Pumpkins: Creative Decorating Ideas and Activities
You've picked the perfect one: It's squat and round or tall and slim or just a little lopsided. Now what? Use these tips for decorating (or disassembling!) your pumpkin, and invite the little kids to help!
Play a Game!
Mini-Pumpkin Bowling: Use gourds or small pumpkins to knock down “pins” of your choosing—empty boxes, block towers, anything that’s OK being toppled and tossed around.
Pumpkin Stack-Up: Use multiple pumpkins (you’ll need at least 5) as round-ish building blocks. (Smaller pumpkins are easier to handle and aren’t as daunting when they fall over; again, mini-pumpkins or gourds may be best.)
Pumpkin Ring Toss: Scatter pumpkins at various distances from one another. Using a center-less Frisbee, toy teething ring, or other large plastic or rubber ring, have your child throw it so it lands around the pumpkin stem. Can she make it?
Prepare It for Decoration
Unless you’re just letting your child put stickers or packaging bows on her pumpkin (two mess-free options!), you’ll need to prep your work area before you decorate.
1. Place the pumpkin on layers of newspaper, a vinyl tablecloth, or a couple of trash bags.
2. Put craft bibs on little ones and make sure that everyone’s sleeves are rolled up.
3. Wash your pumpkins with water to remove excess dirt; dry them completely before attempting to paint or carve them.
4. Keep all tools in sight and away from little hands.
Even the littlest ghost or goblin can participate in pumpkin painting: Use tempra paint to capture Baby’s handprint (photo opportunity!), or let toddlers go wild with paintbrushes—or just their fingers. After a fall rain, your canvas may be washed clean, so position your masterpiece accordingly.
Slice It Open
This is definitely a task for parents, although kids may like scooping out the insides afterward. First, cut a hole either in the top or bottom of the pumpkin. From the top, make sure that you cut at an angle. This will allow your pumpkin top to rest on the ledge. If you cut straight across the top might fall inside your pumpkin. From the bottom, make sure that your cut is level so your pumpkin will sit flat. The bottom has an added bonus because it will make removal of the pumpkin’s seeds and fiberous stuff easier and allow the pumpkin to keep its figure. Read Pumpkin 101: Picking & Decorating for more tips and techniques.
Scoop It Out
Mudpie-making kids may love this part, while squeamish bystanders may just want to watch. After picking your pumpkin, keep these tips in mind:
1. You can buy special tools at the grocery store to scrape the insides of your pumpkin, but soup ladles or ice cream scoops often work just as well.
2. The more pumpkin you scrape out, the easier your pumpkin will be to carve.
3. Many children love to put their hands through the mushy fibers to fish out the seeds. (You can even make it a game to see who can collect the most seeds.) Don’t trash the seeds; they make a delicious snack. (See slide #8.)
Carve a Face (or Design!)
Whether your jack-o’-lantern’s face will be scary or sweet (or even if he won’t have a face at all), use these tips when carving:
1. No matter how skilled your pumpkin carvers are, an adult should always supervise kids using sharp tools or utensils.
2. Don’t ever try to force a knife through the pumpkin.
3. Cut away from you.
4. To ensure a creative jack-o’-lantern, examine your pumpkin and decide which side you want to carve before making the first cut.
5. You can draw your design right on the pumpkin or tape a stencil onto the pumpkin.
6. Use a serrated knife or one that comes with a pumpkin carving set. A slow, sawing motion works better than a slashing one.
7. Apple corers can be handy for cutting out eyes or just polka-dot designs.
8. Once you’ve cut your design, simply push on the pieces to see your pumpkin’s new face.
Light It Up
While tea light candles have traditionally lit jack-’o-lanterns, new electric tea lights or even fluorescent glow sticks can be fun (and safer) alternatives. Read on for more Halloween Fact, Fiction, and Fun.
Bake the Seeds
A yummy snack for preschoolers or school-age kids, baked pumpkin seeds can be a choking hazard for younger eaters; serve with caution.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Go through the washed seeds and remove excess fibers. In a bowl, toss seeds with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of salt. Spread the seeds evenly on a large cookie sheet or roasting pan and put in the oven. Roast the seeds for 30 to 40 minutes or until crisp and golden brown, turning them over every 10 minutes or so. Cool the seeds. Shell (if you prefer) and eat! Remember that seeds can be a choking hazard for very young children, so make sure your child is old enough to eat them.
Make Pumpkin Treats
Unfortunately, you really can’t have a jack-o’-lantern and eat it, too: The remains from carving pumpkins really isn’t enough to make pumpkin treats (the good stuff is what’s giving your glowing pumpkin the structure to maintain his smile). But using canned pumpkin is an easy way to make some treats for the spooky season. Start here:
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