Pumpkins are a major symbol of Halloween. There are lots of ways to make jack-o'-lanterns, but the most common is the traditional carving of the pumpkin.
Have a pumpkin-carving party. Make it a family affair and invite other families over. Let kids design the faces; parents can do the carving. Pumpkin carving is indeed a craft, and in the hands of some, even an art.
Use a flashlight or lightstick instead of a candle in jack-o'-lanterns. If you'd like to use a candle, votive candles or tea lights are less likely to tip over. Be very careful where you put your lighted pumpkin, and keep it away from anything flassmable. Don't forget that pumpkins placed outsie might get brushed with visiting children's costumes and catch their clothes on fire.
Here are some tips for carving a perfect pumpkin:
Either decide on a design first and find a pumpkin that fits that shape or look at some oddly shaped pumpkins and see if you can imagine a good design for that shape. Get the kids in on this!
Pumpkins aren't the only things you can carve. Don't overlook the many interesting squashes available this time of year. These make interesting carved lanterns and faces, too.
Not all pumpkins have to have faces. Consider different designs that suggest autumn or just decorative cuts that let the light shine through.
Look for a pumpkin or squash that's as smooth and as blemish-free as possible.
Let kids participate according to their ability. Older kids can help carve. Younger kids can draw designs for older kids to cut out. Very small kids can help by removing seeds and getting them ready to toast.
Draw your design on paper first. Wet the paper and position on the part of the pumpkin you want to carve. Spread out the paper so it conforms to the surface. Thumbtack the edges so it won't move. Prick an outline of your design with a skewer. Remove the paper.
Rub flour into the holes to make them easier to see.
Consider hanging your pumpkins in plant hangers. This will make them more visible and keep them out of harm's way.
Use the right tools. There are special tools around just for carving pumpkins, although wood carving tools work well, too. Just make sure to clean them and store them in a safe place.
Coat the carved edges with petroleum jelly to keep the pumpkin from drying out.
Put your carved pumpkin in a cool, dry place when you're not displaying it. An unheated garage or basement works well. Your refrigerator would be ideal, if you have room.
Limit the time you light your pumpkins and squashes. The more heat they are exposed to, the quicker they will spoil. If they do begin to shrivel up, try soaking them in water overnight to add back lost moisture.
For a great smell, make some scores in the pumpkin lid and rub with cinnamon and nutmeg. As the candle in the pumpkin burns, the luscious odor will fill the air.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crafts with Kids © 1998 by Georgene Lockwood. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.