If your household carves pumpkins each year for Halloween, you may already have your own tradition for the way you do this. But if not, here are some suggestions. Each year, my kids enjoy participating in the carving of our Halloween pumpkins. We usually purchase four large pumpkins to line the pathway up to the front door for Halloween night.
My husband used to have to do the carving of all four pumpkins until my boys were old enough to safely handle the carving tools. Then, one or two pumpkins made their way down to my sons, who are now in college. As the years passed, the boys still living at home, who are both teenagers now, inherited the carving duties. Each year, they carve two pumpkins each, and my daughter, who is seven, is the official “pumpkin goo scooper.” They each know their roles, and it makes it a fun and efficient process.
To keep the pumpkins looking fresh for Halloween, try not to carve them too soon. They will tend to shrivel, especially ones that have intricate designs on them. The smaller carved areas will just shrivel and curl up into the pumpkin, making it look like a prune by the time Halloween arrives. Try to time your carving for no earlier than a week before Halloween, and then if you have a garage or cool outdoor storage area, consider putting them inside for the night to keep them safe until Halloween. Squirrels love to nibble on them and can really make a mess of your hard work.
Before carving, make sure to prepare your work surface to make for easy cleanup. I always cover the dining room table with old newspapers before we begin, then just toss the paper when finished. I still handle the carving out of the “lid”, because it requires using a large, sharp knife. I make the lids square as opposed to circular, because it’s just easier that way. Also, if you carve a triangular shaped notch on one side of the lid, this will make it much easier to take on and off. Put the notch on the backside of the pumpkin that won’t be showing, after you’ve chosen which side will be the pumpkin’s face, the side you will place the carving.
We opted to start doing the fancy carving patterns years ago, and find them to be great fun for everyone. We will usually purchase one or two pattern books each Halloween, and it’s best to do this after Halloween, when everything is on clearance and you can get them for little cost. Also, you’ll find that all the carving tools might not make it through the year’s carving, so it’s best to have a replacement on hand readily available in case a tool bends or breaks. Allow the children to help choose the patterns they like, then choose the ones that most family members agreed upon. Keep in mind, some patterns are much more complex than others and you might want to eliminate few right off and not include them in the choices.
When you’ve prepped your work space and have the “lid” carved out, now the fun begins! Have your youngest ones wear an old tee shirt or smock, and let then have at it. They can use the little scoops provided with the pumpkin carving kits. My daughter lives for this moment every year, when she has the privilege of scraping pumpkin goo. When the pumpkins are sufficiently cleaned out, with no remaining hanging strings, you’re ready to begin your carving.
Following the directions that came with your carving kit, tape the pattern onto the surface of the pumpkin, and then trace it with the tool provided. The directions will tell you which parts to carve first to avoid damaging your pumpkin during the carving process. Of course, you can always skip the fancy patterns and do a traditional Jack-O-Lantern, with the classic triangle eyes and nose. Just make it a family event and have fun with it! Obviously, only allow children old enough to safely use carving tools to do the carvings, and the younger ones can help with cleaning out the pumpkins or tracing the patterns.
You can make pumpkin carving a part of your annual Halloween activities. It’s a great family activity and everyone can be assigned a special job to do. It’s fun to see your works of art and display them on Halloween for all to enjoy.