I received product from Pumpkin Masters for this post. All opinions are my own.
Pumpkin carving… it’s a great tradition that many families share. It can be really fun to set up a bonfire or lay out some trash bags to collect pumpkin guts and get the whole family to carve pumpkins together, but did you know it could be a unique learning experience, too? Children learn with all 5 senses, and pumpkin carving offers a great sensory experience that helps children explore all of these, and with the right tools, kids of almost any age can get in on the fun.
When looking to decorate, start by choosing the right tools and deciding what’s age appropriate for your kids. There are a lot of great kid-friendly options out there, like these kids from Pumpkin Masters, which include a carving kit and, our personal favorite, Fright Lights. Of course, there are some jobs that younger kids can’t do, which is where a power saw comes in. By choosing the right tools for your children, you’re able to provide a unique experience that allows them to get involved rather than just standing by and waiting to scoop guts.
A lot of the experience of pumpkin carving starts when selecting a pumpkin. Whether you go to a patch, buy a pumpkin at the store, or pick the perfect pumpkin from your own garden, take some time to have your kids look and listen to the pumpkin you’re buying compared to the others. Visually, is there a size difference? How does the weight difference translate when feeling the pumpkin? Is the surface smooth? Rough? How does the color of this pumpkin compare to other pumpkins? Does it make a noise when you gently tap on it? These questions talk your child through different senses like sight, touch, and hearing to help them see differences.
Once you decide on the perfect one, by whatever criteria you choose to use (maybe you want the one that is the most orange, or the heaviest pumpkin you can find), get prepared to carve.
When selecting a kit, consider the age and skill level of your child and yourself. Pumpkin Masters has pretty clear guidelines on each of their products, including templates that are appropriate for younger kids to trace all the way up through complex designs for adults. Many products feature either a “Kids” label or a “For adult use only” note (on the power tools). And most pages in their template books include a note on how difficult the carving is, which helps if you’re looking for something age-appropriate for your child, or if, like me, you’re not skilled at carving.
When carving, really allow your child to get in there– encourage them to dig their hands in the gooey insides, help them trace the pattern they choose, and consider roasting the pumpkin seeds as an enjoyable snack later.
When you’re doing things that aren’t quite age-appropriate for kids, like using a power saw, ask your child to observe and listen. What sort of sound does the power saw make? Are they hearing any other fall sounds around them, like the crunch of leaves or a squirrel running past? Take some time to enjoy the process, even when your child can’t be as hands-on in it for safety reasons.
If you have older kids, allow them to experiment with different tools (with supervision, of course). While many sets contain saws and scoops, kits like the Surface Carving set have different options; the surface carving kit doesn’t involve actually cutting into the pumpkin, but rather a shaving technique that can be really fun to try. What effects can you get using different tools on different pumpkins following the template?
Further, what effect can you get by combining several techniques and tools into one really intricate pumpkin? It’s a great way to test out various tools, allowing the pumpkin to act as a blank canvas for arts-minded children.
Take your completed pumpkins to a dark room, and light them up. Does your child see anything different from looking at the pumpkin in the light? What does the carving look like now? Has the dark transformed any details or helped make the image on the front clearer?
There are so many different senses that can be stimulated by something as simple as carving a pumpkin. If you’re taking time to ask the right questions, it really does become a sensory play and learning activity, which means pumpkin art is perfect for preschool and homeschool environments, especially if you have a pumpkin patch field trip already scheduled.
Here is a full list of potential sensory observations you can make:
Sight- What color is this pumpkin? How does this color compare to other pumpkins near it? How big or small does the pumpkin look? Does how it weighs seem proportional to it’s size? What attributes does the stem have in terms of color, shape, and size? How would you describe the shape of the pumpkin (is it tall and skinny? Short and stout?)?
Smell- What does the outside of the pumpkin smell like? Does the inside of the pumpkin smell different? Does the smell remind you of anything you’ve sniffed before? Can you smell any typical fall scents, like burning leaves, as we carve pumpkins? How do your hands smell after scooping the pumpkin guts?
Taste- Pumpkins are food safe, so consider roasting pieces of pumpkin, or the seeds inside, for your children to taste, and then ask them about it. Encourage this tasting, even if it’s just a small bite.
Hearing- What does the pumpkin sound like if you tap it? Does it sound the same or different than other pumpkins of different sizes? What does it sound like if you squeeze the pumpkin guts in your hand? How does the sound change once you open the pumpkin versus when it is closed before carving? What sounds are the tools I’m using making? Do you hear any other sounds, like the crunching of leaves or skittering of squirrel feet, when you’re outside to carve?
Touch- What is the texture of the pumpkin? Is it smooth, bumpy, something in between? What does the stem feel like? How heavy is the pumpkin when lifted? How does it compare to other pumpkins of the same general size? What is the texture of the tool I’m using? Is it easy to grip or is it slippery when I get the guts on my hands? What do the pumpkin guts feel like?
Sensory play is immensely valuable to children, especially younger children, and can take an experience from family fun to priceless opportunity. Plus, because you work this conversation into your carving tradition, it doesn’t seem like work– it’s just great conversation that helps your child learn a few important things.
If you’d like to check out Pumpkin Masters tools to help you with your sensory experience, you can find the full selection on their website here. Their website also has great free patterns to share, so check it out and download your favorites. I love that Pumpkin Masters tools are safer than knives and candles, and that they have a wide variety of kits that are perfect for kids, too, like the Fright Lights kit featured in my Instagram video.
You’ll also want to be sure and enter the Pumpkin Masters carving contest! You could win $5,000… if I don’t win it first!
What sensory questions would you add to the list I shared? Let me know in the comments below!
If you need more inspiration for a Halloween activity or Halloween party, here’s where you can find all of my Halloween ideas.
Finally, if you’re looking for more great pumpkin carving fun, I want to encourage you to check out all of the great blogs below, which have some amazing ideas for your pumpkin celebrations– like how to make pumpkin serving bowls or throw a pumpkin carving party!
Not Too Shabby Gabby
Purple Patch DIY
Sight and Sound Reading
Yours and Mine make Ours
Love and Laundry
Mama Plus One
My Mom Made That
Juggling Act Mama
Mini Van Dreams