How to Carve a Pumpkin

Carving a pumpkin is one of the most iconic activities we associate with Halloween and the autumn season. In many families, learning how to carve a pumpkin is a rite of passage. Even the most simple jack-o-lantern can transform an ordinary doorstep into a warm and inviting threshold for trick-or-treaters on Halloween night, and carving it can be a wonderful activity for the whole family. Find inspiration in carved pumpkin pictures and easy directions.

Brush up on how to carve a pumpkin for kids with these tips and tricks:


  • A fresh clean pumpkin (medium sized ones are the easiest to work with)
  • A sharp paring knife
  • Large sharp knife
  • Large spoon
  • Pencil or felt tip marker
  • Newspaper
  • An LED light bulb (one per pumpkin)
  • Design stencil (optional)
  • Pumpkin carving tools (optional)


  1. Before you start all the messy fun with your pumpkin, use some newspaper to cover the surface where you will be working. This step is important if you want to avoid a huge clean up at the end of your activity. If the weather is nice, carve your pumpkins outdoors on the porch or picnic table, but you’ll still want to put something down so it’s easy to collect all the scraps.
  2. Using either a pencil or felt tip marker, trace a circle 2-3 inches from the stem of your pumpkin. This will become the lid of your pumpkin and it's the opening you will use to remove your seeds. Make sure the hole will be large enough to fit your hand.
  3. Use a large sharp knife or pumpkin carving tool to cut the top of the pumpkin following the outline you traced. It will take a bit of muscle to cut through the tough skin. Tip: If you are carving pumpkins with children, do all the steps involving knives yourself to avoid injuries.
  4. Remove the stem, clean off any seeds or pulp with a spoon or knife, and set aside the lid for later.
  5. Use a large spoon to remove all the pulp and seeds from the inside of the pumpkin. This can get messy and it might be easier to just stick your hand right into the pumpkin to start pulling out the seeds and the pulp that can get stuck to the inside of the pumpkin. Tip: Save the seeds to bake later for a delicious treat. Learn how to bake pumpkin seeds.
  6. Decide which of the classic carved pumpkin faces you would like to create. Use a pencil or marker to outline the design you want on the front of your pumpkin. A design stencil is also great to use if you have one.
  7. Use a sharp paring knife or pumpkin carving tool to carefully cut out your design by following the pattern you traced. Again, this will take some effort so help the kids with this part. Discard the pieces you cut out.
  8. Place an LED light inside your carved pumpkin and cover with the lid you cut earlier.

Now you have a spooky jack-o-lantern to display for Halloween! Keep your carved pumpkins in a cool place to extend their lifespan.

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