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by Lydia Rueger
Admit it: Jack-O-Lantern carving, as much as we all love the end results, is a bit overrated. Some kids get grossed out by the texture of the pumpkin “guts,” while others dig in right away, only to finish with dried pumpkin up to their elbows and in their hair.
At my house, my kids quickly lose interest in the carving process and scamper through the house dancing to “I Want Candy,” while my husband and I are left hunched over some way-too-ambitious designs, hacking away with knives and those tiny, flimsy saws. Then the squirrels feast on our hard work if we forget to bring them inside at night.
The solution? Create “gunkless” pumpkins by decorating without carving. The pumpkins last longer, the kids stay cleaner, it’s faster, easier, just as creative and – oh yeah – your kids will actually get to help.
Add ribbons along pumpkins’ natural contours.
Get It: Colored or patterned cloth or curling ribbon, hot glue gun, scissors
Do It: Place a dot of hot glue at the base of the pumpkin stem and press down ribbon. Wrap ribbon tightly around the pumpkin and adhere with hot glue at the base of the pumpkin; cut off excess. Repeat all around the pumpkin, alternating colors and patterns as desired.
Tip: Try the same technique using thin strips of fabric cut from children’s outgrown clothes to fit a theme they like, such as princesses, super heroes or even just a favorite color.
Make robot faces with household odds-and-ends.
Get It: A variety of household objects including metal hardware, wire, nails, small tools and aluminum foil; hot glue gun
Do It: Assemble objects to resemble faces and attach to pumpkins using hot glue. Attach objects with pointy ends by poking them through the pumpkin skin.
Tip: Stack two or three pumpkins on top of one another to create an entire robot body.
Cover your pumpkins with decorative duct tape.
Get It: Colored or patterned duct tape, fun decorative accessories such as silk flowers, plastic spiders, etc.
Do It: Tear off short strips of duct tape and stick to pumpkin until completely covered.
Tip: Tearing the short strips in half lengthwise before applying to pumpkins will lessen creases and bubbles in the tape.
Raid the fridge for decorations on a less-than-perfect pumpkin.
Get It: Cocktail onions, broccoli florets, cucumber, black olives, large red pepper, small orange and yellow peppers, corn kernels, baby carrots, stick pins, knife
Do It: Cut one ¼-inch thick slice of cucumber and slice in half. Use a knife to cut small triangles along the outer edge for eyelashes. Cut thin slices of red pepper for lips. Cut a small yellow pepper in half and hollow out to create ears. Cut the tips from baby carrots to make moles for the lady’s face. Using stick pins, poke through each vegetable and the pumpkin’s skin to attach to all parts of the face. Attach red pepper “lips” close together so they will hold in the corn kernel teeth without pins.
Tip: Using fresh veggies means this design does not have a long life span, so assemble immediately before you wish to display it.
Use decorative thumbtacks for a super-easy design.
Get It: Decorative or colored thumb tacks
Do It: Insert tacks into a pumpkin one at a time in any pattern desired.
Tip: On a larger pumpkin, spell a child’s name or outline a traditional Jack-O-Lantern face.
Build a rounder version of a traditional skeleton decoration.
Get It: One small, one medium and one large pumpkin, white spray paint, black paint, small paint brush, wooden or metal dowel rod
Do It: Spray paint all three pumpkins white and let dry. Remove stems, stack pumpkins and push dowel through the center of all three (a pointy end helps). Make sure the dowel is longer than your three pumpkins. Add skeleton details with black paint.
Tip: Add a hat to hide the dowel rod poking from the top pumpkin.
Express yourself with freehand drawings.
Get It: Black or colored permanent markers
Do It: Think about the way you doodle in the corners of notebooks during a meeting or around the edges of “To-Do” lists. Draw in a similar style on the surface of your pumpkin with a permanent marker. Get small pumpkins for each member of the family and have everyone doodle their own, then compare the different styles.
Tip: If you make a mistake with a permanent marker, erase it by rubbing hard with a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover.
Mummify a veggie with ribbon.
Get It: White gauze or cloth ribbon, google eyes, hot glue gun, scissors
Do It: Attach an extra long length of white ribbon to the back of a large zucchini. Wrap the ribbon around the zucchini, allowing it to criss-cross and form gaps in the ribbon. After wrapping the entire length of ribbon, adhere the other end with hot glue. Attach google eyes with hot glue.
Tip: Try a similar design on a large pumpkin using white duct tape for the mummy’s wrapping.
Add a family initial with faux jewels.
Get It: Black spray paint, craft jewels, hot glue gun
Do It: Spray pumpkin with black paint. Apply hot glue to the backs of craft jewels and stick to the pumpkin in the shape of a letter. Glue more jewels along the pumpkin’s stem.
Tip: Assemble jewels differently to represent real night-sky constellations, a moon, star shape or other outlines. Save time by purchasing self-adhesive jewels.
Freelance writer Lydia Rueger lives with her husband and two children, ages 7 and 3. Many of these ideas will be found on her front porch this fall.
While there are no knives required for these crafts, many do use hot glue that can burn the skin and be a fire hazard. Hot glue guns should be used by adults or with adult supervision only, and always keep fingers away from hot glue and the heated portion of the glue gun.
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