When my teenage son, Matt, was younger, my husband and I seemed to have the same conversation every year: “How much of the pumpkin carving can Matt safely do?” A kid’s manual dexterity gets better with each passing Halloween — but that doesn’t always seem to come with an increase in common sense, as any ER doc will attest.
What are the best ways to include younger kids in the pumpkin-carving festivities? The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Society for Surgery of the Hand offer these helpful safety tips for around the pumpkin-carving table.
• Carve your pumpkin in a clean, dry, well-lit area. Wash and thoroughly dry all tools you’ll use for your pumpkin: carving tools, knife, cutting surface, and your hands. Any moisture on these can cause slipping and lead to injuries.
• Very young children should never carve pumpkins — but they can still help. Leave the sharp stuff to older folks. Little ones can draw on pumpkins with markers. Kids can also help clean out the “goop” and seeds from inside the pumpkin. Messy fun!
• Always have adult supervision during carving – even with teens. Doctors often report seeing adolescent patients with injuries from pumpkin carving. Adults believe kids are responsible enough to be left on their own, but accidents happen.
• Teach knife safety to older kids. Always point knives away from your body. Keep your free hand away from the direction of the knife. Use slicing motions and never force the knife.
• Consider buying pumpkin tools instead of using a knife. Special pumpkin-carving kits are available in stores and include small, serrated pumpkin saws that work better because they get stuck less in the thick pumpkin pulp.
• Light your pumpkin safely. Small, votive candles or battery-operated candles are best. Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy surface, away from curtains and anything flammable, and should not be left unattended.
• Know when to seek emergency help for a cut. Bleeding from minor cuts will often stop on its own when you apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth. If continuous pressure does not slow or stop bleeding after 15 minutes, an emergency room visit may be required.
— Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist and mom to a (now) 16-year-old son. She loves to carve pumpkins, as long as her guys scoop the goop. • kathysena.com