For many of us, the most frightening specter of Halloween occurs when we have to bring out the knives and deal with the slimy insides of a pumpkin.
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"No-carve pumpkin decorating is such a great option for families who want to get amazing results without the mess and the danger of young children using sharp tools," says Mary Giles, deputy editor at FamilyFun Magazine (familyfunmag.com). It's also easier, she adds, "especially when you're dealing with little kids who might have short attention spans."
"Carving can definitely be a problem with little kids," agrees Jodi Levine, editor-at-large for Martha Stewart Living Magazine(marthastewart.com). Levine adds that a fringe benefit of the no-carve option is a greatly expanded life span for your child's creative masterpiece.
"It can depend on how fresh the pumpkin is, but once they're carved, most will not last more than a week," she says.
What's more, if you use a product like Funkins (artificial pumpkin forms sold at craft stores, go to funkins.com), "your pumpkin will last for years," Giles says.
Here are tips and ideas from Giles and Levine:
Painting the pumpkin: Giles says that even preschoolers can create a patchwork pumpkin by coloring in squares and assorted shapes using tempera paints.
If they're painting pumpkins that will be displayed outdoors, Levine recommends acrylic paint. "You can either just give the children the paints and brush, and let them go at it, or print out designs ahead of time," Levine says.
As long as you're at it, give everybody a paintbrush, Levine suggests.
"It's also fun to let each member of the family paint themselves on their own pumpkin, and then stack up the pumpkin family like a totem pole." This requires breaking the stem on the supporting pumpkins, and skewering the gourds together — definitely a task for the grown-ups.
Say it with felt: A simple no-carve idea from FamilyFun is "Masked Menageries," featuring templates (type "masked pumpkins" in the search field) that can be printed from the magazine's website. Kids cut out the masks in felt, then attach them to the pumpkins with Velcro. Assorted embellishments like googly eyes, pompoms and yarn can be added as desired.
It's a wrap: Giles recommends a no-carve pumpkin project dubbed "I Want My Mummy" (top photo): It's as simple as wrapping a pumpkin loosely with white crepe paper, and allowing a pair of eyes to peek through.
No pumpkin? No problem: Levine suggests — dare we say! — a pumpkin-less project that is as easy as placing pieces of glow sticks inside clear or white balloons, creating spooky faces on the illuminated spheres with a Sharpie, and lastly, taping the balloons to door frames or front porch posts.
Multitasking decoration: Levine, a big fan of artificial foam pumpkins like Funkins, says they're easy to decorate with glitter and paint. But she suggests an added touch: Put the finished product to work by punching it full of tiny holes to serve as a lollipop dispenser.