Pumpkin Carving with Kids

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Cut, Carve, or PaintJack o lantern pumpkin carved by kid with dry ice smoke coming out of mouth

  • What: Decorating pumpkins with kids
  • When: 12 months and up
  • Why: Festive, fun, family traditions
  • Where: Your home

We’ve been carving pumpkins with our kids since they could stand up, and I love nothing more than sticking an infant into a carved pumpkin. But now that our kids have gotten older, they want in on the carving action.

Girl carving jack o lantern outside
 My daughter working on her design.

In years past, they picked out designs and we carved for them. (A Dremel beats the heck out of any knife for this task.) Now, we let them loose with sharp knives and thick winter squash, and we’ve learned a few things.

Kids carving pumpkins jack o lanterns outside on grass
We always do our pumpkin decorating outside.

Always carve pumpkins outside. Even when the kids only helped dig out the innards with a big plastic spoon, we moved the pumpkin operations outside. If you have a covered space, that works great in case of pouring rain or freezing temperatures. But you don’t want to find out how far strings of pumpkin innards can go inside, and I won’t bore you with how many places pumpkin seeds can hide. This year we plan to carve in the garage. It stays warmer and provides more protection from the elements, but we can still hose it down afterwards for easy clean up.

Mini pumpkin decorated by five year old with paint
My five year old painted this mini pumpkin and it turned out great.

For younger kids, consider alternatives to carving. Paint, googly eyes, and even stickers and feathers can go a long way without involving any sharp objects. As an added bonus, you don’t have to play with fire every night to illuminate painted pumpkins either. And if you decorate early in the season, uncarved pumpkins last longer before magically transforming into piles of pumpkin mush. (We have had to shovel pumpkin remains before. Trust me, you don’t want to do that.)

Light jack o lantern at night pumpkin carved by child
Keep your pumpkin creations from collapsing before the big day.

Don’t carve too early. If you do decide to carve, whether you or your kids do the cutting, wait until a week or so before Halloween to do the deed. Pumpkins don’t last forever, even in cold temperatures. If you put lots of time and effort into a quality design, you resist letting it go before the end of the month. Even if your pumpkin doesn’t collapse, lighting a candle inside a jack o’ lantern covered in black mold holds very little appeal, no matter how seasonal the color scheme of black and orange.

Want even more fun? For uncarved smaller pumpkins, toss them in the bath with your kids. Not only will it get the pumpkins clean for easier decorating, but they float! You can’t beat that for seasonal bath time fun.

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