Carving pumpkins is one of the most creative parts of Halloween, not to mention great fun for the kids (young and old). Whether you like scary faces, soft lighting or lots of sweeties, there's a pumpkin carving to suit everyone.
All pumpkin carvings begin the same way… by getting the kids into some very old clothes and aprons! Once you're ready to get messy the real fun can begin. Start your creation by carving out a section around the stalk of the pumpkin. It'll need to be wide enough to fit your or the kids hands into. If you've got older kids or teens they can usually handle this part if supervised.
My two year old daughter's first official job is to scoop the goop! All the flesh and seeds from inside the pumpkin need to be removed and disposed of - this will help your pumpkin to stay fresher for longer. I usually scrape around the inside with a spoon to loosen everything up for her.
The traditional way
The most popular and well-recognised style of jack o' lantern is quick and easy to create. Get the kids to draw a suitably scary face onto the best side of the pumpkin and then use a sharp knife to cut it out for them. Simple triangles make great eyes and noses and ghoulish teeth add a bit of extra interest to the mouth.
For a change this year - and so my daughter could play a bigger role - I experimented with using star shaped metal cookie cutters for the eyes. Initially bashed in by me with a hammer and then pushed in further by my daughter using a safer plastic mallet. They worked pretty brilliantly, on smaller pumpkins, but larger ones proved a bit too thick.
The artistic way
For a more classic Halloween display consider creating gently glowing lanterns with your pumpkins. If your kids are older, then the easiest and quickest way to do this is to use a drill with a wide bit (closely supervised of course!) For younger children you could use a large screwdriver and a mallet.
To create your glow light, draw a simple repetitive pattern around your pumpkin using dots. My kids tend to favour stars, flowers and suitably scary words such as BOO! Once you've created your stencil, simply move round the pumpkin drilling or knocking out the holes as you go. As the holes are quite small I've found we need to use several tea lights or glow sticks to light the lanterns with.
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[How the whole family can make spooky Halloween lanterns]
The kid friendly way
Once you've scooped the goop out of your pumpkin, punch a series of small holes in the 'lid' and around the opening with a very small screwdriver and mallet or a drill with the smallest bit. Make sure your holes are the right size and far enough apart for each to contain a lolly securely.
My daughter loves to help with this part so I usually stick the screwdriver in for safety and then let her tap out the hole with dad's rubber mallet - supervised of course! Finally pop a lollipop into each hole, add a glow stick, replace your lid and you're ready to impress!