Pumpkin Carving Tips

A pumpkin carved into a jack-o-lantern is the most recognizable symbol of Halloween. And a well carved pumpkin will impress your friends, neighbors and trick-or-treaters. Today, pumpkins can be carved, painted or even have gourds inserted to create faces. This Halloween activity is a great way to bring the family together to celebrate the season, with something for everyone in the family to do. Kids can design the face and clean out the inside of the pumpkin while adults make the cuts. And everyone can help to make roasted pumpkin seeds when it’s all done.

What You’ll Need To Carve A Pumpkin

1. Knives work best when sharp, and are actually safer because they require less force to make the cuts. They need to be sharp, flexible, with thin sturdy blades. Children should not handle knives and should always be supervised.

* Boning Knife – long thin blade to cut top whole and any large pieces out of the face
* Paring Knife – for detail work

2. Gutting Spoons to remove seeds, pulp and strings from the inside of the pumpkin. For older kids, it can be fun to pretend they’re BRAINS!

* Ice Cream Scoop
* Large Metal Ladle / Spoon

3. Candles for a spooky or enchanting glow

* Place votive candles in a clear glass candle holder
* Plain white candles give off the most light
* Never leave a candle burning unattended or overnight
* A glow stick or battery operated light can also be used

4. Newspaper to cover your workspace

Getting Started

Step 1: Preparation

For easy clean up, place your pumpkin on several layers of newspaper before carving. Clean the outside of the pumpkin with a wet rag to remove dirt and debris.

Step 2: Draw and Cut Lid
Draw a five or six sided opening (vs. a circle) with a crayon or a water-based magic marker. The hole should be large enough to allow you to scoop out the guts (seeds and stringy membrane) by hand and with a large spoon. With a long, thin bladed knife, cut out the top of the pumpkin around the stem. Angle the knife so that the lid and hole will be somewhat cone shaped. This will help prevent the lid from falling into the hole by creating a ledge that supports the lid.

Step 3: Clean and Scrape

Use the ice cream scoop or spoon to clean out the seeds and strings. Have kids remove the seeds from the membrane and place into a separate bowl (for making pumpkin seeds). Make sure you have scraped the bottom of the pumpkin flat so that the candle will sit level in the pumpkin.

Step 4: Draw and Cut Face

Inspect the surface of the pumpkin to decide the best side to carve your face. Draw the face you want to cut with a crayon or a water-based magic marker, then use your knife to cut along the lines you drew. When finished cutting, carefully push out the pieces. Now you’re ready to light up your pumpkin!

Other Tips:

Selecting a Pumpkin

Select a pumpkin that is ripe and has no bruises or nicks. Do not carry a pumpkin by its stem – it may break. Make sure the pumpkin has a flat bottom, smooth texture and is evenly colored for best results.

When to Carve Your Pumpkin

Do not carve your pumpkin too many days before Halloween night. To protect against dryness and mold, cover the carved pumpkin with plastic wrap and put the pumpkin into the refrigerator when it is not on display.

How to Make Your Pumpkin Last Longer

To reduce shriveling, coat the cut edges of your carving with petroleum jelly. To revive a shriveled pumpkin, soak it in water in a bucket or bathtub for 1-8 hours, let it drain then dry it carefully. If your pumpkin molds or turns soft, there is nothing you can do!

Start a New Tradition

Go to a local pumpkin patch to select your pumpkin. There are many fun activities and goodies available there for families. Instead of throwing your jack-o-lantern in the trash when Halloween is over, bury your pumpkin in the yard. It’s fun and gives the family a chance to say good-bye to a good friend.

Recipe for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


* Fresh pumpkin seeds
* Salt


When carving your pumpkin, set seeds aside in a bowl. Do not wash seeds prior to roasting (washing can remove some of the flavor). Remove seeds from strings and place in a SINGLE layer on a cookie sheet. Add salt to taste an