Kas Winters

The Fun of Carving Jack-O-Lanterns

The Fun of Carving Jack-O-Lanterns

by Kas Winters, Mother of Family Ideas™


Kas Winters

Kas Winters

Of all the Halloween traditions, pumpkin carving and decorating seems to be the most universal. It’s great family fun whether you carve one together or each member of the family creates their individual work of art. Use jack-o-lanterns to decorate during the season. The variety of faces for carving or painting is endless. Have a good time exploring the creative possibilities of making silly or scary faces. Take photographs of the fun and of the resulting pumpkin faces.

Step one in pumpkin carving is deciding on the design for your jack-o-lantern. You can choose from purchased patterns, look for ideas on-line, in books, or craft magazines, or use the creative side of your brain to develop ideas of your own. Draw the design on your pumpkin. If you use a permanent marker it will show up well for carving and any traces that remain can be wiped off with a paper towel and lighter fluid. (This is a toxic substance which should not be used by children.) Some markers will also wash off with a little dish-washing liquid.

To begin carving, cut a lid for your pumpkin. Make the shape irregular, so that it is easy to put it back in place. Instead of cutting vertically, hold the knife at a 45° angle, in toward the center of the pumpkin. This way, when the lid shrinks from the heat of the candle, it won’t fall into the pumpkin. Remove the lid. If you want to add a decorative touch, you can trim just a little of the orange outer pumpkin skin from the cut edges of the lid. This will allow extra light to show through around the top of the pumpkin.

Scoop out the seeds and pulp from inside the pumpkin. Use your hands, a pumpkin scoop available in stores, an ice cream scoop or a large spoon. When the walls of the pumpkin are clean begin carving the shapes that will be cut clear through the pumpkin. A paring knife works well for most basic cuts. Use a thin tomato cutting knife for delicate curves and lines. Steak knives and craft knives are good options too. An apple corer or drill make great circles. We use a cordless electric drill and have various sizes of bits available. It not only does a good job, but older children are entertained—and learning a useful skill—by getting to use it with adult supervision. (I’m not kidding, they make perfect circles for eyes, nostrils and freckles!!) Make sure you leave enough pumpkin shell between cut-out areas. When cut areas get too close, your pumpkin can cave in at the weak places.

To cut away the dark orange rind for a sculptured pumpkin, you can use a potato peeler. To make cuts that do not go through the entire wall of the pumpkin, but let light glow through the skin, use craft knives, linoleum block cutting tools or wood carving tools. Use a melon ball scoop to make shallow circles for cheeks, etc.

After the carving is done, rinse the pumpkin with water and wipe off any remaining felt marker.

If your face design does not allow a lot of air to get into the candle, cut another opening in the back of the pumpkin to let more air inside. Otherwise, your candle will not stay lit. (Sometimes we cut a second face on the back too!)

Place the jack-o-lantern on a ceramic plate if it will be sitting on furniture. Votive candles work easiest in jack-o-lanterns. Light them with a long taper candle for safety. If lit jack-o-lanterns are within reach of small children, keep a constant watch.


If you need ideas for Halloween, my book, Family Friendly Halloween Fun, has hundreds of them. http://www.everythingfamily.net/halloween.htm


For a book filled with family, classrooms or youth group activities for autumn and harvest (not Halloween), check out my Fall Fun for Families or Autumn Activities at http://www.everythingfamly.net/fallfun.htm


My jack-o-lantern patterns are available for you, too. http://www.winmarkcom.com/craftkits.htm


Play today! For FREE ideas for October family activities, go to http://www.winmarkcom.com/octoberholidays.htm

Check out my NEW book Get that Book out of your Head and into Print



Kas Winters, “Mother of Family Ideas”

Winmark Communications & Everything Family