By Jennifer Halter
One of my favorite things about fall is the return of pumpkin EVERYTHING! From the taste of pumpkin spice lattes to the smell of pumpkin pie to decorating my home inside and out with pumpkins of all shapes, sizes and colors, my love of this fruit truly runs deep. Here are a few of my tips for some pumpkin fun with your family this season.
No-carve Pumpkin Decorating
Want to avoid using knives and dealing with the messy goop involved with carving pumpkins? You can still
create a masterpiece using items such as glow-in-the-dark paint, googly eyes, feathers, glitter or other items
that can be attached to the outside of the pumpkin. Grab some stencils and paint or markers for more fun
design options. This is a great (and safer) option for toddlers to get involved in decorating with the family.
Pumpkin Play Dough
My 7-year-old still loves to explore with play dough, so I’m always looking for ways to keep it exciting for
her. One way is to add different ingredients to change the scent. For fall, we make this easy pumpkin pie play dough and it’s always a hit. You will need:
• 1 cup of salt
• 1 cup of water
• 1 cup of flour (keep a bit extra on hand in case the mixture is a bit sticky)
• 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar
• 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice
• Orange food coloring (or mix red and yellow)
Mix salt, water, spices and ½ cup of flour in a saucepan over low/medium heat until it becomes a glue-like
consistency. Remove from heat and add food coloring. Mix until you achieve your desired color. Add in
additional flour (about ¼ cup at a time) until it becomes dough. Once cooled, knead on a floured countertop
until dough is no longer sticky. Store in an airtight container.
This is an activity where things can get a little messy, but your child will get to have some hands-on fun while learning all about pumpkins! Get a pumpkin of any size (must be large enough to carve out the inside). Talk about the color, shape and parts of the pumpkin, such as the stem. Cut open the pumpkin and remove the flesh and seeds. Allow your child to feel the texture, squish it in their hands and feel the slipperiness of the seeds. Discuss uses for the flesh (baking, purees, etc.) and seeds and how the seeds can be used to grow new pumpkins. This is the perfect sensory activity for kids of all ages (and grown-ups, too!).
Of course, you can also go with the traditional pumpkin carving, which is always fun. There are lots of kits on the market that allow you to make complex designs that many of us can’t do freehand. For the younger kids, tracing the stencil is an option. You can also have them paint or decorate the pumpkin after the cutting has been completed by an adult.
One last note on safety — do not put candles in pumpkins, as they are a fire and injury hazard. Opt for
battery-operated candles or lights.
No matter which activity you choose to do, enjoy your pumpkiny experience as a family. Have fun!
Jennifer Halter is publisher of Macaroni Kid Woodbridge and Macaroni Kid Gainesville/Manassas.