We started packing up our house with two kids ages three and under and one more on the way. As if life weren’t chaotic enough, we decided to sell our house by owner. (I just felt lucky we weren’t moving with ten kids.) To top it all off, we had a no-screen policy for our kids back then. I know. We’re those parents. I’m chalking it up to new parent insomnia and craziness, but I felt determined to make packing a fun family experience. With these tips on packing with kids, it can be done.
Know That Packing With Kids Will Take Forever
The first step in making packing a fun family experience is to readjust your expectations. What you could do alone in fifteen minutes is going to take you two hours. That’s parenting for you. For every activity you set up, you’ll get a quarter of a box packed. By the end of the morning, maybe you’ll pack one entire box. That’s why naptime was invented. Use it wisely.
Teach Your Kids How To Build Boxes
The first step in packing is building the boxes. I like to create several boxes at once so I can shift around items to the different boxes as needed. Let your kids help build the boxes. For young kids, ask them to hold down the flaps for you. For older kids, show them how to make a few boxes and then they can make some on their own. The kids want to help as much as possible, so show them how valuable their efforts are to you. Words of encouragement go a long way in making packing with kids a fun experience.
Use Your Moving Boxes as a Blank Canvas
Brown cardboard boxes are boring. Let your kids spruce them up. It doesn’t matter how old your children are. Writing all over things that you feel like you shouldn’t be writing on is fun. If your kids are little and you prefer for them not to use markers, give them a giant pad of stickers to use to their heart’s content. For older kids, let them be creative. They can color pictures or design comics or draw graffiti all over the boxes. Maybe they’ll even inspire you to put your personal touches on them.
Create a Moving Box Village or Designer Race Cars
Kids love boxes. Moving box race cars were a family favorite at our house. I would give the kids a paper plate to use as a steering wheel and they were off to the races. We also created box villages with a post office, grocery store and a school. The kids didn’t need anything but their own imagination. After those exhausting errands, my kids would decide it was time for bed. With some blankets, a pillow, a flash light, and a few books, they were ready to snuggle inside their box house. I would tuck them in and try to get two minutes of packing done.
Have the Kids Pack Up the China
Don’t use your china, of course. While you’re busy packing up the dishware, create a parallel packing station next to you. Then, show your child how you pack up the dishes. Give her some newspaper to individually wrap her tea pot, cups, and plates. When she’s done, pretend like you just moved into your new house. Your daughter can unpack the box and set up the tea set in her pretend kitchen. Once it’s all unpacked, ask if she’d like to do it again. She can pack and unpack the box as many times as she wants until she gets bored. This may be longer than you think.
Give Your Child Some Control Over the Packing Process
You probably have twenty items on your Moving To-Do List. It may not matter what order you check off the items, but your child will love feeling like he has some control in the process. So, give your child a choice, “Do you want to pack up your toys today or pack up your clothes?” Kids face many unknowns when they move. The more control they can have over any part of the process, the better they will feel. Packing with kids is the perfect time to let your child make some decisions.
Let Your Kids Take Photos of the Move
We have surprisingly few photos of our moves. After moving ten times in eleven years, you’d think our family albums would be filled with moving photos. But, no, we were too busy surviving our moves to record them. In the few photos that we have, the kids look back at them with such fondness. “I remember when I decorated that box. I loved it soooo much. Could we do that again?” I think she means the boxes, not the move. To help you remember these life moments, let your kids snap photos around the house of the messiness and the chaos. You may even look back at it fondly yourself. One day.