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Pumpkin carving has become a much-loved family activity around Halloween, and there are many pumpkin designs for kids which mean that even the youngest members of the family can get a little creative – with help from adults.
In many neighbourhoods around the UK now, the pumpkin in the window symbolises that the household welcomes trick or treaters on Halloween.
So pumpkin carving for children symbolises the start of much spooky fun.
It is believed turnips or potatoes were carved by the ancient Celts into jack o’lanterns as protection against wandering evil spirits during the festival celebrated at the end of the harvest season.
Halloween is a descendant of this festival, and the turnips became pumpkins, after Irish immigrants took the jack o’lantern tradition with them to North America and discovered the much larger orange vegetable which was more suited to carving.
First of all, it’s worth knowing how to carve out a pumpkin properly. Top tips for this include:
As well as the traditional ghoulish designs, there are lots of unusual pumpkin carving ideas for kids.
We’ve gathered just a few for you to check out.
The witch's cat is a symbol of Halloween, and it's easy to carve out a fairly simple feline face onto your pumpkin. Black card will make perfect ears to finish the effect.
Or there are some great cat-themed stencils here if you're feeling a little more artistic.
Spooky faces are the norm - and a chance for the little ones to let their imaginations run wild with pumpkin carving ideas. For kids, it's best to have them draw out their designs on a piece of paper, before they decide what they want to do. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration, if they need a little help.
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best, like the peek a boo pumpkin which takes only a pair of googly eyes and your hands traced onto black paper.
For those who don't want to be up to their elbows in pumpkin seeds, and grappling the kids' little hands away from sharp cutting tools, there's a growing movement of no-carve pumpkin decorators who simply paint the vegetable into their favourite character. Check out these great ideas over at Crafty Morning. Emoji pumpkins are also a modern take on the traditional jack o'lantern.
Of course, with all this carving, you'll be left with lots of pumpkin. Don't let it go to waste;
750g/1lb 10oz pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
350g sweet shortcrust pastry
plain flour, for dusting
140g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp fresh nutmeg, grated
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
25g butter, melted
1 tbsp icing sugar
Place the pumpkin in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15 mins or until tender. Drain pumpkin; let cool.
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a 22cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Chill for 15 mins. Line the pastry with baking parchment and baking beans, then bake for 15 mins. Remove the beans and paper, and cook for a further 10 mins until the base is pale golden and biscuity. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
Increase oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Push the cooled pumpkin through a sieve into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, salt, nutmeg and half the cinnamon. Mix in the beaten eggs, melted butter and milk, then add to the pumpkin purée and stir to combine. Pour into the tart shell and cook for 10 mins, then reduce the temperature to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Continue to bake for 35-40 mins until the filling has just set.
Leave to cool, then remove the pie from the tin. Mix the remaining cinnamon with the icing sugar and dust over the pie. Serve chilled.
Great for a sweet treat this autumn. Get the full recipe from BBC Good Food.
1 pumpkin , or squash (roughly 900g)
4 cm piece of ginger
4 cloves of garlic
1 fresh red chilli
1 bunch fresh coriander
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
20 curry leaves
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 x 400 g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 x 400 g tins of light coconut milk
2 x 400 g tins of chickpeas
Chop the pumpkin or squash into 3cm chunks and cut the ginger into matchsticks. Pick the coriander leaves and finely chop the stalks.
Pour a good lug of groundnut oil into a large saucepan and place on a high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, red chilli and shallots, then reduce to a medium heat. Cook until golden, stirring occasionally, then add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, and coriander stalks and fry until the curry leaves go crispy. Add the turmeric, tomatoes and coconut milk. Bring to the boil, then add the pumpkin and chickpeas. Reduce to a low heat, cover with a lid and simmer for 45 minutes. Check occasionally and add a splash of water if it looks a bit dry.
When the time’s up, take the lid off and cook for a further 15 minutes or so until the sauce is lovely and thick.
Scatter with coriander leaves and serve with rice, naan bread and chutneys and dips on the side.
Get the full recipe from Jamie Oliver.
150g blanched almonds
1½kg pumpkin or butternut squash
50ml olive oil
3 clove/s garlic, peeled and crushed
1 L Cooks' Ingredients chicken stock, hot
Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Lay the almonds on a baking tray and roast for 10 minutes until golden.
Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, peel away the skin and then halve and deseed the pumpkin. Cut it into large chunks then coarsely grate with a box grater or food processor fitted with a grater attachment. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pan, add the garlic and fry gently for about a minute until golden. Increase the temperature, add the grated pumpkin and almonds and fry for 10 minutes, stirring continuously. If the pumpkin starts to dry out at any point, add a ladleful of chicken stock.
Add any remaining stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes. Blend the soup in batches in a liquidiser until smooth then return to the pan and reheat gently. Divide between warm bowls and serve garnished with toasted almonds or pumpkin seeds.
Get the full recipe from Waitrose.
Whatever you decide to do, the point is to make Halloween a big dose of safe, spooky fun!
Looking for October half term activities for kids? Keep them entertained and safe at 1 of our 15 October activity camps. If you don't have a camp near you, take a look at these tips for things to do with your child at home this half term.