Decorating pumpkins adds to the Halloween spirit, but there is a safe way to carve your jack-o'-lantern.
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

There's no better way to celebrate Halloween than by carving up jack-o'-lanterns with the family, but carving knives and excited children don't mix well. This season, save the gore for your favorite scary Halloween movies and take precautions with these simple tips. Our kid-friendly tips and easy alternatives to traditional pumpkin carving will help make sure everyone will make it out of spooky season with all 10 fingers intact. Plus, they may even lead to your best Halloween decorations yet.

Grab a kid-friendly pumpkin carving kit ($4, Target), print out some of our free printable pumpkin stencils, and get to work! Here are our best tips for carving pumpkins in the safest way possible.

Related Items

Carve Away From Yourself

I carve a pumpkin the same way I slice my bagels in the morning: By cutting away from my hands. No matter how small the carving tool, always be sure to cut in the direction that is away from your hands, so that if you lose your grip or the knife slips, you won't accidentally lose a finger.

carved pumpkin silly smiling face
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Carve Pumpkins in a Well-Lit Area

While it may be tempting to carve pumpkins outside at night time, we recommend taking the party indoors so everyone can see exactly where their carving knives are cutting. Set up a carving station at the kitchen table and turn all the lights on. For safety measures, keep the noise level 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!

How to outline a pumpkin stencil on a jack-o-lantern
Credit: Brie Passano

Use Printable Stencils

To carve a 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. Once your stencil is positioned on the pumpkin, trace the design using a washable marker or 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.

orange pumpkin with a sugar skull carved in the front of it, sitting on a halloween front porch with other small pumpkins
Credit: Carson Downing

Carve a Soft Pumpkin

For the safest carving experience, place your pumpkin outside for a few days to let the skin soften. A soft pumpkin is easier to carve, meaning you're less likely to cut yourself with the excessive force needed to carve a hard gourd. 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.

Related: How to Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

Purple pumpkin with orange polka-dots
Credit: Michael Piazza

Use Kitchen Tools Instead

Rather than using a sharp knife, use an apple corer or a melon baller ($10, Target) to add creative patterns to your Halloween pumpkin design. You're less likely to accidentally cut yourself with these tools, and the finished pumpkin will impress all your neighbors.

Yellow pumpkin carved to look like cheese with mice
Credit: Greg Scheidemann

Use Cookie Cutters 

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.

painting pumpkins diy
Credit: Dane Tashima

Paint Pumpkins Instead

The easiest way to avoid a pumpkin carving injury is to avoid carving all together. This year, try painting pumpkins instead! 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: If you paint a plastic pumpkin, you can display it inside all season long and store it for next year.


Be the first to comment!