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Moving With Kids: How to Keep Them Happy and Occupied

The Big Move didn’t sound so overwhelming at first. Donate all your extra stuff, organize and pack what’s left — no biggie. But now your toddler’s wailing about how he’ll miss his friends and your daughter is going ballistic about starting a new school, which makes you feel like throwing a tantrum yourself.


Moving can be tough on kids, particularly if you’re leaving the only home they’ve ever known. So before the moving truck arrives, step back from the boxes and focus on making this transition a good one for your little ones.


Give them a sense of control.
Two keys to keeping yourself and your children sane during a move: Give your kids an age-appropriate purpose and help them envision specific things they can look forward to in your new home. That’s the advice from Lori Collins Burgan, who authored the book Moving With Kids after moving five times in seven years with her husband and three kids.


For children, the disruption in their routine can feel truly overwhelming. The solution? Give them specific tasks they have control over. For example, ask each child to pick out and pack a special backpack especially for the move. They can stuff it with activities for the car or plane, their most prized stuffed animal and a few other comforting belongings. Talk to them about their new neighborhood and let them choose the first new restaurant you’ll try. Ask them to think about what color they’d like to paint their new bedroom or whether they might want airplane or racecar bedding. It’s harder to have a meltdown when you’re having fun.


Ask them for “help.”
You’ll need to label your moving boxes anyway, so turn that task into an art project by giving the kids markers and stickers to transform them into cardboard masterpieces. In the meantime, you’ll get a chance to wrap up your fragile items. Consider giving each child his or her favorite color marker to color-code the boxes, making the boxes easily identifiable.


Older kids can help fold, organize and pack their clothes. Just remember to set aside a favorite outfit for each kid for moving day. Ask younger kids to help sort their belongings into categories — pajamas in one pile, shirts in another — making it easier for you to pack. (Now’s your chance to match up random socks! Loners become hand puppets, since the other toys are getting boxed up.)


Need to keep the kids out of your hair? Set up a play tent or box fort in the middle of your living room. That way any mess will be confined inside.


Make the new place feel like home.
Before moving day, shop for a few items that’ll serve as welcome-home gifts. Pick out a few fresh decorations for their new room, or let older kids select items they like. Got a sports fan? Pick up a team poster to show support for your new hometown heroes. A guidebook of local plants and animals will give children things to identify while they explore.


Once you arrive at your new house, help the kids get settled into their rooms before you tackle the kitchen unpacking. As much as you might want to find your forks, your transition will run smoother if you get the kiddos settled into their new digs first.

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