Monthly Archives: December 2015

Last Minute Gift Ideas

Only a few days left before Christmas!! I wanted to do one last post this year to share ideas for last-minute gifts. I was inspired by my brother who sent me an email last Friday, asking what kind of gifts our family members wanted for Christmas.

I decided to compile a list of “experience”   ideas for him, knowing full well that the Sweet Peas are already receiving lots of “stuff”,  along with the fact that shipping costs might be exorbitant to get anything tangible here by Christmas.  The neatest thing about experience gifts IMO is that we will get to talk about and remember the person who shared the gift every time we use them, and that is especially sweet in this case because he lives so far away.  Every time we use his experience gift is a time for him to be loved, appreciated and remembered fondly. What a sweet bonus!

I am sharing links to local Phoenix, Arizona venues.  If you are not local to Phoenix and you have a favorite place in your area, send me the link so I can share with others (sweetpeafamilies{at}gmail{dot}com). Or, if you are local and your favorite family-friendly place isn’t on here, let me know what I’m missing – thank you in advance 🙂

Movie tickets – bonus when you can support a local movie house!
Harkins Theatres (We do not attend shows at AMC theaters since they allow open carry)

Trampoline Park or Bounce House
Jump Street (running a GC sale)
Pump It Up – party hosting and play time
Bounce U – party hosting

Family-friendly Arcade+Dining 
Main Event 
Dave & Busters

Phoenix Zoo
Zoo Lights
Sea Life Aquarium
Butterfly Wonderland
Desert Botanical Gardens

1512 Experience Gift

Science Museum 
Children’s Museum
idea Museum
Musical Instrument Museum
AZ Museum of Natural History
Phoenix Art Museum

Great Arizona Puppet Theater
Childsplay – this is a gift with options…Childsplay is a performance group that offers family-friendly theater experiences in Tempe, AZ. Childsplay also offers class experiences in the form of workshops that children can attend during school break in the school year or summer vacation.

Gift of Time
Plan a date when you take your nieces/nephews/grandchildren out to a state park or for a walk in a nature preserve.  Think about bringing some paper or art journals and art supplies.  Pack a picnic, bring a blanket, and just be with the children. It’s amazing what fresh air will do to inspire conversation and art.  If you are not used to speaking with children, HERE and HERE are a couple of lists of conversation starters. You can write out a few and put them in a jar for the children to pull out, or print them out and take them with you.  Notice that I *did not* write, “download them to your phone,” because our children see us with devices in our hands often enough. I feel like the gift of time is even richer when they get 100% face time with us.

I hope this list inspires some of you to do some literal “out of the box” holiday gifting this season. Wishing you and yours a blessed time this season, and most especially as we celebrate the beautiful gift of the Christ-child.  It’s a struggle with all the commercial focus, however, may Jesus find a way into your heart this season.  Happy holidays!!

There might be time to make THESE gifts with your children – check out four easy-peasy gifts we made with our Sweet Peas this year.

Happy Holidays

Happy holidays to all of you, our faithful readers!  

In order to practice what we preach, new posts are suspended for the rest of the month. Wish us the best as we strive to spend a mindful, intentional holiday season with our four sweet peas .  

We will be back in 2016 with more fresh and timely posts about homeschool, attachment parenting, green living, and extended breastfeeding.  It would be great hear from you: what is on your mind? Please leave me a comment with ideas you would like to see written about in future blog posts.

Or you can email me:

I look forward to hearing from you so that we can have another awesome year on the blog in 2016!

With much love and wishes for you to receive the season’s richest blessings,
Krystyna 🙂

Do you need some gift ideas?



If you are growing your family and/or breastfeeding, check out these holiday posts from our Sweet Pea Births blog:







PPD: Arctic Animals

Play date: December 10, 2015
Theme: Arctic Animals

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme
— Storytime
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers

This was our last playdate for 2015, and it

Charger’s MAPS book by came in handy again!! It had a beautiful illustration of the Arctic Circle that we were able to use during our opening discussion of the theme.


For story time, I chose a tale told in rhyme that also introduces the tundra, the animals, and counting concepts. Luckily, several of the figures I purchased to go along with the discovery center matched the animals in the book.

We lined up all the animals for storytime, and the Sweet Peas got to identify the animal that matched the page, and then pass the figure around for observation. It took a little longer to tell the story, however, it was great to keep their attention for the longer time!


Today I played the “easy” card and simply photocopied pages out of The Mailbox Superbook for both literacy and math.  This was a good opportunity to point out that the penguins pictured at the top of the page are actually *Antarctic* animals – in real life, a penguin and a polar bear would probably not meet, even though they live together in our imaginations.


This print-out is another simple activity to incorporate the concepts of shapes, as well as fine (coloring, cutting) and gross motor skills



I think this was the big hit of the day.  All of the children enjoyed sifting through the rice+glitter to find hidden animals, playing out scenes with the figures once they were found.

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ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
Also a The Mailbox Superbook idea modified to fit our school: Otter and I cut-out the center circles of a paper plate. Then we spray painted them silver the night before playdate so that they would have time to dry.  The Sweet Peas all had different arrangements and placements for the stickers on their “wreath”.

As noted above, this was another opportunity to remind the children that while reindeer and penguins are often used to illustrate the season, they live on opposite ends of the earth.


We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.

This concludes our playdate series for the first half of this school year.  I know we will be revisiting the Arctic animal theme since I have another book I want to share with the children that names several Arctic animals.  Additionally, I want to redeem myself and offer the children more interactive literacy and math activities…I already have something at the edge of my mind to incorporate polar bears!

Be sure to check the “homeschool” or “toddler” links on the blog to find the other playdates we have enjoyed this season.  Tune in starting in January to see our playdates for the second semester of the 2015-16 school year.



Carrier Drive: Carry The Future

We are blessed to have a diverse SPB community. I love that from the beginning of their lives, our Sweet Pea babies are connected to their classmates’ humanity, not their “religion”. As such, I am happy to share this letter to show our support of the millions of refugees seeking asylum. May they all find their havens of rest so that their children may know the same joys that ours do.

Without further ado, here is a letter sent to me by an SPB alumni on behalf of her friend who is volunteering with Carry the Future…

To Whom It May Concern:
As you know, right now there are thousands of families and children fleeing terrorism and the war in Syria and the Middle East. Currently 9,000 Syrian refugees are arriving to Greece DAILY, and 30% of them are with CHILDREN.

I am a volunteer for the charity, Carry the Future ( Carry the Future collects new and used baby carriers* and provides them to mothers and fathers who are fleeing the war (typically on foot) and are carrying their babies with them for miles and weeks, often without a known final destination or refuge. Carry the Future was born after the horrific pictures of Aylan Kurdi on the Greek isles made a group of moms decide to make the world safer for mothers and their children in search of safety.

Carry the Future volunteers have set up many community collection points throughout the country and abroad. They are the same people that collect carriers and carry them to the Greek coast and surroundings to provide these people some relief. However, we are in need of more baby carriers and are hosting a collection drive in the Phoenix, Arizona metro-area until December 31, 2015.

I need your assistance spreading the word to more people about our collection points in the area. We currently have set up the following collection points with the cooperation of our extraordinary local businesses:

1) American Sports Complex Avondale
2) Goldilocks Indoor Playground and Dance Studio Litchfield Park
3) Arizona Breastfeeding Center Tempe
4) Gymboree Play & Music Glendale
5) Gymboree Play & Music Scottsdale

We could use the donations of gently used and new carriers, as well as more sites throughout the Valley since we have a goal of sending 100 soft baby carriers from Phoenix with the next deployment to Greece. If any of your viewers prefer to send money to Carry the Future, they can visit the website below and do that directly as Phoenix volunteers are not taking any monetary donations for the organization at this time.

For further information, please see (flyer) attached or got to our website:

This is an extremely important humanitarian issue and I’m sure during this special season, your readers will see that as well. Thank you.
Uzma Jafri

*soft structured baby and child carriers only. No car seats, no metal frames, no strollers, no wraps, no slings. Soft Structured Carriers (SSCs) are basically any carrier that has clasps or harnesses, and Mei Teis (square cloth with four ties). A few examples are Baby Bjorn, Kolcraft, MobyGo and Ergo.

Preschool Playdate: Winter

Theme: Winter
Playdate: December 3, 2015

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme: I had a bucket full of winter clothes that we pulled out for the children to explore, and we talked about the characteristics of the winter season.
— Storytime: Secrets of Winter
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers: Snowman song

Today’s songs and center ideas were from The Mailbox Superbook


You can see my review for today’s book HERE.  All the kiddos enjoyed this creative look through the forest during wintertime.


If you would like to order your own copy of this fantastic book, you can order one HERE.  Orders placed by December 10, 2015 will arrive for holiday gifting at the end of the month.

This was a print center today.  It also offered a fun opportunity for the children to explore negative space.  We put out different circle shapes for the children to create a snowy winter scene complete with a snowman. Along with the white chalk for the snow, I also put out wax crayons that show up well on the dark paper.

Level 1: Free expression with the chalk

Level 2: Parents hold the circle and the child traces

Level 3: The child holds the shape and traces the figure onto the paper


This is a favorite from when our children were learning numbers.  This printable is also from The Mailbox Superbook.  We added the numbers for more reinforcement of the written number and 1-to-1 correspondence.



We have accumulated various winter outerwear through the years.  We put all of it out for the children to try on.  The first part of the center was a gross motor skill: shoveling the “snow” (cotton balls) into the bucket while they were dressed in the winter clothing.

After all the children finished the centers, we had an indoor snowball fight.  I had bought the larger snowballs from Hallmark a couple of years ago, and we added all the cotton balls to the center of the floor.  The kids were split into two groups and they had fun tossing the “snow” back and forth.

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ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
We kept this one simple since our group has so many different ages.  We used the doily, glue, and silver glitter.  The original idea called for gluing different craft items onto a doily, spraying the whole creation with glue, and then covering the whole craft with glitter.


We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.

Today’s favorite activity was definitely the indoor snowball fight!!


Holiday Gifting Ideas

Four Easy-Peasy DIY gifts for children by children

As we enter the season of gifting, I have been searching for gifts that can be made from items that are up-cycled from things around the house, or that easily made from inexpensive parts from the craft store. I chose to share these four from the gagillion ideas on the internet because children can help make these gifts.  We made all of the gifts pictured below, and *all* the Sweet Peas were able to help either prep them, or assemble them with supervision.

Here are my top four finds that we will be sharing this season:

Shape crayons
This is my favorite idea – how genius to make something out of all the broken crayons that the children do not like to use when they color.

Find the tutorial HERE

We got our molds for $.99 at IKEA. Be aware that once you use them to make crayons you will probably not be able to use them for anything else. I thought about lining them with olive oil to protect the silicone a little bit, however, since it was my first time making crayons I didn’t want to run the risk of ruining the gifts we were making.

We used our curious chef kitchen knives so the Sweet Peas could help break down the crayons. Puma and Charger helped cut the crayons, and Charger and Otter created the color blends by filling the molds.

Hand Kites

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This is an idea that we got from our preschool curriculum. It consists of wrapping long ribbons around rings.  I couldn’t find the wooden rings I wanted in time to order them for our party on Sunday, so I used metal rings, and rings I made out of gold pipe cleaners. Ordering information for 3” wooden rings HERE and 3” metal rings HERE.

I am a bit of a ribbon fiend, so I broke into my ribbon stash to make the hand kites we gave away at our Open House on Sunday.  To make ours, I used five cuts of 1-yard ribbons to make each hand kite.  I folded the ribbon in half and put it behind the ring.  The fold made a loop, and then we threaded the ends through the loop and pulled tight.  Some were Christmas themed and others were made from my favorite color: pink!!

The 3” ring is big enough so that it *is not* a choking hazard, and it is big enough to be worn around a wrist or an ankle. We have used them to dance along with music, wave to make different shapes, or playing follow the leader with different arm movements.  When made with the wooden rings, they naturally become a teether for curious little mouths.

The Sweet Peas were able to help cut the ribbon, and they helped create the ribbon combinations.  They could also help loop the ribbon around the ring – Puma has made these several times when we use them in our preschool playdates.

Hair Bows


Alligator or Hair Clips ~ Beauty supply or big box store
Bows: make your own, or buy some bows from the wedding section at the craft store.

This becomes a little more economical if you can purchase the bows with a coupon from the newspaper or the Internet. The silk flowers we used for the bows pictured above were 50% off for the holidays – yeah!  Puma helped put these together with a glue gun – we had a lot of fun chatting it up while we were making the bows.

Toy Car with Possibility


This is so clever!! All children seem to have a toy car around, so adding to their collection along with a roll of tape to create a roadway is genius!!


Find a printable card to go along with the car and the masking tape HERE from My Sister’s Suitcase. It’s a fun rhyme that explains how the car and the tape go together 🙂


Image Source: My Sister’s Suitcase – please visit their blog for the free printable!

The Sweet Peas can get involved from selecting the cars, cutting out the instructions, putting the gift pack together, to tying it all together with a ribbon since most of them are tying simple bows since they know how to tie their shoes.  Is the bow going to be as perfect as yours? Probably not…however, they have the pleasure of telling their friends, “I made this for you”. That is priceless.

I hope this gives you some easy and inexpensive ideas so that your children can gift to all the friends on their list.  We handed out the first three gifts pictured today at our holiday open house – they were all well-received.  We will be making the car/tape combos to have on hand if we have other opportunities to exchange gifts this season.

Happy holidays to all of you!!  We have a two more play dates to share with you this year, and then we will be taking a computer break until we start blogging again in 2016. Wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season <3 <3 <3

Book Review: Secrets of Winter


Secrets of Winter
Written by Carron Brown
Illustrated by Bee Johnson
by Kane Miller EDC Publishing

We didn’t have a playdate to post yesterday since we took the week off for Thanksgiving last Thursday.  So today, I’m sharing a sneak-peek into yesterday’s WINTER playdate.

My inspiration for this playdate was the changing of season this month.  I had the perfect book to share, Secrets of Winter by Carron Brown & Georgina Tee. This book was new in our library this school year – I purchased it from my friend Tina, who is a rep for Usborne Books.

The story introduces the idea of exploring through a winter evening.  The pictures alternate between full color and black&white, which seemed to keep the children’s attention. There is the added intrigue of seeing an additional image revealed when you shine a light through the page!

There is no need to trim the story as the storyteller. The story moves along with 2-3 sentences and/or statements per page.  It also shows a large variety of animals and how they manage through the winter weather, so there are fun animal facts being acquired along with the visual enjoyment of the book.

Our guests and my own Sweet Peas thoroughly enjoyed the book! Their ages ranged from 2 years to 11 years old. From the endpaper printed with delightful animal prints, to the hidden surprises revealed with a flashlight on every page, there are endless ways to enjoy this book.

In fact, the children liked it so much, I sat with my legs out in front of me in order to keep the circle wide enough for everyone to see! That is definitely a first, and always a welcome sight to see children enjoying a book so much that they are piling on top of each other to get closer.

You can purchase your own copy of Secrets of Winter, other books in the “Secrets of” series, or anything else Usborne has to offer by following THIS link to Tina’s online store.  Any orders placed before 12/10/2015 will arrive in time for Christmas gifting.

Happy reading!! Stay tuned for next Thursday’s installment of “Preschool Playdate” when I share all the activites we did to celebrate winter (hint: we had a snowball fight in Arizona!!).