Decorating pumpkins adds to the Halloween spirit, but there is a safe way to carve your jack-o'-lantern. Save the gore for scary movies and take precautions with these simple tips. Our kid-friendly alternatives to traditional pumpkin carving may lead to your best Halloween decorations yet.


1. Halloween-Carving Alternative: Painted Pumpkins

Avoid a Halloween mess and turn your gourd into an artful pumpkin. Just grab a paintbrush and some leftover paint to begin this family-friendly pumpkin-carving alternative. Our painted pumpkins can be customized to fit any home decorating style, and they provide a chic upgrade to store-bought Halloween props.

Editor's Tip: It's simple to display a painted plastic pumpkin inside all season and store it for next year. For inspiration, check out our top-rated ideas for perfectly painted pumpkins.

2. Use Free Printable Pumpkin Stencils

If you insist on carving your Halloween masterpiece the old-fashioned way, use our free downloadable pumpkin stencils to clean up the process. Print any pumpkin stencil, cut it out of paper, and tape it onto your pumpkin. Our Halloween stencil collection includes emoji pumpkin stencils and mythical-theme pumpkins. Once your stencil is positioned on the pumpkin, trace the design using a washable marker, then use a crafts tool to puncture small holes along the design to ease the carving process. When you're ready to cut, use a fillet knife (any small, sharp knife will do the trick) and make small, precise cuts. Choose from our spookiest and most popular Halloween pumpkin stencils to start planning.

3. Cookie Cutter Halloween Pumpkin Carving

Eliminate the need for a pumpkin-carving kit by grabbing your favorite cookie cutter. To create a design, position the sharp edge of the cookie cutter on the pumpkin. Use a hammer to carefully and slowly pound the cookie cutter into the pumpkin. Tap the edges until the cookie cutter is evenly pressed through the pumpkin wall, then remove the cookie cutter. If necessary, press the shape outward from the inside of the pumpkin to remove.

Editor's Tip: Use an apple corer, melon baller, or other kitchen utensils to add creative patterns to your Halloween pumpkin design.

4. Halloween Paper Cup Crafts for Kids

For kids who are not ready to tackle pumpkin carving, have them turn simple paper cups into Halloween treat baskets. Cut face shapes from cardstock and glue them to a plain white paper cup for a skull and crossbones appearance. For a mummy-theme cup, wrap toilet paper strips around the paper cup and glue, then cut circles for eyes. Fill the decorated cups with your favorite Halloween snack mixes and treats, or try a few of our favorites:

5. Carve Pumpkins in a Safe, Well-Lit Area

Wait for the spooky lights and shrieks until after the pumpkins are ready this Halloween. Trace your pumpkin design with a washable marker, then take your time carving your creation on a well-lit table using a fillet knife or pumpkin-carving kit. For safety measures, keep outside noises to a minimum so everyone can focus on their design. After the pumpkins are complete, you can add a candle and dim the lights to a Halloween-worthy level. The final Halloween pumpkins will bring smiles—not screams!

6. When to Buy a Pumpkin

For the safest carving experience, let your pumpkin sit outside for a few days to let the skin soften. After you carve the pumpkin, your jack-o'-lantern will last between five and 10 days. To slow the rotting process, clear pumpkin guts with an ice cream scoop before carving.


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