Moving is difficult all by itself. Moving with kids can be a nightmare!
Here are a few tips that have made this stressful time a little more bearable.
1. Talk To The Kids. Talking to the kids on their level can make a huge difference. Kids have feelings, too, you know. A 4 year old might be anxious about their toys and bed. A few reassuring words and a hug can go a long way. Older kids will likely be concerned about making friends and fitting in at a new school. My girls really enjoyed looking at potential houses online. The boys were more interested in school activities and sports.
2. Give Them A Job. Even my 2 year old wanted to be helpful while we cleaned and packed and painted. Of course not every job is kid friendly. Sometimes let the little ones carry things or put something in a bag or box or suitcase. They LOVED it! I gave them a damp sponge and let them clean the kitchen floor. The big kids were very helpful with yard work, cleaning windows, cleaning floors, suitcase packing, and babysitting while we were doing less kids-friendly jobs. There are MANY simple tasks kids can do that make the process just a little easier. This also gives us a chance to talk about their concerns.
3. Allow For a Little Freedom. Each of our kids has a backpack. I allowed them to pack whatever they wanted to keep themselves entertained. They chose toys and books that they personally like. I was a little surprised by what they chose and what they left behind. Not one has complained about their choices. They also are able to play with the things the other children brought so there is some variety.
4. Feeding The Masses. This can be quite a challenge with a large family. Eating at a restaurant can be very expensive, especially if it takes a while to get into a house. Staying in a hotel that offers a hot breakfast can be a HUGE benefit. Even if they just offer cereal, you can feed the kids one meal a day with no added expense.
Look for deals and coupons at local restaurants. We were able to feed the kids a hearty meal at a sit-down restaurant with a "kids-eat-free" night for less than any fast-food place. Even though there is often a limit on the number of kids who eat free it still gave us a sizable discount.
Most hotels offer a microwave and small refrigerator in the rooms. You can buy food at a grocery store and eat adequate meals for much less than a restaurant. Sandwiches, salads, and fresh fruit are filling and healthy. (If your kids aren't used to eating these foods you might get some resistance. Consider eating this way on a regular basis so your family is prepared for unexpected changes)
5. In The Car. As I mentioned, the kids packed their own bag of toys. This helped keep them entertained in the car.
I also like DVD's for the car. The biggest challenge is that not all the kids can watch at once. We broke down and bought a second DVD player so we have once for each seat. (Some cars come with this but ours doesn't). The biggest drawback to this is that the kids sometimes throw the disks in the floor and they are scratched beyond repair.
My kids like to color in the car, too. It helps to have a book and crayons for each child so they don't fight over them. They are cheap enough to do this easily.
My older kids have started playing road games. They like the alphabet game, finding each letter in order on road signs.
My daughter recently played the license plate game with me. We found 23 states in just a few hours. (This also gave us time to talk between sightings.)