This is How to Carve Pumpkins with Kids
Two experts share tips to easily and safely carve jack-o'-lanterns with kids this Halloween.
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There are a few things to keep in mind when carving pumpkins with kids, especially if it’s your child’s first time. There’s always a part that the child can do. Cut the bottom out of the pumpkin and then give your child a spoon or an ice cream scoop and let them go to town ripping the guts out of it. That’s the messy and the fun part. Another way you can get kids involved is to carve a very simple face in your jack-o’-lantern and simply hold your child’s hand to help guide them as they cut along the line of a triangle or any circles.
The other thing as far as getting kids involved is a lot of times kids like to decide what the design is going to be. So ask your child what kind of face it should be—a scary face, a happy face, an angry face? Then have them take a black magic marker and physically draw the image on the pumpkin and then you can have them scoop out the pumpkin and then you carve the image out. The child’s still going to take ownership of it because they drew the face on the pumpkin and they like that. That’s their face.
Once you’ve picked out the perfect pumpkin and brought it home, you’ll want to:
- Wash the pumpkin with soapy water, then dry it.
- Cut a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin. This helps to keep the pumpkin stable and keeps it looking nice. If you decide that you prefer the more traditional look of a hole in the top, cut the hole with a slanted edge, which will keep the top from falling inside.
- Scoop out the guts.
- Scrape the inside flesh clean and smooth until it’s approximately 1-inch thick.
- Transfer your pattern onto the chosen side or draw your pattern directly onto the pumpkin.
- Make cutouts, the traditional method of carving a pumpkin, whereby shapes are cut from the flesh, allowing light to shine through.
- Think about your cut before you make it.
- Start in the middle and work your way out (this helps keep the pumpkin structurally sound).
- Leave large areas to cut out for last (same reason as above), and cut them into smaller pieces for easier removal. As you begin removing pieces, the pumpkin will get increasingly delicate. You will find it much easier to cut out the small details when the pumpkin is its most stable. So work backwards from the smallest cut outs to the largest. This will help you avoid accidental breaks that would destroy your hard work.
- Hold cutting tool perpendicular to the surface.
- Cut with gentle, steady sawing motions.
- Point the cutting tool towards the pumpkin's center.
- Resist the urge to poke the cut out into the pumpkin. Instead, push it out toward you from the inside.
- On corners or if changing directions, remove the carving tool then reinsert it in the new direction.
- Cut a vent or chimney in the back top of the pumpkin.
- Once complete, wash under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Once your pumpkin is completely dry, add a candle or electric tea light inside and enjoy your jack-o’-lantern!
How long your pumpkin lasts outdoors will depend on weather and the elements. But here are a few tips to lengthen your jack-o’-lantern’s lifespan as much as possible:
- It is a fruit. It is perishable. So you want to make sure it's wrapped in plastic and stored in a cool environment when not in use. Some people put it in their fridge or some cool, dark place. You don’t want it baking in the blazing sun, because it turns into rot and mush.
- After carving, the No. 1 thing you’ll want to do is clean your jack-o’-lantern with soapy water or disinfect it with a mild bleach solution (a little bleach and water or any bleach-based bathroom cleanser). That’ll kill all the bacteria that’ll break your pumpkin down and will help your pumpkin to survive a few days longer.
- You also can coat any openings with petroleum jelly or commercially available pumpkin preservatives.
I ignored your advice about the petroleum jelly. Can I save my pumpkin?
To rehydrate a shriveled pumpkin, soak in a tub of water overnight. Dry before putting back on display. To prevent mold growth, soak in a solution of water with 10-percent bleach. Dry before putting back on display.
I accidentally kicked my jack-o’-lantern and parts of it broke off. What can I do to fix it?
To fix broken areas, or to repair areas accidentally cut off during the carving process, use toothpicks, pins, or staples to reaffix. If needed, patch a broken area with a scrap of pumpkin flesh.
How do I prevent my pumpkins from becoming a snack for wild animals?
To deter animals from eating pumpkins, spray the pumpkins with commercially available hinders, garlic spray, or hot pepper, or sprinkle the area with human hair.