Since having kids, I have found that pumpkin carving can't be spur of the moment anymore. It needs to be well planned out.
Here are my tips:
- buy a book of designs (or search for templates online). Make sure they look at ALL available before making their decision. Nothing like getting it carved and then finding a different one they like better. If they are young, try and steer them away from any designs that have are too complicated
- make sure the surface of your pumpkin is large enough for the design you/they choose (this is important, if you have a small design, you don't want it on a huge pumpkin, same with a large design on a small pumpkin)
- have all your carving tools at hand (the kits they sell are GREAT for this)
- have a large bowl, newspaper, yard or food waste bag, paper towels and a pencil close
- lay out the newspapers on your surface area
- place pumpkin on top of newspaper
- carve the top (or you could do the bottom and just fit the pumpkin over top your candle/light)
- gut the insides - place the seeds into the bowl if you want to roast them and the rest of the guts into your yard/food waste bag (it can go with your green bin on garbage/recycle day)
- once your pumpkin is gutted, wipe of the outside and make sure it is completely dry
- tape your stencil onto the surface area you want to carve
- trace around the areas to carve (or you can use the small poke tool that comes with the kits)
- use a small pumpkin carving knife to cut out your areas
If your kids are really little, they may do best with having 2 different sessions - one to gut the pumpkin, and one to carve. My oldest started doing his own carving with the kits when he was 6, I was just there to help out if needed, and make sure he was using it safely. Mr. J has never really liked the feel of the insides, so I always do the gutting. Mr. K LOVES to help with it though.
The most important thing is to have fun. It's ok if they don't turn out exactly like the stencil - as long as they are happy.