Pumpkin carving is one of my favorite Halloween traditions, but it’s not the most kid-friendly project, nor is it without effort and mess. So I collected Parent Hacks readers’ (and my own) tips for simplifying Jack-o’-lanterns, and here’s what we came up with:
1. Choose a small pumpkin. If you’re into big pumpkins, choose a squat one.
Way easier to scoop seeds out of a small and/or short pumpkin.
2. Cut the hole in the bottom of the pumpkin.
Easier to place the candle when the carving is done. (Thanks for the reminder, Erik.)
3. Wear dishwashing gloves to handle the slimy stuff.
Pumpkin guts are slippery. Even if the gross factor isn’t an issue, you’ll get a better grip if you wear a pair of gloves while scraping.
4. Scoop out the pumpkin seeds with an ice cream scoop.
The best scoopers have angular edges. I’m an OXO Good Grips ice cream scoop fan, myself.
5. Thin the walls of the pumpkin for easier carving.
Once you’ve removed the seeds and stringy bits, keep scooping the flesh inside thick pumpkins. Your carving tools will work more easily.
6. Sketch the carving lines with a dry erase marker.
Amy’s genius tip: “We use a dry eraser marker to sketch out the face of the pumpkin. After everything is cut out, a wet paper towel wipes away all the marker and no lines show on the face.”
7. Fix carving mistakes with a toothpick.
It’s easy to break off a piece of the pumpkin while doing detailed carving. Just stick a toothpick into the broken part and plug it back into place. (Need to see a picture? Scroll down this post at Sometimes Homemade.)
8. Don’t wash the pumpkin seeds before roasting them.
I didn’t, and the roasted seeds tasted better then ever. The comments on this post contain even more pumpkin seed-roasting tips.
9. Glue a face onto a pumpkin.
From Rebecca: “I cut pieces of black construction paper into eye, nose and mouth shapes and let my toddler glue them onto little pumpkins. They may not look like normal jack-o-lanterns, but they give the idea (besides, a nose floating above your eyes is a little scary, isn’t it?).”
You can also use sheets of black craft foam — easy to cut into shapes, and sturdier in kids’ hands.
If you need some guidelines, Google “jackolantern face template” for a bunch of ideas.
10. Stick Mr. Potato Head parts into a pumpkin.
I noticed this trick in my neighborhood!
11. Draw a face on a pumpkin.
Use a black Sharpie or washable markers. Paint works, too, if you don’t mind the cleanup. For a mini version, draw on mini pumpkins or tangerines!
12. Drill holes into the pumpkin and have the kids insert Lite Brite pegs.
Dee Dee Smith posted this great idea on the Parent Hacks Facebook page.
13. Buy a battery-operated pumpkin you can reuse every year.
No kidding! Fake pumpkins look great! Use one to back up your non-carved Jack O’lanterns. If you wait till the day after Halloween, you can buy them half-price.
If you’ve got another Jackolantern hack, I want to hear it. Leave a comment, or post a picture or link on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #parenthacks.