Easy Pumpkin Carving and Decorating with Toddlers

Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year. What’s not to love? Sweatshirts, boots, warm comfort food, and the beginning of the holiday season. As the leaves begin to turn and I start to feel the crisp cold air, I know it’s time for fall and, soon, Halloween. Some of my fondest memories as a child are getting dressed up, trick-or-treating, and decorating pumpkins. My husband and I have continued Halloween traditions in our home. Pumpkin carving is one of our favorite Halloween activities and it is even better with our three-year-old daughter. Without further ado, here is our advice on pumpkin carving and decorating with toddlers!

Picking the Best Pumpkin

Since pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes, there are two methods of picking the best pumpkin for carving or decorating. One way is picking your design first. You could find an online template or get a carving stencil book, then pick your pumpkin to match the design. For example, if your design is tall you will need to pick a taller pumpkin. Another way is picking your pumpkin first and then matching your design to the features of your pumpkin. No matter what path you take, one thing is for sure—you have to find a fresh pumpkin with a good “face” or front to carve or decorate. Don’t forget to pay attention to the stem, it is important to have one that can easily be used as a handle to open and close the top of the pumpkin for lighting options. No matter what type you choose pumpkin carving and decorating with toddlers is the real task here!

Every year, my husband and I wait too long to pick up pumpkins. We are always afraid they are going to rot before we can carve them. We just don’t want to buy them too early. Trust me, don’t wait like we do. We are always stuck with the last pick, near-rotten pumpkins. Although we typically make the best of what we get, there are plenty of hacks on Pinterest about preserving your pumpkin before and/or after carving using bleach and petroleum jelly.

Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin carving with a toddler is a little tricky and pretty messy, so be prepared. We typically do our carving in our tiled entryway or in the garage if it isn’t too cold. Obviously knives or sharp objects are out of the question for little hands who are very eager to help. My husband and I do the cutting and carving, while we give our toddler very “important” jobs to do like wiping down the pumpkins and picking out the designs. Keeping your toddler busy while you carve is key. The best task, and our daughter’s favorite thing to do, is scooping out all the guts of the pumpkin. This takes a pretty long time to do, especially when carving three pumpkins. It’s no mystery that kids love to get messy, so this will definitely keep your toddler busy. We sometimes let our daughter “help” carve by using less sharp objects or letting her push in the access pieces of the stencil.

My best advice is to take lots of pictures and cherish every moment. Sure, the pumpkin might not be perfect with the help of your toddler. But it will all be worth it when you see their faces light up when you check out your masterpieces in candlelight (or battery operated tealight candles as a safer option).

Pumpkin Decorating

There are multiple options to decorate a pumpkin without cutting into it. We have never been ones to just decorate our pumpkins, we prefer carving, but this may be the preferred option for those with young kids. Painting or using stickers seem to be the most common non-carving pumpkin decorating activity. Crayola has several pumpkin paint kits to purchase. Another creative pumpkin decorating idea is using Mr./Mrs. Potato Head pieces for an interesting take on pumpkin decorating.

Pumpkin Crafts

As another alternative to pumpkin carving or decorating is doing a pumpkin craft. You could make your craft as intricate or as simple as you want. Using tissue paper, stamps, construction paper, or even painting a paper plate orange are all pumpkin craft options. This year, I found a fold and sticker pumpkin craft kit at Target that my daughter and I really enjoyed. The stickers, eyes, and glitter pen were my daughter’s favorite.

I hope these ideas inspire you to get creative and make some memories. If you’re looking for the best places to pick up pumpkins head here to our Pumpkin Patches In and Around Lansing Guide


Brandie Yates
Brandie grew up in the small town of Ithaca, MI. She moved to the Lansing area to attend Michigan State University. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism with a focus in Broadcast, Public Relations Specialization and Dance Specialization. She currently works as the Marketing Manager for the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA). Brandie lives in Mason with her husband, two daughters, and two golden retrievers. Her hobbies include spending time with her family & friends, traveling, cooking, dancing, and going to the theater.


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