Originally published on January 27, 2017. Updated on January 13, 2020.
Moving anywhere is challenging. Moving with children is even more challenging so it’s important to make move-in day easier for kids. Whether you’re moving across town or across the world, moving with children requires pre-planning and organization. But moving with children doesn’t have to be a terrible experience. I’ve moved more than 25 times in my life and at one point even moved three times in 10 months! Through my experience moving as a child and as mom moving with my three children (and a dog and leopard gecko), I’ve found these 10 tips to make military move-in day easier for kids. And let’s be honest, if it’s easier for our children, then move-in day is easier for Mom and Dad, too.
While these tips are from my experience with military PCS moves, they apply to any parent moving any distance with children.
In addition to being a mom of three, I’m also a parent educator. As a parent educator, I’m always focused on my children’s development and adjustment to each of our many moves. Over the years of my own childhood moving experiences and watching my children experience moves across town and across the world, these are tips that have worked for us in helping my children adjust to each new home.
Make Military PCS Move-In Day Easier for Kids
Acknowledge Your Children’s Feelings
Your children experience a range of emotions before, during and after the move. Let them express those emotions, really listen to and support your children. Share age-appropriate information so they know what to expect in their new home. Younger children will worry about their toys, pets and parents moving with them. Older children will worry about leaving friends, teachers and coaches. Acknowledge their feelings and help them find healthy ways to express feelings through talking, drawing, music, exercise and play.
Do your research on your new assignment and activities that interest your children. Share activities, events and sightseeing available in your new area. You don’t have to be a salesperson, but do put a positive spin on activities that will catch your children’s interests. This will give them something to look forward to.
Pack Individual Toy Bags for Each Child
Pack an individual bag of toys, books and special keepsakes for each child. If your child is old enough to provide input, be sure to let them help choose the items. Allow older children to pack their own bags with some guidance from you. Be sure to sure to pack at least one comfort item in the bag: a blankie, stuffed animal, photo or special trinket.
Pack and Mark “Open First” Boxes
Pack a few boxes with items you need right away to set up your new home and make your children feel at home. Pack an Open First Box for each child’s room, for the kitchen and for necessary linens. Items to consider:
- Minimum necessary bedding for each room
- Towels for each family member
- Minimum plates, bowls, cups and silverware
- Bath toys for younger children
- A few favorite toys for each child
- Curtains – I’ve moved into too many houses that had no coverings on the window. If you want to be able to change your clothes, you’ll need curtains for windows in at least one room. Once you have time to shop, then you can purchase curtains for each room.
Clearly mark the Open First Boxes and have them packed on the moving truck last so you can unload them first in your new home.
Have Drinks and Food for Kids
On move-in day be sure to have a supply of kid-friendly drinks and snacks. It will be a long, tiring day. You may not have time during the day to run out for food. Your kids will be much happier if they aren’t thirsty and hungry. Having familiar and favorite drinks and snacks available will make your new house start feeling like home right away.
Clean One Bathroom First
Be sure to clean one bathroom right away so that your family can comfortably use it on move-in day in your new home. I use my New Home Move-In Cleaning Checklist every time I move to clean the priority areas in my new home. If I have time before move-in day, I clean all the items on the checklist. Sometimes I have to clean on move-in day and then I just work my way down the list in between move-in tasks. You can download your own copy of the free printable New Home Move-In Cleaning Checklist.
Set Up Kids’ Rooms with Basics
After you’ve cleaned one bathroom, focus on setting up each child’s room with the basics. Don’t stress yourself out setting up everything perfectly. Your goal is to make the room livable and familiar for your child.
- Set up their bed so they can sleep in it the first night.
- Unpack their Open First Box.
- If you have time, unpack one box of toys so they have familiar items to comfort them, distract and entertain them.
Set Up the Kitchen with Basics
Your third step is to set up your kitchen with the basics so you can function for the rest of the day and the next morning.
- Clean the Kitchen tasks listed on the New Home Move-In Checklist.
- Stock your refrigerator and freezer with the food you purchased to start.
- Stock your pantry with the snacks you purchased for your family.
- Unpack pots and pans if you have time.
Consider Rental Furniture
Life in the military is life in transition.When life is complicated, convenient solutions are the best. Sometimes is it doesn’t make sense to purchase furniture, but you still want to live comfortably with furniture. Those are the times when a furniture rental service makes sense.
Why Rent Furniture?
- You’re moving into your first place. Ever. And you don’t own furniture.
- Your furniture is in storage and you will only be in a location temporarily.
- You are returning from an overseas assignment and your furniture won’t be arriving for a while.
- You have chosen to live in two homes for this assignment and you don’t want to purchase duplicate furniture. For those of you not familiar with military life, sometimes a family chooses to live in a location other than the active duty member for a variety of reasons, such as to allow children to complete a senior year of high school, complete a sports season, complete medical treatment or for the spouse’s career.
- You’re just starting out in the military and you’re not sure how long you’ll be at a location.
CORT Furniture Rental is available to assist military members and their families make a new assignment feel like home. CORT offers military packages starting at $139 per month*. CORT also provides a Military Out Clause. If you receive change-of-station orders or are discharged form the military, CORT will release you from your furniture rental contract. CORT makes is convenient to rent furniture and immediately feel at home.
*Military pricing is only available on military packages. The customer must present a valid Military I.D before delivery.
Set Up Safe Play Area or a Play Date
Set up a safe area for your children to play during move-in day. For their own safety and the safety of the movers, you need to designate and out-of-the way place for your children to play. Move-in day can be a very long, stressful day and it will less so if your children can play and expend all that pent up excitement and energy. You may also consider setting up a play date with neighbors or friends or hiring a babysitter for the day.
Don’t underestimate the importance of having a positive attitude during the move and especially on move-in day. Moving can be a grand adventure or it can be a big ol’ pain. It’s your choice. I recommend choosing the grand adventure. It’s a lot more fun that way for you and your children. What tips do you have to make military PCS move-in day easier for kids?
For my top moving and travel tips, hacks and printables check out the table below. You can scroll though the table and look for ideas or search for specific ideas with the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner (on desktop). Click on the topic and then click through the specific article.
I’m a mom of 3, a veteran and military spouse. I’ve moved into 20+ homes all around the world. My passion is helping busy people make the space and time for what’s really important to them.