Our First Pumpkin Carving Adventure…

Traditionally Halloween is not something we’ve really gotten excited about in our house.  But as our son has now reached the age where such things become the centre of excitement (we blame his playgroup) there was no getting away from it. Every time we went near a supermarket he’d cast glances toward the pumpkins on display and start asking if we could buy one. There was no getting away from it.

So, after initially hoping to get a few groceries we ended up coming away from our local supermarket armed with a couple of pumpkins (despite toddler entreaties to buy more) and zero clue what to do with them.

Of course, the Internet had the answer; there’s an abundance of sites out there with guides like “How to Carve the Perfect Jack O’Lantern” or how to accomplish “A Spooktacular Pumpkin Carving”… all done by experts and looking like it.

Here’s our first tip – if you’ve never carved a pumpkin before DON’T look to Instagram for inspiration; those amazingly crafted works of vegetable sculpture will only make you feel out of your league as you stand there at the table armed with a vegetable knife and bowl for the innards.

So, here’s what you’ll need for a standard pumpkin caving:

1 Pumpkin – the larger the better as carving smaller pumpkins can get tricky
1 Tea light
Table Spoon
Sharp Serrated Knife
Small Serrated Knife

Step One

Choose a pumpkin – the larger the better as carving the smaller ones can prove tricky with less space for the features – and use a sharp serrated knife to cut off the crown.  Try and cut this as straight as you can or, like ours, your finished pumpkin may end up looking like it was given a lobotomy by Stevie Wonder.

Step Two

Grab a table spoon and get scooping – all the seeds and fibres need removing. Use the spoon to remove some of the pumpkin’s flesh too.  TIP: the more flesh you remove the better,  the thinner the pumpkins ‘skull’ is the easier the carving will be so get at that flesh like a frenzied piranha.

To be honest there’s not a whole lot of point doing anything with the seeds and flesh other than lining the bin. Given how most of them end up during October I’ve got a sneaking suspicion they’re not harvested for taste.

You’ll possibly need a hoover / broom at this point too should your helper have been as enthusiastic as ours in throwing away from those pumpkin seeds. Oh, and to wash your hands – the inside of a pumpkin is not the most pleasant of aromas.

Step Three

With your marker pen draw an outline of the face you want on your pumpkin then, with a small serrated knife, cut out the eyes, nose and mouth. Always remember to cut away from you in case the knife slips and to ensure that little ears aren’t paying too much attention when you do….

Step Four

Place the tea light inside the pumpkin, light it and pop the crown back on your Jack O’Lantern’s head and… voila!

For a first go we were pretty proud of ours. They’re not likely to win any beauty contests but we had a whole lot of fun making them and our little one loved the whole process and, cheesy as it may be, that’s what counts, isn’t it?

We hope you have a lot of fun carving your Jack O’Lantern and have a great Halloween. Don’t forget to let us know – in the comments below or on facebook – how your pumpkin carving goes and subscribe to our newsletter for more great fun activities and places to visit on rainy days.

Homemade Rainbows – Science Fun for Children!

Indoors fun experiment

How about using the opportunity of an indoors rainy day to teach your children some science and some physics?

You can create your own home-made rainbow, while explaining some basic light principles! Easy-peasy and entertaining while it rains! So let’s play Sheldon from Big Bang Theory for a little bit! 😉

This activity is appropriate for older children, from 5 years upwards, but will entertain toddlers and babies and adults alike! Granted, a very young toddler might try to shove the torch in your eyes or in your mouth but the fun is all that matters!

Make your own indoor rainbow with a compact disc

You will need:

  • A compact disc (preferably one that you don’t listen to any longer!)
  • A torch
  • Kitchen foil
objects for homemade rainbow
Kitchen foil, flashlight and CD

Make a hole of about 0.5 cm in diameter in the middle of the foil. Wrap the foil over the front of the torch. Make sure the hole is over the middle of the torch

Place the compact disc on a table with the writing facing downwards.

Turn on the torch and hold it so that light reflects off the compact disc and into your eyes. You will need to have the compact disc between you and the torch and point the torch diagonally downwards.

Indoors spectrum on CD
Indoors spectrum on CD

White light: now for the science bit

Children learn all the time, so when they’re old enough to understand some basic notions of physics, you can provide them with some explanation while conducting the indoors experiment:

Most light sources, including the Sun and torches, give out white light. It is given this name because it seems to have no colour. However white light has more colour than any other type of light. White light is a mixture of many colours, from red to blue. In some situations, all the colours separate out to produce a continuous band of colour called the white light spectrum. For example, a rainbow forms when raindrops separate sunlight into a spectrum.

Indoors science activity fun
Indoors science activity fun

So how does this home-made rainbow work?

Well, the surface of a compact disc is covered with very small dents called “pits”. These cause each colour of light to reflect at a slightly different angle, producing the spectrum.

And now for some history

The first person to understand white light, was the English scientist Isaac Newton. In 1666 he performed a famous experiment in his room in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire.

Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton (photo source Wikipedia)

He used a glass prism (as many people had done before him), to produce a spectrum of colours. Before Newton, people believed that the colours were added to white sunlight. Newton was the first to realise that all the colours are present in the sunlight and the prism simply separates them all out!

We will be trying more fun science games and experiments at home. Do let us know how your own rainbow making experiments go and if your children enjoyed them.