In January we moved our family of five out of our home in Brisbane (Australia) to Wiltshire in England. Otto was three months old when we left. As you can imagine it's a big move that required a lot of planning.
We spent over a month in temporary accommodation and much longer without any of our shipped toys and belongings. If I was going on a holiday for a week or so I wouldn't worry about bringing any mobiles or many toys or materials. But for a couple of those weeks, we were still in Brisbane, my husband was still at work, we weren't tourists. I also feel that a couple of months is a long time for children to be without some of their toys (and materials) and I wanted to keep our routines and rhythms as consistent as possible. I knew that while we were moving in and out of temporary accommodation I would need to create a little movement area for Otto and I wanted to set up some of his mobiles. At the time he was using both visual and tactile mobiles.
At first, I thought about taking our wooden play gym, I could hang our tactile mobiles from it as we had done at home. But we decided to have it shipped with our other belongings, it was too large to pack with us. I asked on my Facebook page about what others had done while travelling and I received lots of ideas. A few suggestions involved using temporary hooks. I took some temporary hooks with us but didn't use them until we arrived at our Wiltshire rental. I was concerned about removing paint from the ceiling of our accommodation (temporary hooks have removed paint from our ceilings in the past) and once in England, some of the ceilings were too high to reach. So what did work?
- Playmat. We packed a playmat (this one is organic cotton and ties up nicely) and a lambswool. We even took these as hand luggage and they were perfect for our stopover, allowing Otto a clean but familiar surface to stretch out and relax on. On a plane, in airports and even at temporary accommodation I believe the feel and smell of home would be reassuring and comforting to the infant.
- Black and White, High Contrast Images. We packed our Wee Gallery black and white images. I attached them to various wall surfaces using washi tape. I have found that washi tape doesn't take paint off the wall and will hold these cards without any sticky residue. Since I have also found painters tape which is also really gentle on walls.
- Tactile Mobiles. In every location I was able to find a place to hang our tactile mobiles. We used the bell on a ribbon and the wooden bell chimes mobile either in coat cupboards (with the doors open obviously) or in walk-in wardrobes. I attached the mobiles to the clothes hanging rail and put Otto underneath it on his lambswool.
- Visual Mobiles. These were a little more difficult. We took our butterfly, dancers and whale mobiles, they all require a lot of space. In our apartment and hotel in England, we didn't use them, I just couldn't find a suitable spot. In Australia, I hung them from a ceiling and air vent. One vent was over an archway which worked perfectly.
- Wall Mirror. We were lucky that one of our apartments had a mirrored wardrobe door (the sliding kind), it was easy to put Otto in front of or near the mirror and he could observe not only his own movements but the movements of those around him.
- Grasping Materials. We packed a few favourite rattles, board books and our skwish for Otto to play with, these weren't very big and didn't take up much space.
- Enjoy travelling. Moving or travelling can be stressful, I was more calm and relaxed knowing I had a comfortable spot for my child to play while having something developmentally appropriate to concentrate on. But I didn't stress about creating the perfect environment, I made do with what I had.
- Keep an open mind. I received lots of fantastic suggestions on Facebook about hanging mobiles off the back of chairs, running a line from two bookshelves (or high pieces of furniture) and hanging the mobile from the line. I ended up using air vents, wardrobe rails and a mirrored wardrobe. Look around the room and see what could work.
- Consider alternatives, infants will find other things to visually track and concentrate on if necessary.
- Be kind to yourself and don't expect too much for rhythms and routines. Travelling or flying long haul with an infant is not easy, you and your children will need to take time to adjust, don't beat yourself up if it takes longer than expected to get back into a daily rhythm.
All of these pictures were taken in our serviced apartment in Brisbane. The visual mobiles were set in front of bi-fold doors that hid the washer and dryer. Anytime we wanted to use the washer and dryer we needed to move Otto's playmat. It wasn't perfect but it was worth it.