The Messy Reality of Pumpkin Carving With Kids

Fall, from the outside looking in, seems like such a fun time for parents with young children. You’ve got everything from the apple orchards, crafts, pumpkin patches, Halloween costumes, homemade treats, to finally trick-or-treating.

But we forgot one little, agonizing task: the dreaded exciting pumpkin carving with your littles.

So let’s pretend for just a minute that the pumpkin-carving patience one requires doesn’t need to be fueled by binge-drinking coffee (or a glass of wine once your husband puts the kids to bed after the ooey-gooey mess is finally cleaned up).

All right, our minute’s up.

Let me tell you how to survive the process of pumpkin carving this season!

Pumpkin Patch

The perfect fall Saturday arrives; finally, a chance to get the fam-bam loaded up and on the road to the pumpkin patch. Of course, you have your cute fall-themed outfits on, to capture a few pictures that you’ll later caption on Facebook “My perfect family, so blessed!” (We will pretend there weren’t open-ended bribes to get those adorable smiles on their little faces.) 

Knowing that picking out a pumpkin also means picking out a future carvable pumpkin, you set out. Remind your littles you need a round pumpkin with a flat bottom to sit on a surface and a sturdy stem. Except, every pumpkin your child picks out is lopsided, rotted, or simply a gourd that cannot, in fact, be carved like a pumpkin can. So the only reasonable thing to do at this point to avoid the meltdown was to simply lie and say “Those pumpkins aren’t for sale,” and move along until you all can agree on a half-decent pumpkin.

Choosing a Theme

You ask how she wants to decorate her pumpkin. Oh, it’s not a simple smiley jack-o-lantern? With requests of Star Wars, Minnie Mouse, and Paw Patrol you might resent your lack of artistic ability. So, pull out the classic Pumpkin Carving Kit that includes some basic “pumpkin stencils”. There you go kids; choose wisely. Mom’s stick figures don’t even resemble stick figures.

Now that the kids chose a more simple design (a cat outline and ghost) you can move along.

Preparing the pumpkin.

Always, always, always remember to keep or bring the pumpkin inside at least a day before trying to carve it. It’s Iowa, fall weather can occasionally be well, freezing. And pumpkins can freeze. So if you think your steak knife can slice through a frozen pumpkin, think again. 

And in case you’re feeling like you want to take this preparation to the next level, go ahead. Give the pumpkins a nice, warm bubble bath in the tub. Really scrub that dirt off; it’s not like it’s already been tracked in the house and on the new rug. 

Pumpkin Carving Time

First things first; we are back to that steak knife. And we all know little ones and knives don’t exactly scream safety. But, of course, your littles want to be right over your shoulder as you cut a ring around the stem to create your pumpkin lid. Better hope your little doesn’t sneeze– you wouldn’t want to flinch and mess this whole step up. 

At this point, if your child is not already stripped down to their diaper or underwear, I would highly recommend you do so. Your kids get to take pleasure in scooping out all the pumpkin seeds and guts, which is about as clean as it sounds. I hope for your sake you put down an old blanket, or at least last week’s newspaper to attempt to contain said mess. 

The Messy Reality of Pumpkin Carving With Children

Design time

You’ve attached your paper stencil to your pumpkin, which of course doesn’t lay flat on a round pumpkin as the picture on the package said it would. Go figure. So now you meticulously begin carving out the design, with your messy kids fighting for a chance to see. You’ve probably got pumpkin guts in your hair by now. You’re just hoping the final product resembles that cat and ghost enough that your kids are happy.

Since you trusted that paper stencil, you’ve probably made some miscuts that were too hard to see through the now-damp paper stencil that tears more with each cut you make. Fingers crossed you don’t do anything too drastic.

Unveiling the pumpkin

The big unveil, the final hoorah. Or so you hope.

“That’s not a cat!” Your three-year-old exclaims before bursting into tears. And she’s not wrong. It’s mostly a blob carved into this round, orange excuse for a pumpkin.

Well, there’s always next year, I suppose.


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Carly Hoeppner
Carly is a single mom of a spunky, independent, and sassy 3 year old. Her days usually start with a cup, or two or three, of coffee, and end with a glass of red wine. During the day she works with individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities; a truly rewarding job that she has the utmost passion for. At night you'll find her building magna tile towers, splashing with dinosaurs in the bathtub, reading countless bedtime stories, and performing her superhero powers of warding off the boogey man! After "just one more bedtime story mommy" you can find her lost in a new book, jotting down her thoughts of the day, or binge watching her latest Netflix obsession!

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