Learn everything you need to know about carving a pumpkin, from beginning to end – all of the kid friendly pumpkin carving tips you need to carve an amazing pumpkin!
My family and I really get into Halloween. Not the creepy gory bloody halloween, but the fun playful halloween. We decorate the yard, we turn on the strobe lights and we carve pumpkins – lots and lots of pumpkins.
Every year for Cub Scouts my boys carve a pumpkin for the annual pumpkin carving contest. And because my little princess doesn’t want to be left out, she joins in on the fun as well. And yes, the kids help with the pumpkin carving.
Teaching kids how to use the tools without hurting themselves is one of those fun parent jobs. And with these kid friendly pumpkin carving tips, your kiddos can get in on the halloween fun, too. Don’t want to use a knife? I have those options, too!
Drop the knife and paint a pumpkin
There are many different ways to decorate a pumpkin. You can get creative with your paint, too. Paint your pumpkins all white and add black eyes and mouths for little ghosts. Or paint spooky messages on them. Dress them up and make funny heads.
Add polka dots or chevron patterns to make your pumpkins stylish. Or go for the laughs. This Swiss Cheese Pumpkin with mice always brings a smile.
Put stickers on your pumpkin
Use glow in the dark stickers to decorate your pumpkin. You can use small stars or dots to make a pattern, or find other halloween shapes. Kids love stickers and families have an uncanny habit of collecting oodles of oodles of stickers. Now’s the time to use them up!
Mini pumpkin patch
Nothing screams fall like a collection of pumpkins. Visit your local farmer’s market and start with a small group of pumpkins. Choose different sizes, shapes and colors and arrange them by your door.
There is so much more out there than the standard jack-o-lantern carving pumpkin, so get creative!
Carve your pumpkin using free stencils
And if you want to carve a pumpkin, no one said you had to create the design from scratch. Sure you could go for the class triangle eyes and toothless smile, but there are so many different free pumpkin carving stencils out there to choose from.
From creepy goblins to princesses, you can find these stencils all over the internet. Here are just a few we found:
- Family Fun Magazine ideas
- Kid friendly patterns
- More kid friendly patterns
- Disney Halloween games & stencils
- Better Homes & Garden Ideas
- DLTK’s Holiday Activities for Kids
- Make your own stencil!
- Print your pattern onto this nifty adhesive paper by Sulky’s Stick ‘n Carve and stick onto your pumpkin and carve
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How to choose a pumpkin
When it comes to carving a pumpkin, you want a pumpkin with uniform coloring and of course, no bruising or blemishes. Try to find a pumpkin that has a smooth surface that will hold your stencil without trouble.
You can also use the blemishes and stems to your advantage, too. One year we found a fabulous short fat pumpkin with a crazy stem. The top made a natural face and nose and that is how we ended up with the witch pumpkin at the top of the post.
Cut a lid for your pumpkin
Along the top of the pumpkin, draw where you want to cut for your lid. Using a sharp knife, cut carefully along the lines, making sure you angle the blade towards the center of the pumpkin. This helps support the pumpkin lid and prevents the lid from falling into your pumpkin!
If your pumpkin is missing a stem, cut the bottom of the pumpkin as you would the top. Remove any strings attached to the pumpkin flesh and set your lid aside. For this step, usually my husband or I cut the lid off. But you can always guide your older children in the process.
Clean and scoop your pumpkin
Now comes the fun part! All those strings and seeds have to be removed from the cavity of the pumpkin. Using a big spoon or even an ice cream scooper, scoop out the seeds and strings inside your pumpkin. Scrape off the inner pulp from the area you plan to carve until the pumpkin wall is approximately 1″ thick.
When the kiddos were young, they really got into cleaning out the pumpkins. It was slimy and gross and always brought a lot of giggles and laughs. Remember you can roast pumpkin seeds to make a healthy and delicious snack. So separate the fat seeds from the strings and begin soaking them in water.
Attach your pumpkin stencil
If you are using a pattern, trim it leaving approximately 1/2″ border around the design and tape the pattern to your pumpkin. Make sure the pumpkin is dry or the tape won’t stick! You might have to remove or rearrange sections of the pattern to fit your pumpkin.
Of course, you do not have to use a pumpkin stencil. You can also use a grease pencil or sharpie to freehand draw right on the pumpkin your design.
Transfer stencil onto pumpkin
You can transfer the stencil design onto your pumpkin several different ways. Using a nail, gently poke holes along the pattern lines, leaving you a guide to follow later. Many pumpkin carving kits have a long poking device which allows you to poke many small holes to follow.
Another method is to use a flathead screw driver or knife and trace along the pattern, pressing into the pumpkin flesh to make indentations. When all the lines are transferred, remove the pattern. You can also use tracing paper and a pen to transfer your pattern.
Carving pumpkins with kids
Now that your design is on your pumpkin, it’s time to carve it out. Carve your pattern out by cutting at a 90º angle to the pumpkin. Cut slowly and gently, with a continuous up-and-down sawing motion. You can use a paring knife for the detailed carvings, if you don’t have a pumpkin carving kit.
Depending on the age of your child and how complicated your pumpkin pattern is, you may or may not want your kidlet to do this step. My kids started using a knife (under our supervision) and carved out pumpkins around the age of 7. They usually insist on trying it themselves.
Some kids have great hand-eye coordination and find this to be a very simple and fun activity. Other kids get bored easily or their hands start to ache from carving. Just be sure to watch over them so they do not hurt themselves of anyone else.
Accessorize your pumpkin
A great jack-o-lantern has extra spooky effect with a few accessories around it. Our witch pumpkin got a hat made of sturdy paper and hair made of wires – it’s amazing what the hubby has stashed in our garage!
My son love his smoking hot pumpkin with the addition of dry ice and a red chile pepper. Whatever theme you have going on with your carved pumpkin, add a few fun accessories to make it stand out or make your friends laugh!
How to create shadows with your pumpkin
You can also carve a pattern on the back of your pumpkin so you can illuminate spooky shadows on the wall. If you are using words, make sure you carve the mirror image so it reflects your message correctly.
Patterns should be smaller than what you would carve in the front of your pumpkin (max. size about 4 inch square). Since your lighting is small, the carved pattern should be towards the top of the pumpkin’s back so the light source will project the shadow upwards onto your wall.
Lighting up your pumpkin
Great options for lighting your jack-o-lanterns include candles, battery-powered lights or even glow sticks. If you are using a real candle, make sure you keep it in a container, like a votive holder. Keeping your wick short will keep your candle (and pumpkin) from smoking.
How do I keep my carved pumpkin fresh?
Add petroleum jelly to the cut edges of your pumpkin. This will keep your pumpkin from drying out. You can give the inside of the pumpkin a light coat, as well.
Got a dry pumpkin? Soak it in water to bring it back. The drier the pumpkin, the longer it has to soak. Just make sure you use a paper towel to dry the inside of your pumpkin to keep mold from growing inside.
How to clean a moldy pumpkin
If you live in a warm area, your cut pumpkin could develop mold before the big nigh. To get rid of mold growing on your pumpkin, spray it with water mixed in with a little bleach. Please wear gloves and be careful with that bleach!!!
Sometimes you have to carve your pumpkin days before Halloween. Remember, you can also keep your pumpkin in the cool garage or refrigerator during those hot fall days. Just make sure you wrap the carved portions tightly with plastic wrap, a plastic bag or even a garbage bag if your pumpkin is HUGE!