What you need
- Pumpkin (choice of colour and size)
- Small Sharp Knife
- Tea light candle
- Large serving spoon
- Large bowl
- Tea towel
- Lead pencil
- Drill for decorative pumpkin (optional)
Vegetable carving has been a common practice throughout history in many parts of the world. In modern times, pumpkin carving (the finished product often referred to as a Jack-o’-lantern) is synonymous with Halloween.
This year, our family of six decided to give pumpkin carving a try as a joint activity. Success! The process of choosing, designing and making was a lot of fun. Then to see light peek out of the carved openings, creating a dazzling sparkle of light, was magical and squeals from the children made it worthwhile.
While somewhat messy, this activity is not difficult and something the entire family can enjoy together. Below are tips on carving pumpkins, as well as some non-carving decorating ideas.
1. Choose your pumpkin
Pumpkins come in a variety of shapes, colours and skin textures and they all can look fabulous when carved or decorated.
2. Prepare the area
Before you start this project, it’s a good idea to choose a suitable area to work on because it can be a little messy. We worked on the cement driveway so the children could get a piece of the action, and it’s an easy area to clean up.
3. Cut a lid
Cut a lid out of the top of the pumpkin. This enables you to clean the insides of the pumpkin for the candle when the masterpiece is complete. Make sure you make the hole big enough; 10-12cm is about right for a large pumpkin.
The lid can be circular (like a manhole) or have multiple sides (like an octagon). The kids enjoyed a slightly uneven lid; they thought it looked like a puzzle piece and enjoyed the challenge of making it fit.
The key point about the lid is that it needs to be beveled at an angle so the top of the lid is a slightly larger diameter than the bottom. This will stop the lid from falling into the pumpkin. To achieve this, simply cut the top section out on a slight angle as shown below.
4. Clean out the pumpkin
This is where the kids can get involved. Remove all the seeds and flesh from the inside of the pumpkin. This is messy; kids love it. Big serving spoons work a treat for this part of the process and have a large bowl handy for the mess.
After removing most of the seeds, continue to scrape the sides clean with a large spoon. The pumpkin can be washed out at this point and lightly dried with a cloth or tea towel.
5. Choose a side
Choose an aspect of your pumpkin that is most flattering. One side of the pumpkin is likely to be more round and present better for carving a face.
6. Draw your pattern
Draw your pattern on the pumpkin with a pencil. If you need inspiration Google ‘pumpkin carving face patterns’.
Tip: as a general guide, use triangle or round eyes, a triangle nose, and a big smile with jagged teeth.
7. Cut the pattern
Cut out the traced pattern with a small sharp knife. If you are cutting holes for a decorative pumpkin, a drill is an excellent tool. We made two different types of patterns: faces and decorative.
For decorative pumpkins, a drill with different sized circular attachments can be useful for creating patterns. This is quick and easy process and the finished product is spectacular!
Tip: Use masking tape as a marking guide for your pattern.
Clean off any excess mess in the cuts you make with your hands or a small spoon.
Install your light inside the pumpkin. A small tea light will surprisingly give enough light to illumine a very large pumpkin lantern. Alternatively, you can use a battery operated candle or glow stick.
Non-carving Pumpkin Decorating
If you’re not keen on pumpkin carving but still want to decorate pumpkins for Halloween, below are a few easy options.
Press thumbtacks into the pumpkin skin, either randomly or in a marked pattern. This is easily done with hands (no hammer needed).
Diamanté or Sticker Pumpkin
Decorate small or large pumpkins with diamantes or stickers. These looks wonderful displayed as a table centerpiece.
- Colour pumpkins with permanent markers
- Paint pumpkins
- Decorate with coloured tape
It’s about family; it’s about togetherness; it’s about fun: pumpkin carving and decorating ticked all three boxes. Win!
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