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Turn a Pumpkin into a Jack-o-Lantern as a Halloween Party Activity

The pumpkin is the most visible and popular symbol of the fall season and Halloween. Everywhere you look pumpkins are popping up in grocery stores, at pumpkin festivals, and decorating porches and doorsteps. They come in many sizes, shapes and varieties. Turn the popular pumpkin into a Jack-o-lantern as a child’s Halloween party activity.

You may want to share with the kids the story of how the Jack-o-lantern came to be. It is an Irish folktale from the mid-nineteenth century about a man named Jack who was constantly playing games with the devil and outwitting him. When Jack died, Heaven wouldn’t take him because he’d spent so much time with the Devil. The Devil wouldn’t take him either because he was fed up with Jack. So Jack was forced to wander the earth for eternity as a spirit, lighting the way with an ever-burning coal he’d stolen from the Devil and stuck inside a carved turnip.

The legend inspired the Irish to carve scary faces in turnips at Halloween time, and place a lit candle inside to ward off the evil spirits. In honor of Jack, they named the turnip creation, Jack-o-lantern. When the Irish came to America, they found the pumpkin made an even better Jack-o-lantern than the turnip!

After sharing this folktale with the kids, have them carve their own Jack-o-lanterns. Select a variety of pumpkins in different shapes and sizes. It’s a good idea to have plain paper and pencils available to the kids can practice drawing what type of scary face they want to make. To ensure the child’s safety when carving, use special pumpkin carving tools now available at most Halloween supply stores.

Once the child copies the face onto their pumpkin, cut the top (or bottom) open so you can remove the seeds. Save the seeds to roast as a party snack. Scoop out the fibers with a large metal spoon or scoop. Now they can work on carving their pumpkins into Jack-o-lanterns. Have some votive candles or mini-flashlights available to they can light their Jack-o-lanterns.

For a variation of the traditional carved Jack-o-lantern, try painting on scary or funny faces with craft paint or cut facial features out of craft foam and glue onto the pumpkin. Another idea is to sculpt a face using other vegetables such as radishes, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, etc. Secure the vegetables in place by using toothpicks or bamboo skewers.

As a mother, grandmother, and child development professional, Nancy Johnson, shares over 20 years experience working with children and planning activities on her website, Creative-Child-Activity-Notebook.com. Check it out for more school age child activity ideas including party, fall, learning, nature, and child holiday activity ideas.

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