Pumpkin Lanterns

  • Children icon Age: 3 to 8+
  • Clock icon Time: Under 1 hour
  • Leaf icon Materials: pumpkins, golf tees, mallet
It's so hard to know how to help young kids take a hands-on approach to carving pumpkins. But, we know that they enjoy and benefit most when they are in the lead. You can certainly hand them a marker to draw, then let you do the cutting. Or, grab some golf tees and a mallet, and let them hammer out their own designs. Plus the lanterns can be gorgeous! Pumpkin Lanterns can be a great addition to your family's celebrations for Halloween or Diwali or just to add light and warmth to your family's fall rituals.

This activity is featured in our October Activity Calendar. If you do not yet have your free copy, get it here.

The Guide

Invite play:

Introduce your pumpkin and take some time to explore it together. With older kids, you can wonder how you might turn this pumpkin into a lantern. For younger kids, just diving into the doing is often the perfect hook! (Don't have a pumpkin?! Make a lantern by making holes in the side of a cardboard box instead!)

Hollow out your pumpkin:

Cut the top off of your pumpkin and use your hands, spoon or a scoop to remove the innards. Enjoy exploring the seeds as you do—it's own enriching activity.

Model how to make holes:

Make a hole by tapping a golf tee into the side of the pumpkin with a mallet. Demonstrate how not to hit your fingers, while you are at it. And, enjoy how satisfying that feels, too! Wonder what kinds of designs kids could make in the side of the pumpkin and encourage a little planning.

Let kids try it out:

Hand over golf tees and mallet to kids, and welcome them to make a hole too. Young kiddos may need you to hold the golf tee for them, but they will likely love placing it and tapping it in. Welcome kids to simply enjoy making holes. They can channel their inner woodpecker to add a little pretend play, too.

Light your lantern:

When they are finished making holes, put a flashlight or tea light inside the pumpkin and marvel at your beautiful lantern!

Want more ideas like this to help kids explore light and darkness? Try some of these activities:
  • Play Like Fireflies: Offer a flashlight and invite kids to explore the world like fireflies.
  • What Shadows Can Do: Try some of these ways to help kids experiment with sunlight and harness the magic of shadows.
  • Make a Fall Lantern: Turn an ordinary jar into a colorful lantern to light up the darkness.

Why is this activity great for kids?

It is super satisfying for kids to make an impact or "transform" objects through their own actions, especially when what they are doing can create something beautiful to behold. Manipulating golf tees and mallets in this way also provides marvelous support for fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. The sensory stimulation kids get from the color, smell, texture, muscle use and head movements involved in this activity is marvelous for their sensory systems. Finally, creating a lantern is a great way to help kids explore light and learn to embrace the changes that come with fall darkness. 

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