Learning how to carve a pumpkin well was always something I wanted to learn.  

I love a well carved pumpkin!   Here at Kids Activities Blog, we have explored several no carve pumpkin ideas & techniques this season, but I thought it would be fun to revisit our pumpkin carving class.

A few years ago, my three boys and I went to a pumpkin carving class at a local grocery store and it changed the way we carve pumpkins forever!

How to carve a pumpkin - Kids activities blog - kid carving a jack o lantern with a knife
Let’s carve jack-o-lanterns easier and safely this year!

How to Carve a Pumpkin with Kids

We learned that pumpkin carving is much easier than we were making it! In fact, we were literally over-thinking pumpkin carving. There are simple ways to make sure you can actually create what is in your head and do it safely!

Let me share what we learned while learning to carve jack-o-lanterns!

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pumpkin carving tips
This pumpkin was created with bat cookie cutters.

Pumpkin Carving Tips from Pumpkin Carving Class

How to Select a Pumpkin

When you select a pumpkin, choose one that has a smooth skin with less bumps because it will be easier to carve. The size of the pumpkin doesn’t matter too much unless you are choosing something too large to handle easily or too small to actually complete the pattern you desire for your jack-o-lantern.

Making the Initial Pumpkin Cut

Use a saw or knife with saw teeth to make initial cuts. Having good tools is really important and using the right tool for the right step in the pumpkin carving process. We found a really fun pumpkin carving kit that has it all.

Cutting the top off pumpkin with notch and removing guts - Kids Activities Blog
Cut the top at an angle, add a notch for easy top placement and scoop out the pumpkin guts!

Cutting a Removable Top on Your Pumpkin

Cut the top at an angle so it won’t fall into the pumpkin.

Cut a notch in the top so it is easier to find the proper placement of the lid.

Cleaning Out the Pumpkin Guts

  • If you aren’t a fan of pumpkin guts, break out the gloves!
  • Scoop out the guts with a spoon or scraper.
  • Once you locate the side of the pumpkin you will be carving, smooth the inside shaving it down so the depth of the pumpkin side is 1/2 inch.   You can use a marked toothpick to measure depth {be sure to place toothpick in an area you plan on cutting out}.

Using Pumpkin Stencils

Pumpkin stencil steps from creating a top on the pumpkin, positioning the stencil that has been cut in a circle, adding flour to the pumpkin to expose the dots to the finished pumpkin
Easy steps to using a pumpkin stencil for pumpkin carving.

Using a Pumpkin Stencil the Traditional Way

If you will be carving your pumpkin right away, then this is the preferred method for using a pumpkin stencil. But if you have some time to wait until the next day, read the next list about the prepared ahead method.

  1. Download & print your pumpkin stencil (see below for a bunch of free pumpkin stencils from Kids Activities Blog) – Be sure to use a copier/printer to size the pattern appropriately for your pumpkin size.
  2. Cut your pattern out in a circle with slits along the sides so you can mold it close to the pumpkin.
  3. Use tape to fasten the pattern.
  4. Smooth the pattern top to bottom and then left to right.
  5. Use a poker to mark the pattern with dots.   The closer together the dots, the more finer the cut.
  6. Rub flour on the pumpkin to expose the dots.
  7. Cut along the dots from the INSIDE of the pattern to the OUTSIDE.   That will keep the structure with the most support.
Stencil created jack o lanterns - Kids Activities Blog
Stencils can create the coolest jack o lanterns!

Preferred Pumpkin Stencil Carving Method

One of the best pumpkin carving pattern tips I learned today is to use Elmer’s glue to affix the pattern on the pumpkin the night before. This allows you to skip the step of transferring the template to the pumpkin and jump into carving your jack-o-lantern. Here is how you can accomplish this…

Step 1

The night before you plan on carving, spread a thin layer of Elmer’s glue on the back of the pattern and then mold it to the pumpkin side.

Step 2

Allow it to dry overnight.

Step 3

The next day you will be able to use a saw or knife directly on the pattern skipping the steps of using the poker to make dots on the pattern.  

Step 4

Once you are done with the pattern, you can remove the remaining glue/paper with warm water.


three kids holding carved pumpkins created from stencils at a pumpkin carving class
Look at what we carved!

Pumpkin Safety Tips for Carving with Kids

Obviously if you are carving pumpkins with kids, you will need to be supervising them CLOSELY.   Even the pumpkin carving kits that have safer tools are rated for kids 12+.  

Have kids complete the the non-cutting steps including the pattern poking (or helping you glue the pumpkin cutting pattern the night before).  

If your pumpkins are tough-skinned, even older kids may need some help..

Lighted jack o lantern sitting on kitchen counter - Kids Activities Blog
Now it is time to add some light to our carved pumpkin!

Jack-o-Lantern Lights

Lighting a pumpkin can also be a hazard. In the “olden days” we used to use a candle. Thankfully, technology has come to the rescue on the subject of pumpkin lighting!

Using a LED light instead of a candle can not only eliminate a fire hazard, but can help keep your pumpkin fresh longer.   We used battery powered LED lights for our pumpkins.

Jack-o-Lantern Lights We Like

pumpkin led light - child adding LED light inside carved jack o lantern
Just putting the LED light into our finished carved pumpkin.

How long does a pumpkin last?

If you have tried our rotting pumpkin experiment, you know EXACTLY the answer to this question!   Generally a carved pumpkin will last 3-4 days. Pumpkins that haven’t been carved yet can last a month if placed in the proper conditions.

Increase the Life of Your Carved Jack-o-Lantern

  • You can increase the life expectancy of your carved pumpkin by spraying the cut edges with PAM or rubbing them with Vaseline.
  • Spraying the pumpkin occasionally with a spray of bleach and water can decrease the bacteria which causes the rotting process.
  • You can also wrap a carved pumpkin in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge.

And if all these seems like too much, don’t worry! We have a whole bunch of the best no carve pumpkin ideas and you won’t have to make a cut or scoop out any guts.

Did you learn anything from these how to carve a pumpkin tips? Do you have pumpkin carving tips to share? Add them to the comments!

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  2. Just a little tip, don’t know if you will like it or not 😉 we cut our hole for cleaning/lighting the pumpkin in the bottom. That way if you choose to use a candle you don’t have to awkwardly light it in the pumpkin or drop it in after being lit, we can just light it and plop the pumpkin on top of it. Obviously this works well for the LED lights too and no worries of having your top cut messing with your design 🙂

  3. Way cool. We just grabbed a pumpkin today at the store and my boys are thrilled to carve it.

    I am sharing a link to this post over on Facebook today so other mom’s can grab some tips too.

    Thanks for linking up! 🙂

  4. These are great tips. Now I know why my pumpkin looks so horrible every year 😉 Maybe this year I’ll get it right!

  5. Rubbing flour over the poked dots is an excellent idea! The kids and I are forever having a hard time following our poked pattern!!