The Best Halloween Pumpkin Carving How-To Steps for Creative Kids

Inside: Here are some awesome pumpkin carving how-to’s just in time for Halloween. Whether your kids create a fire-breathing pumpkin, use stencils or bas-relief—these pumpkin carving ideas are simple to read and easy to follow.

Don’t you just love the fall holidays? They are surrounded with excitement, anticipation and just downright family fun! Like every holiday, Halloween has traditions that although repeated year after year, they never lose their charm.

Pumpkin Carving How-To

Which brings me to some pumpkin carving questions:

  • Does your family have a tradition of pumpkin carving?
  • Is there a favorite pumpkin patch your family loves?
  • Do you have any special pumpkin carving how-to ideas or suggestions?

Families who love Halloween, usually love to carve pumpkins.

pumpkin carving how-to, an orange pumpkin on a table

The orange skin of the pumpkin has been removed which gives the teeth more depth.

Celtics, Irish & How Pumpkin Carving Got Started  

We can thank the Irish for the tradition of carving pumpkins and for Irish immigrants bringing this tradition to the United States. However, Ireland did not grow pumpkins or carve pumpkins—they carved turnips or gourds—a tradition passed down from the ancient Celtic cultures in Ireland.

On All Hallow’s Eve, the Celtics carved turnips, root vegetables or other gourds and placed an ember in them to ward off evil spirits. The name, “Jack-o’-Lantern” came from the name “will-o’-the-wispor jack-o’-lantern.” It was a strange light that flickered over peat bogs and was tied to the legend of Stingy Jack (the town drunk).

When the Irish came to America in the 1800s, they were introduced to pumpkins and decided they were bigger and easier to carve—hence our Jack O’ Lanterns today are carved from pumpkins of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Pumpkin Patches

What are your family traditions of pumpkin patches and pumpkin-picking?

Every year, our family took trips to various pumpkin patches. We marched out to the field with a camera, sturdy shoes and pumpkin cutters in hand looking for five of the most interesting and unusual pumpkins.

pumpkin carving how to, boy holding pumpkin in pumpkin patch

Kids love going to a pumpkin patch and finding their favorite pumpkin for Halloween. Notice the stem on this pumpkin…even an ugly pumpkin with a great stem turns into a fabulous pumpkin!

Next came the pumpkin carvings…

Pumpkin Carving How-To: From the Simple to the Intricate

At first, we carved pumpkins into simple Jack O’ Lanterns. Then we got bored. We wanted to create more interesting pumpkins—something dramatic that would draw trick-or-treaters from miles around to see.

We started using stencils, paint, sculpting and crafting items.

pumpkin carving how-to, little girl scooping out a pumpkin

Even the littlest of people love to help carve or clean-out the pumpkins.

Depending on the ages of your kids, try one of these suggestions:

#1: Painting & Crafting a Pumpkin

There are many different ways of painting a pumpkin—faces, polka-dots, googly eyes, black cats, witches and more. Plus, painting a pumpkin is super easy for kids of all ages.

pumpkin carving how-to, black cat pumpkin

This is a spray-painted pumpkin made from different sizes of pumpkins and a cucumber.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Buy your paints at Michael’s
  • Get a variety of colors—don’t just stick with white or black. Purple and green are the “new black & orange” for Halloween.
  • Faces: encourage your children to paint funny, serious, or scary pumpkin faces
  • OR: Spray paint your entire pumpkin. Then add another layer—using a circle stencil, spray paint polka-dots or other shapes all over the pumpkin
  • Crafting Items: use crafting items such as googly eyes, felt pieces for a Mondrian-pumpkin look, buttons, stickers, or other crafting items
  • Use smaller pumpkins and gourds.

The black cat above has 3 different size pumpkins and cucumber for a tail.

#2: Upside Down Pumpkin

  • Turn your pumpkin on its end—either the top or bottom. If you place it on the end where the stem is—the stem can act as the “nose’ of your creation.
  • Either paint, sculpt, draw or carve the rest of the pumpkin face.
pumpkin carving how-to, pumpkins on a porch

These upside-down pumpkins are easy to make and fun to display. Lay the pumpkin on its side; use the stem as the nose and carve the rest

#3: Pumpkin Stenciling

Years ago, we started using stencils and specific tools for pumpkin carving. My husband is a dentist and would bring home some of his older drills home to carve details in the pumpkin (over-the-top, I know). Carving intricate pumpkins became a family tradition.

This is a stencil that my son Trevor created for his pumpkin. He blew up the image and then pieced it together in sections so that it would fit around the circumference of the pumpkin.

You can purchase Halloween stencils from Amazon. Here’s how to use them:

  • Purchase stencils and pumpkin carving tools from Amazon
  • Depending on the size of your pumpkin, take the stencil to a photocopy place and have it enlarged
  • Adjust the stencil on the outside of the pumpkin which can be tricky since you’re putting it on a curved surface. Use push pins to keep it in place
  • Using the stylus in the kit, punch dots around the entire stencil/picture (about 1/8 inch apart)
  • Carving: Start with the most delicate lines or designs of your pumpkin first—carving them out carefully. If you don’t it will be harder to do the trim work.
  • Carve the larger parts of the design last
  • THEN clean out the guts of your pumpkin. If you do this before doing the steps above, it will be more difficult to get a crisp design.
pumpkin carving how-to, carved pumpkin

This is the final carving from the stencil above. The shading is achieved by leaving the skin of the pumpkin intact.

#4: Bas-Relief Sculpted Pumpkins

Years ago, we were at a Halloween fair with all sorts of vendors and pumpkin carvers. One man was carving the outside of the pumpkin like a bas-relief sculpture. Meaning that the design elements of the pumpkin were just barely more prominent than the background.  All the carving was done on the outside of the pumpkin with only a few parts going through the pumpkin.

This kind of pumpkin-sculpting requires your child or teen to have a sense of spatial awareness or thinking. No template is involved—it’s all free-hand.

pumpkin carving how to, pumpkin on a table

This is a bas-relief or sculpted pumpkin my husband carved.

Here are the steps to create a sculpted pumpkin:

  • Think about what kind of a face you want to create with your pumpkin. You can also find a picture that you want to copy.
  • With a face or design in mind—begin free-sculpting using a sharp knife
  • You can peel or scrape the outside orange layer or “skin” of the pumpkin to get different effects and shadings
  • Trick: use a fine coat of Vaseline on the pumpkin face to keep it moist and easier to sculpt
  • Once you have completed your pumpkin design, cut a hole in the top and clean out the guts of the pumpkin
  • To preserve the pumpkin and keep it fresh for Halloween, put the pumpkin in a bathtub filled with ice and water.

#5: A Fire-Breathing Pumpkin

If you carve a simple pumpkin there are ways of displaying it to make it look spooky and dramatic. Try adding dry ice for a fire-breathing pumpkin!

  • Purchase dry ice from your local grocery store on the day you will be using it—not before (it will disappear).
  • On Halloween night or for a Halloween party: put the dry ice in a dish that will fit inside your CARVED pumpkin.
  • Pour water over the dry ice
  • Turn off the lights and watch your pumpkin “breathe fire”
pumpkin carving how-to, jack o' lantern on a table

Fire-breathing pumpkins are easy to make–you just need a little water and some dry ice

Skills Kids Develop When Carving Pumpkins

So with all this carving, sculpting and creating—what skills are your children and teens developing?

#1: Developing Fine Motor Skills

Pumpkin carving teaches kids fine-motor skills. They are cutting, cleaning, measuring, poking, painting, gluing and designing the pumpkin—all important fine-motor skills and ways to build their brains; their problem-solving skills, plus their creativity and imaginations.

One of the ways our sons learned fine motor skills was by carving pumpkins.  This is Trevor carving a pumpkin using a stencil

#2: Learning Spatial Intelligence Skills

Pumpkin carving also builds spatial skills in children. These skills are developed when children construct or re-construct shapes and patterns in their minds.

It’s what architects, engineers, artists, and mathematicians do—understand and navigate three-dimensional space. Remember Michelangelo when he visualized the human body trapped in stone? Same principle. These are great skills to develop when carving a pumpkin!

Passing the Baton & Tradition of Pumpkin Carving to the Next Generation

One of Trevor’s pumpkins he carved in 2018. Some of his creations are formed simply by seeing an image and then creating a stencil from it.

Pumpkin carving was an important family tradition and one that our sons now continue to do with their children. However, our youngest son, Trevor, has taken pumpkin carving to new heights.

He spends hours and an all-nighter before Halloween carving the most amazing intricate pumpkins I’ve ever seen. He started out using stencils, but now many of his creations are from looking at pictures and sculpting and creating what he sees (spatial intelligence).

Another Trevor pumpkin creation

His wife, Moe has also joined in and she and their three kids help as well. It’s become a family tradition. A baton successfully passed to the next generation!

And yes, people come from miles around every year to see what he’s created.

This is a pumpkin Trevor carved using a stencil. Notice the shading he achieved on this design. He uses the skin of the pumpkin and the underneath flesh of the pumpkin to create a 3-D image.

Here are some suggestions of books, stencils and pumpkin carving tools available on Amazon

What stories do you have of your family carving pumpkins? Please share in the comment section below.

Want to remember this post? Post, “The Best Halloween Pumpkin Carving How-To Steps for Creative Kids,” to your favorite Pinterest Board!

The post The Best Halloween Pumpkin Carving How-To Steps for Creative Kids appeared first on Good Parenting Brighter Children.

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Patricia is the founder and editor of Little Bytes News, a former elementary teacher, radio talk show host, political activist and political blogger. In 2012, Patricia was nominated one of “Circle of Moms” top 25 political bloggers.

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