UK.]

Conrad Braam

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