As Halloween creeps closer and closer, it's time to spookify your house! The most important decoration? A traditional jack-o'-lantern with a lit candle warming its features.
Although carving a pumpkin is a wonderful Halloween tradition, it's not always the easiest, especially when you're working with little kids. There are sharp tools, messy pumpkin insides, and of course high expectations for the final creation. So, how can you make jack-o'-lantern carving a fun, smooth experience with even the smallest children? Well, here are a few tips.
Let Your Kid Pick Out the Pumpkin
Young children just want to be involved in the process, so why not give them a chance to get the event rolling? Take them to a local selection of pumpkins and challenge them to find the biggest, roundest pumpkin of all. If you have the time, traipsing through a pumpkin patch is the best way to achieve this (and the most memorable). For a list of local pumpkin patches in the DFW area, click here. If you can't make it to a pumpkin patch, your local supermarkets and shops probably have some quality pumpkins for sale. Remember, you want a pumpkin that's perfect for carving, so weed out heavy ones with bumpy skin, soft spots, or other noticeable flaws.
Use a Disposable Halloween Tablecloth
This step will truly save your life once it's time to clean up. Before you unload the pumpkins or even set out the tools, pick your carving location and cover it with a cheap tablecloth. Target and Walmart both have some covered in pumpkins and other cute Halloween themes. Then, once you've crafted your masterpiece of a pumpkin, you can simply roll the tablecloth up with all the gooey pumpkin guts and other messes inside before tossing it all in the trash. No wiping down tables covered in orange smears!
Print Out Simple Patterns to Trace
It's easy to get a little overly ambitious when it comes to carving, especially when a young child's mind is at work. Sure, a detailed carving of Darth Maul would be awesome, but it's also not the easiest thing to create so it might not turn out as spectacularly as your child hopes. Try googling "easy pumpkin stencils" online to see what comes up for free. This website has tons of great ones to choose from, including traditional Jacks and fun Halloween phrases like "boo!"
Encourage Them to Hollow Out the Pumpkin
Before you begin carving, you'll have to cut a hole around the pumpkin's stem and clean out the slimy insides. As gross as it may sound, this is the perfect step for children to do by themselves (after an adult handles the cutting part, of course). Encourage them to reach deep inside and scoop out the orange mush. Not only will they giggle wickedly at the gruesome task, but they'll also feel involved as they participate in the safest part of carving.
Pin/Tape the Pattern to the Pumpkin Before You Begin
Whether you plan to carve the pumpkin while your children watch or to let them give it a try, this step will make your life infinitely easier. The last thing you want is a stencil that slips and slides all over your pumpkin, leaving you with a lopsided Jack. You'll be working on the piece for a while, so make sure your stencil will stay put while you use small, controlled motions to follow the lines. If your children are old enough, let them carve a few straight lines, but remind them that the tools are sharp and can cut when they're not careful.
Keep the Kids Occupied, Even When They Can't Help
Bored children often reach for tools they shouldn't have or get cranky when they feel uninvolved, so try to set up some other activities outside of the carving station. Put on some fun Halloween tunes and challenge them to a freeze dance contest or give them mini pumpkins to decorate with glitter or markers. That way, when you're struggling to carve the difficult parts of the pumpkin without their help, the kids are still having a fun time.
Opt for an LED Tea Light Instead of Real Candle
If your children are quite young, consider nixing the whole real candle element of jack-o'-lantern lighting. Burning candles sing a siren song to little kids, so avoiding the possibility of tiny burnt fingers is always smart. If you really want to spice things up, you can find special effects battery operated lights to set inside the pumpkin.
Do you have other tips or tricks when it comes to creating the perfect jack-o'-lantern? Leave ideas in the comments below!