Safe Pumpkin Carving for Toddlers

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Photo by bandk4ever

Bet I know what most of you will be doing this weekend! The Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before Halloween is peak pumpkin-carving time. Hospital ERs are already bracing, as they do each year, for swarms of hand injuries from knife-wielding adults and kids.

Make sure you and your toddler aren't one of them. If your wee ones are like mine, they'll try to persuade you to give them a go at the carving knife or tool. You'll say, no, of course. No child under 5 or even older should ever handle sharp instruments. So how can they join in the fun while still staying safe?

"Let them scoop out the "guts" ... draw on the face that you are going to cut out ... set the [unlit] light inside," says Kimebs.

"We've been thinking of using a Sharpee marker and just drawing our pumpkins this year," says babyjakesmama. And MommyJaime loves those Mr. Potato Head type kits, where kids just stick funny eyes, noses, and ears into the pumpkin. 

I also asked Lisa Berberette, "The Pumpkin Lady," who'll be appearing on the Food Network and Martha Stewart this weekend, to share her tips for safe pumpkin carving. She's been showing children how to create masterpiece jack-o'-lanterns for more than a decade, a tradition that started with her then 3-year-old son, Tyler. Her tips:

Use a pattern With your hand guiding theirs, help your child poke tiny dots into the gourd to create any one of hundreds of patterns available. Berberette has loads of choices on her website, many of them free, including some simple, toddler-friendly ones, like this Friendly Witch or Bear.

Get crafty Who says you have to carve a jack-o'-lantern? Give your tykes markers or non-toxic paints and let them go to town. Hand prints make great designs. Glue on glitter, foam cutouts, pompoms, or stars.

Spell their name Berberette has down-loadable letters for carving or tracing. What better way to help your future scholar to practice writing out their name?

Avoid faces--even happy ones Many pumpkins are twice the size of a 2-year-old's head. Add the big eyes, a gap-toothed smile, and the eerily glowing lights, and you can't fault your little person for running scared.

Choose a light orange pumpkin Their pulp tends to be softer and easier to poke and carve. Tap the pumpkin. If it's rock hard, you're going to have a heck of time getting the tool through it. And white pumpkins, while beautiful, are like boulders, Berberette says.

Buy a baby "Baby boo" pumpkins fit in the palm of your child's hand, and are perfect for painting (plus they're way too small to carve, so you can avoid that discussion entirely). And best of all, your child will be able to lug their own out of the pumpkin patch.

Just let it go "The most important piece of advice I give parents is, stop looking for perfection," Berberette says. "It doesn't matter if the pattern is unreadable or the pumpkin collapses into mush. Those little ones are so proud of their work. It will be the perfect pumpkin if you just let them enjoy it."

And don't forget to check out these no-carve pumpkin ideas from our Home&GardenBuzz guru, Cafe Sheri.

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activities, learning, play, safety