The Fun and Art of Pumpkin Decorating

by Kas Winters, Mother of Family Ideas™

Carved pumpkins

Pumpkin carving, painting, or decorating is one of those activities that can bring family members of all ages and descriptions together for a good time.  It fun and a bit messy, which many kids enjoy. Parents can teach safety for use of sharp tools, while providing an opportunity for creativity to blossom.  This activity, along with the family conversations that occur when you are playing together can make memories that last a lifetime.

There are various kits with cutters and scoops for carving. In our family, we use tools from our kitchen and help younger children learn how to use them safely in the process of having fun. These include regular kitchen knives, especially a thin-blade tomato cutting knife with a serrated edge, a paring knife, and a few other types and sizes with assorted blades. We include other kitchen gadgets too, like a melon ball scoop (which makes great circles), an apple corer, and potato peeler (for areas where you want to remove the orange skin, but not cut completely through. For older kids, wood carving tools can be used for intricate designs and our family favorite tool is dad’s electric drill! One year, one of our grandchildren had so much fun with this, her jack-o-lantern had a bunch of freckles--just so she could keep using the drill. (Adults need to oversee all these activities carefully and adjust tools and supervision to the ages and abilities of children.)

Look for different sizes and types of pumpkins, squash, and even other vegetables to carve or paint. If you want a version that can be used as a decoration for several years, craft and hobby stores carry “craft pumpkins” which look almost real but are a type of foam that can be carved or painted. You can also add hats, scarves, straw and other materials to the craft pumpkins since you can't safely put a candle inside them.

Little kids have a grand time painting or using markers to make faces or decorations. They can also use stickers, or adhesive craft foam shapes to design their pumpkins.

All sizes and shapes have possibilities. Try a small pumpkin inside a large one. Stack them to make a jack-o-lantern totem pole; put a different face on each side; or line up a string of mini pumpkins to make a “jack-o-pillar.”

If you don’t want a scary face on your lantern, carve  a bunch of heart shapes to let your love light shine instead. Carve fall shapes like leaves, bunches of grapes, or apples and use the pumpkin for a fall table centerpiece. You can carve geometric shapes such as triangles, squares, and circles for a classic version. (These ideas can also be painted on pumpkins or drawn with permanent markers.) Even a complete autumn scene can be painted on a pumpkin, gourd or craft pumpkin.

Be creative. Encourage young people to have fun and use their imaginations. Laugh! Make decorating jack-o-lanterns a family event to be remembered. Take plenty of photographs of the activity and the finished results.

Additional resources:

Fall Fun for Families:  (Two books: one for families, one for teachers/group leaders)

Family Friendly Halloween:

Jack-O-Lantern patterns:  (10 full-size patterns!)

Kas Winters, the Mother of Family Ideas™ provides resources to help families thrive. An author and public speaker, this grandmother creates books, offers hundreds of family activity articles on her website,, and does workshops for parents and children. Kas is passionate about helping children develop a positive self-image, providing hands-on experiences to give them confidence, and building strong supportive relationships. Her basic philosophy is: children learn best when they think they are having fun. Discover more than 5,000 activities for toddlers through teens to keep them busy while helping them become successful and happy adults in her book, "Motherlode." Jump-start children's imaginations with unstructured materials and possibilities. Encourage creative play that builds skills, confidence, and relationships with active fun, the arts, science, literature, life skills, and hands-on experiences. Ideas use everyday materials, usually free, which help make parenting easy. Winters has written, illustrated and/or published almost 100 books for families and writes family articles for magazines. As the "Family Activities Expert" for, Kas posts articles and answers questions related to this topic.

Copyright © Kas Winters. Permission to republish granted to