Our Tips for Safely Carving Pumpkins with Kids

updated Oct 13, 2020
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(Image credit: Sally Anscombe/Getty Images)

What’s more fun than partnering little kids with sharp knives and hard gourds? I can actually think of plenty of activities, but carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns (and roasting their seeds) is one of those fall family traditions that I personally can’t resist.

Like any kitchen project, pumpkin carving with kids requires some prep, some patience, and a few tips for making it easier and more fun. Here’s how to do just that!

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

What to Know for Kid-Friendly Pumpkin Carving

A couple of quick safety notes before we jump in — especially if this is your first time carving with your kids.

  • Choose a smooth, blemish-free pumpkin: It’ll make carving easier and therefore safer.
  • Keep carving knives inside a rimmed sheet tray or baking dish: This keeps them from getting buried under pumpkin guts or newspaper.
  • Consider kiddie carving kits: While I generally think a serrated knife is awesome for pumpkin carving done by adults, I really do love the pumpkin carving kits with small serrated blades when carving with kids.

1. Leave the top on.

Contrary to most carving protocol, you’ll want to leave the stem on and the seeds inside when carving with kids. You can remove both after your jack-o’-lantern design is carved in, anyway. The stem makes for a sturdy handle, and leaving the top on means you don’t risk tiny hands being inside the pumpkin while the outside is being carved.

(Image credit: Coco Morante)

2. Start with a stencil.

This is a pumpkin carving lesson I learned the hard way. To avoid confusion about what part of your 6-year-old’s wonky design should be cut or shouldn’t, spend some time going through free templates or stencils online before you start carving. This way everyone’s expectations are clear and you can avoid some meltdowns.

3. You cut, they paint.

The recommended age to let your kids carve their own pumpkin is 9 to 12, depending on their strength and skill level, so keep your younger kids entertained and involved by having smaller pumpkins to paint while you carve out their designs. Once their design is cut out, you can remove the top, and they can help take out the pumpkin guts and seeds. Roast the seeds as everyone’s tasty reward for all that hard work.