Halloween is only a day away, and whether you’re ignoring COVID or having a small event just for your household, there’s still plenty to do. In addition to the brief list I released a couple days ago, there’s one major thing with which everyone can get involved: pumpkin carving!

This is easy with older kids, you give them their own pumpkin and let’m at it. However, with small kids, like my 4 year old and U2, pumpkin carving is more challenging. Young kids shouldn’t be using carving tools, and they definitely shouldn’t be handling knives. So what can they do, and how do you prepare?

Dad Tip: Don’t carve your pumpkins more than a day or two before Halloween, unless you want them to look all rotten & droopy…


Start by decking out the kids in short sleeved shirts and painting or art smocks. Although this won’t keep them clean, it will minimize the mess, and potentially save their shirts/pants from getting ridiculously full of pumpkin guts.

Next, you’ll want to cover your table. If you still get paper flyers or newspaper, that works well. Alternatively, you can use a plastic tablecloth or art paper. We use art paper in our house, and it works great. There’s an added bonus of letting the kids colour all over it first, before pumpkin carving. This allows you to save a bit of time, and occupy the kids with two separate activities.

Dad Tip: Cut & remove the pumpkin top before you sit at the table. That way, the kids can dig in right away and you don’t need to have anything sharp dangerously within reach.

Pumpkin Carving

With little kids, you have to keep anything sharp away. That means they won’t actually be pumpkin carving. There are plenty of other things they can help with as part of the process.

Ways to Help

  • Pull the guts – Let’s face it, there’s a lot to pull out. If they’re big enough, they can even use an ice cream scoop to clean the insides.
  • Separate the Seeds – Be sure to have a separate bowl, as these are a great snack once roasted up.
  • Pick a Stencil – Plenty of stencils are available both online & with carving kits. Be sure to remove any that are beyond your ability in advance, or you could get stuck with something tricky!
  • Draw the face – Give them a washable marker and let them draw the face on the pumpkin. You could even let them draw out a few test faces in advance to teach them about “prototyping.”

Alternatives to Carving

  • Foam Stickies – Cheaply available at your nearest craft or bargain store.
  • Pumpkin Push Ins – It’s like Mr. Potato Head, but for pumpkins!

Dad Tip: Be sure to have 1 pumpkin per child, so they can play with them at the same time.

Once the face is drawn or the stencil is chosen, it’s easy for your kids to get bored. This is when I had them taking turns separating the seeds for roasting, but it’s also a great time to play a Halloween movie or short. Introducing your kids to The Great Pumpkin or Nightmare Before Christmas works really well (my kids both love the later).

After Pumpkin Carving

Once the carving is all finished, let the little ones turn on the lights and pop them in. Then turn off the lights in the house so they can see the full effect. My little ones loved it, and they both tried to give impressions of the two we carved this year.

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