It's nearly Halloween! Here's how to carve a pumpkin

Follow the Supernanny team’s step by step instructions for the perfect carved Halloween pumpkin

Step by step to the perfect Jack O’Lantern

Halloween just wouldn’t be the same without the traditional carved pumpkin casting his creepy light outside for all to see. And whether you’re doing it from scratch or using stencils, it’s a great Halloween activity for you and your child…

Tools of the trade....

• Thin-bladed knife or commercial pumpkin carving tools (these are the safest option if your child is helping you).

• Large spoon or ice cream scoop.

• Paper or a cloth to protect surfaces

1 Find the perfect pumpkin

If you’re planning to position your pumpkin outside to light the way for trick-or-treaters, choose a large, just-ripe one with a smooth, even surface for easier carving, and a flat base so it will sit firmly where it’s placed.

If you’re planning to light your lantern with a candle it needs to be fairly tall. Smaller pumpkins work well as small lanterns placed either side of your driveway or positioned in clusters around your porch. Avoid bruised, scratched or dented pumpkins with broken stems since these are probably already starting to deteriorate. Don’t plan to carve your pumpkin too soon as it will start to rot – a day or two before Halloween is best.

2 Carving freehand

Place your pumpkin on the paper or cloth and cut a hole in the top of it, carving a few inches out from the stem. The hole needs to be large enough so you can reach in to scoop out the flesh and seeds.

The cut-out piece will form the lid, so angle the knife so the edges of the lid are sloped – this will help prevent it from falling inside when you place it back on. If your pumpkin doesn’t feel very stable, you can opt to carve your hole in the back for easier access to your candle, or in the bottom so you can simply place the lantern over the light source.

Use a crayon or water-based marker (so you can erase any mistakes!) to draw a face onto the smoothest, most even side of the pumpkin. If one of the sides seems thinner, carve here – it’ll be easier, and your light source will show through better.

If your pumpkin has any ‘features’ such as gouges or a particularly curly stem, see if you can work those into your design. Cut along the lines, working from the center out, and push the pieces through into the pumpkin to create a face. If you cut off any chunks you didn’t intend to remove, use a toothpick to anchor them back in place.

Pumpkin decorating with paint or markers is fun for kids too, and a great way to use up smaller pumpkins.

3 Using a stencil

Carving kits often include stencils; alternately you can download a stencil from the web or design your own. Either copy the design freehand onto the pumpkin or tape the template to it and use the knife (or the plastic awl that came with your carving kit) to score through the template, thereby transferring the design to the pumpkin.

4 Lighting your carved pumpkin

Scrape the flesh out as evenly as you can from the base of your pumpkin, to create a level surface for your candle. It’s safest to use a votive candle placed inside a candle holder or a shallow glass jar (a clean pasta sauce jar is ideal).

If the candle won’t stay lit, increase the amount of air going into the pumpkin by carving an extra hole in the back for ventilation. If you’re using your pumpkin indoors, a small torch placed inside it is the safest way to illuminate it.

And above all, have lots of happy Halloween fun!

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