{Quick, Last Minute New Year's Eve Party for Kids}

Like Mama Pea Pod for birthday party ideas? Please consider throwing a vote our way in the Red Tricycle Most Awesome awards for Birthday Party Ideas! Thanks so much! x

Last year was the first year we celebrated New Year's Eve with the kids (though not as late as midnight!). We decided to have a spontaneous party and knocked on doors to invite all our neighbours with kids (8 adults and 6 kids in all, ranging in age from 1 1/2 to 7 years old). 

In Hungary, New Year's Eve (called Szilveszter in Hungarian), is often celebrated with a large dinner of pork and stuffed cabbage for good luck. (Read more about Hungarian New Year's traditions in my guest post over at Red Ted Art.) Since we decided at around 6pm that night to have a party (after all the shops were shut), we didn't have any stuffed cabbage on hand. Instead, we raided the pantry for whatever we did have and came up with crackers and cheese, cookies, a box of brownie mix, various sweet treats from Christmas, and some frozen meatballs - pork! 

Szilveszter is also a time of superstitions, to ensure good luck for the coming year. In an effort to scare away evil spirits, people make as much noise as they can. Kazoos, paper horns, and other noisemakers keep the spirits away. People often wear silly hats, masks, and accessories, and buy noise-makers, fireworks, and sparklers. Earlier in the day, we had bought some noise-makers and sparklers for our own kids - and we always have lots of silly accessories in our dress-up box!

So after our snacks and drinks, some free play, and a spontaneous 'talent show' put on by the kids in our living room, we bundled the children up in their snowsuits and took them out to the garden to light up the sparklers (fortunately we had enough for everyone to share). They all had a wonderful time waving them around in the dark (with very close adult supervision, of course*), and blowing paper horns and those noisemakers that roll out, making as much noise as they could!

It was such fun, and the kids were all SO excited! Even though we had prepared nothing, it was one of the most fun parties that our kids remember, and they've been asking for months now to do it again this year!

*It goes without saying, really, but children should be supervised carefully whenever they are around sparklers or fireworks, should be shown how to safely hold a sparkler near the end away from the sparks, and should never pick up a sparkler that has burnt out as it remains hot for some time. We also had a designated place to put the burnt out sparklers, to avoid anyone stepping on them or picking them up. Also, please ensure that children are spaced far enough apart to avoid bumping one another with their sparklers.

Boldog Új Évet Kivánok! I wish you a happy New Year!


{ABCs of Kids' Party Ideas: Kids' Party Themes from A-Z}

Like Mama Pea Pod for birthday party ideas? Please consider throwing a vote our way in the Red Tricycle Most Awesome awards for Birthday Party Ideas! Thanks so much! x

Looking for ideas for kids' party themes that are actually 'do-able' by REAL parents? Look no further!

Coming soon: As part of the Kid Blogger Network's ABCs of ... Series, I've compiled an extensive list of fun Kids' Party Ideas from A-Z! All of the parties linked here were thrown by real parents with varying degrees of 'craftiness' and time on their hands - parents just like you and me (in fact, some of these parties were thrown by me!)

Because there are SO MANY brilliant party ideas to share, I've organized them over 5 posts as follows:

Kids' Party Ideas A-E (goes live on January 7th)

Kids' Party Ideas F-J (goes live on January 8th)

Kids' Party Ideas  K-O (goes live on January 9th)

Kids' Party Ideas P-T (goes live on January 10th)

Kids' Party Ideas U-Z (goes live on January 11th)

When all of the posts are live, I will link them all up here, so bookmark or pin this page as your overall party ideas reference list.

You can also find more ideas, cakes, and party throwing tips on my Parties Pinterest board. And while you're busy planning all your fabulous party ideas, be sure to print out these free printable party planning lists from Delicate Construction!

There are over 70 bloggers participating in the KBN's ABCs of Series, sharing all sorts of topics related to kids. There are sure to be some super resources there that you will want to save for future reference. You might want to start with the rest of the 'Mama Tips and Tricks' category below, or you may want to browse through the entire series.

Kid Blogger Network The ABCs of 

MAMA TIPS & TRICKS - The ABCs of ...
Being a Hands On Mom - Hands On: As We Grow
Connecting With Your Kids - One Perfect Day
Fun, Healthy Snacks for Kids - Juggling with Kids
Kids' Party Ideas - Mama Pea Pod
Mama Survival - The Dizzy Mom
Printables - Mama Miss
Raising a Healthy Kid - Living Life Intentionally
Raising a Thinking Child - The Outlaw Mom
Raising a World Citizen - All Done Monkey
Raising Boys - Boy Mama Teacher Mama
Raising Eco-Friendly Kids - Kitchen Counter Chronicles
Raising Girls - Mess For Less
Raising Toddlers - Home Learning Journey
Simply Celebrating Holidays as a Family - Inspired by Family Magazine
Teaching Kids About Money - Carrots are Orange
The Family Dinner Table - Connecting Family and Seoul
The Organized Home - Mamas Like Me
Trying a New Experience With Your Children - 52 Brand New
Values For Children (Character Development) - True Aim Education


{Merry Christmas from the Peas}

Merry Christmas from the Pea Family!

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy holiday!


{Christmas Around the World - Hungary}

"Boldog Karácsonyt!" (pronounced more or less like Bowl-dog Car-ah-chont) is "Merry Christmas" in Hungarian.

One of the things that makes our family's Christmases a little more interesting (and a lot more complicated!) is that we celebrate a mix of English and Hungarian Christmas traditions. Our children are half Hungarian and we live in Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. Hungary is located in central Europe, bordering Austria, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Slovenia, and the Ukraine. 

In Hungary, there is no Santa Claus that comes on Christmas Eve. Instead, Szent Mikulás (Saint Nicholas) comes on the night of December 5th, filling children's newly polished boots on the windowsills with chocolate, tangerines, nuts, and small gifts. You can read more about the Mikulás tradition here

Walnut and Poppy Seed Beigli
Christmas itself is celebrated on December 24th, not the 25th. On Christmas Eve, families enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner of carp soup, stuffed cabbage, and possibly some other meat (could be pork, chicken, or turkey - likely as breaded and deep-fried cutlets known as ránttot hús), followed by beigli, a sweet pastry roll filled with walnut paste or poppy seed paste.

Száloncukor candies to hang on the tree
After dinner, children often go out for a walk or some other such distraction with their grandparents. While they are out, Baby Jesus comes to the house and delivers presents and a fully-decorated Christmas tree. Trees usually have száloncukor candies hanging on them - chocolate covered candies with various fillings (marzipan, jelly, nougat, etc.), and it's not unusual for there to be real candles on the tree instead of lights. Children come home from their walk to this magical sight and open their presents.

Budapest Christmas Market
One of the highlights of Christmas in Budapest is the Christmas markets. They are a great place to find some special, handcrafted gifts, including beautiful locally made pottery and elaborately decorated gingerbread cookies. Or just wander around drinking forralt bor (mulled wine) or hot apple cider from your special Christmas market mug and eating Hungarian specialties such as mangalica sausages, stuffed cabbage, and roasted chestnuts. Nighttime at the market is especially magical, with all the Christmas lights twinkling.

Stuffed Cabbage

Ummm....rooster testicles stew, anyone??

Some of the challenges for us celebrating a multicultural Christmas here include getting a Christmas tree earlier in the month (although they are becoming more popular and easier to find now), since most Hungarians don't put up their tree until Christmas Eve; and buying a whole turkey to roast for our Christmas dinner - we have to pre-order one specifically from a butcher as you can't buy them in supermarkets. And, of course, 'keeping the story straight' for all the various relatives from each culture can be very complicated and confusing!

Despite the challenges, celebrating a mix of cultural Christmas traditions makes our Christmas special, and reflects who we are as a family. We love that our children are growing up bilingually and biculturally!

If you want to get into the spirit of a Hungarian Christmas, why not try this beigli recipe, or have a go at making some of these lovely decorations made from dried fruits and spices? They smell divine! (Follow these instructions for drying oranges)

Hanging decorations made from dried oranges and limes,
 cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves

How do you celebrate Christmas where you live?

This post is part of the Christmas Around the World series from Living Life Intentionally. Catch up on previous posts in the series to learn about how the holiday is celebrated in other countries! And be sure to get your free Christmas Around the World ebook to accompany the series.

Happy holidays to you, wherever and however you celebrate!


{Christmas Angel Tree Topper}

There's nothing cuter on a Christmas tree than preschoolers' handmade decorations, right? This is one preschool Christmas craft that you will be sure to want to keep for years to come! I remember as a teenager being perfectly mortified when friends would come over to our house at Christmas and see all the homemade decorations on our tree that my mum had kept from when we were little! From the cotton ball snowmen to the gold macaroni tree, I tried in vain to convince her to throw them away. In fact, she still puts them on her tree every year, even though we now range in age from 29-37! (I won't tell you where I fall in there!) But now, as a mom, I totally get it! Nothing makes me smile more than seeing my kids' handiwork decorating our house at Christmas time. ♥

Now, Daddy Pea and I had been searching and searching for the perfect Christmas tree topper for several years, and every year our tree top was bare in waiting. But last year Princess Pea made this adorable angel for the top of our Christmas tree. I just love her! No need to look any further for that perfect tree topper for our family - we've found it and will be using it again and again! What could be better than a tree topper made by your child?

We found the inspiration in the Usborne Christmas Fun book of crafts for the preschool/early elementary-aged crowd, which we LOVE (we are huge fans of Usborne books. I've included links to some of their Christmas books at the bottom of this post).

Making her was really easy and we had such a nice, cozy time creating together - one of my favourite parts of the Christmas holidays at our house is making Christmas crafts together!

To make one, the directions are really simple: 

1. Draw around a plate to get a circle out of coloured paper or cardstock (or you could use old gift wrap, or even white paper that the kids have painted. The thicker it is, the sturdier the angel will be and the longer it will last). 

2. Cut the circle in half. One half is used to make a cone shape for the angel's body, while the other piece is folded in half again and trimmed to make the wings shape. 

3. Cut out a small paper circle for the head and glue on some hair out of yarn or embroidery thread or whatever you have. 

4. Unfold and attach the wings and the head to the body with tape or glue. 

5. Decorate with glue and glitter or glitter glue to add a sparkly holiday touch to it.

Isn't she beautiful? And I can't tell you how proud it makes Princess Pea to see her angel on the top of our Christmas tree!

This post is part of the Creative Christmas Countdown hosted by Creative With Kids and Red Ted Art, and featuring 24 of your favourite Kid Bloggers! Catch up with the rest of the creative advent activities over at the Creative Christmas Countdown 2012 main page.

You might also be interested in:

Paper Curl Christmas Trees (inspired by Usborne's 50 Christmas Things to Make and Do!)

Paper Christmas Tree Forest

Christmas Tradition: Saint Mikulás

Preschool Christmas Crafts

Standing Paper Christmas Trees

Sparkling Star of David Kids' Craft


Note that this post contains links to Amazon through my Affiliates link. 

{New Year's Eve in Hungary: Guest Post}

Hi folks, hope you're having a happy holiday season so far. Today you can find me over at Red Ted Art guest posting as part of their New Year's Eve Traditions Around the World series about how we celebrate New Year's Eve (with kids!) here in Hungary.

Hope to see you there! Would love some comments over there :-)


{Easy Homemade Candy Canes}

We made easy peasy 'candy canes' this week for Princess Pea to share with her kindergarten class. These were fun to make (at least the first 6 or so were fun - after about 18 she was getting weary! lol) and are a great kid-made gift for preschoolers to make, too, as it's just like playing with playdough - except it's edible!

These are not your traditional hard minty candy canes. We made these out of marzipan! And because marzipan (also known as almond paste) stays fresh for a long time, these can be made well ahead of time (check the expiry date on your marzipan). Or, if you're like me and do everything at the last possible minute, that works too, as these are fast and easy to make.

All you need is a stick of marzipan - that's it! We bought white and red marzipan because it's relatively easy to get in lots of colours here, but it would be easy to make the red yourself just by adding a few drops of food colouring and kneading (much like dying homemade play dough). (You should be able to get marzipan/almond paste in the baking section of your supermarket, at least around Christmas.)

How much marzipan you need depends on how many candy canes you plan to make, but however much white you use, you need about a third of that amount in red.

All you do is squish the marzipan up (again, just like play dough) to soften it, then roll it out into sticks. For each stick we used a ball of white marzipan about the size of a large marble, and about a third of that in red. Make your white stick about candy cane thickness, and then roll out your red stick to about 1 1/2 times the length of your white stick (since you're using about 1/3 of the amount of marzipan for the red stick, it will be much skinnier than the white one). In the picture below, the red is actually a bit longer than it needed to be, but we just pinched off the end and put it back into the ball.

Then wrap the red around the white stick and roll it some more until the stick becomes smooth again and bend the top over. Leave to air dry and harden a bit.

Voila! Cute and tasty homemade candy canes to share with your friends!


{Two Christmas Cards Preschool Kids and Toddlers Can Make}

This year one of our advent calendar activities was to make Christmas cards. Because Princess Pea (age 5) is at preschool during the mornings, our toddler, Sweet Pea (age 2 1/2) ended up making most of these. They are easy enough for toddlers but also fun for older kids to make - I even made some myself and enjoyed them just as much as the kids did!

The red one (made by Princess Pea) and the similar one at the top (by Sweet Pea) were made the same way. They used strips of shiny, metallic tape to make the layers of the tree, then Princess Pea stuck on some 'jewels' to add some extra sparkle to hers. I just love it! For Sweet Pea's I had her do it on plain paper because she really wanted to cut the tape herself and I knew it wouldn't end up in progressively shorter pieces. So I just let her stick on her strips of tape and then I cut it into a triangular shape afterwards (which she was actually quite annoyed about - oops!)

The rest were made by Sweet Pea. They were super easy and look really effective. To start, I gave her a piece of white paper and some bits of coloured tissue paper. I instructed her to tear up the tissue paper into small pieces and glue them all over the white paper (overlapping fine), to cover all the white. I showed her how to do the first piece, glueing both under and on top of the tissue with a solution of watered down white school glue and a paint brush. Then I just let her go at it. She did really well with it  and enjoyed glueing with the paintbrush, and she covered most of the paper. I filled in the blank spaces that were left.

The next day, after the tissue had dried, I cut out as many triangle shapes from the paper as I could get. Then I gave her some folded green construction paper cards and she glued the triangles onto the middle of each card. I cut out some rectangles from brown construction paper and we glued those on as trunks. Some she decorated with glitter glue, bits of sparkly sticky foam, or glitter pens. Others she left plain.

Don't they look lovely?


{Curled Paper Christmas Tree Decorations: Counting Down to Christmas}

My preschooler and I made these beautiful paper curl Christmas trees last year, and I'm sharing them again as part of the Counting Down to Christmas series, in case you missed them.

You need 3 circular items of different sizes, some thread, and some Christmas gift wrap or Christmassy scrapbook paper (it's nice if it's coloured on both sides, but not necessary). If you have some star stickers or sequins, even better. We happened to also have some bells, so we added those too.

1. Trace around the circles and cut them out.

2. Find the centre of each circle by folding the circle lightly in half, pinching the middle to mark it, then opening it and folding it again across the opposite way; pinch and open. The spot where the two pinch marks meet is the middle.

Then cut out 1/4 of the circle. (You won't need this 1/4 for these trees, but you might want to make them into a paper Christmas forest!)

3. Using the 3/4 parts of each circle, fold them around into cone shapes and glue the edges down.

4. Cut a fringe edge all the way around each of the cones. Then, using a pencil, roll up the fringe ends to make them curl up a little.

Thread a needle (I did this part), and tie a knot (we attached bells on the ends first). Poke it through the biggest cone from the bottom up so that the tree rests on the knot, then tie another knot just a little above the cone, thread the second cone, tie another knot, then thread the third cone.

If you like, add star stickers to the top on each side of the string and press together, or use star-shaped sequins if you have them. (You could also add more stars or glitter glue to the trees themselves. Since we used patterned paper and sparkly paper, we decided they were fancy enough already.)


The patterned one and the gold one I made, but Princess Pea (age 4) made the silver one. She did get tired of rolling the fringe, so I ended up finishing that for her and did the threading, but she traced and cut the circles, cut the fringes, and added the stars herself.

They look so beautiful and festive hanging up on the tree or anywhere around the house!

I found the idea for these trees in the book, "50 Christmas Things to Make and Do", published by Usborne. I just love their books for children, and we have loads of them - in fact, I have to admit that I actually really bought this book for myself (hey, at least I'm sharing!)

You might also be interested in our Advent Calendars Round-Up.

Join us for the Counting Down to Christmas Week 3 linky party! Each week will bring you a different theme:

Week 1 - Advent
Week 2 - Christmas Cards
Week 3 - Tree Decorations
Week 4 - Handmade Gifts
Week 5 - Nativity
Week 6 - Food
Week 7 - Room Decorations
Week 8 - Family Traditions and Fun

Link up your TREE DECORATIONS posts below!


Please note that this post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

{Fine Motor Skills Practice With Sewing}

preschooler sewing fine motor skills

Sewing is a great way for preschoolers to develop the fine motor skills they'll need later for writing.

While you probably don't want to arm your 4 year old with an actual needle, I managed to find these great plastic children's needles at the craft store. Paired with some embroidery thread and some craft foam (very easy to push the needle through), they make a great little sewing starter kit for preschool fine motor skills practice.

To get started, show your child where the thread goes through the eye of the plastic needle, then let him/her do it alone. Only help if asked. You might want to show your child that it helps to avoid tangles if they go in from one side, then back out the opposite way, but it depends how neat your child likes things to be (mine wants it neat!). Then either go with free stitching anywhere on the craft foam sheet, or draw a simple design (we did letters on ours) for your child to follow along the lines.

needle and craft foam for preschooler sewing fine motor practice


Note that the above advertisement links to Amazon through my Affiliates link. 
I receive a small percentage of sales made through this link.

{Simple Paper Doll Craft}

When I was a little girl, my absolute favourite toy was my paper dolls. I spent hours engaged in elaborate imaginative play with them, changing their clothes for balls, for tea parties, for swimming lessons, and so on. My mum and I used to spend quiet afternoons making our own clothes for them; cutting and drawing and colouring them just the way we wanted. I even remember that in the summer I turned 5, we made a whole wardrobe of brown and yellow clothes, as my mum was trying to convince me that brown and yellow were such pretty colours together - since those were the colours of my upcoming school uniform! (She never did quite convince me on that!)

Anyway, the girls and I made these cute paper dolls a while back that I've been meaning to share with you. They were super easy to make and kept the girls busy for ages.

Simply cut out a human-ish shape from thick paper or cardboard (or print from a template), then draw around the shape to make whatever clothes you like. Remember to leave tabs around the shoulders, waist, hips, and legs to hold the clothes on. Then cut out the clothes from patterned papers or use plain paper and have the kids design and decorate the clothes themselves. Or if you prefer, you could use felt and fabric scraps to decorate the clothes. You could add some yarn for the doll's hair, or even have your children design their dolls to look like themselves, as I remember doing at school when we were 6.

This is an easy multi-age activity to do, as older children can do all the cutting themselves, while younger ones can do the colouring of the clothes to suit their tastes. It's also great for fine motor skills development - careful cutting for the older ones, drawing and colouring, and working with the tabs to attach the clothes to the dolls.

Did you make paper dolls as a child, too?


{Pumpkin Fairy World}

halloween pumpkin fairy world

We started carving our pumpkin the other day and created this cozy fairy garden out of it, inspired by this pumpkin diorama.

First we cut the top - the girls were delighted by the sight of all the stringy, seedy insides!

It took some convincing, but I finally managed to get the girls involved in scooping out the insides (granted, they were a bit cold inside since the pumpkin had been sitting outdoors). Princess Pea isn't really a fan of slime, so she used a spoon and bowed out at the first possible escape window, but once Sweet Pea got started, she really enjoyed the sensory experience and helped me sort through the goop to collect all the seeds for roasting.

I cut a huge 'door' in the front (which fits back on), and we gathered bits and pieces from the garden and house to create this comfy spot for a fairy to sit and reflect.

We had found this 'fairy chair' piece of wood in the forest a couple of weeks ago and brought it home for our outdoor fairy garden. We added a few sprigs of lavender, some bark chips, and painted pebbles and snail shells from around the garden. Then we added a fake flower, a plastic salamander, a small wooden apple, a felted owl, and, of course, a fairy.

I think it's really sweet, and the girls are quite taken by it! We have it set up on the upstairs balcony, facing in towards the window so it can be seen from indoors as well as played with outdoors under the cover of the balcony roof.

I think it's not how we'll use it on Halloween night, as we'll need light in it, but it's a fun way to use it for now. When Halloween comes, I'll fit the door back on, and either carve a face in the other side, or perhaps drill some holes to make a lovely luminary like the one Taming the Goblin made.

halloween pumpkin fairy world

What did you do with your pumpkin this year?

You might also like to see our 'mummykin' pumpkin from last year, or see more pumpkin ideas here. And there are lots more seasonal ideas on my Halloween and Fall pin board.