Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: Kids and knives don't usually go well together, but when it comes to carving up Halloween jack-o'-lanterns, the situation is hard to avoid. Here are some tips for helping them create a menacing gourd without a trip to the emergency room.
"Jack-o'-lanterns are part of Halloween fun, but remember to take precautions before and during cutting," says hand surgeon George Kardashian, MD, of the Center for Bone and Joint Disease. Here are his tips for making the carving fun and safe for everyone:
- Choose your tools wisely. Don't use just any household knife to carve up your pumpkin. Invest in knives made specifically for the task. Most Halloween supply stores stock carving kits. Martha Stewart sells one for about $25 that includes nine carvers, patterns and an instruction booklet.
- A cut below. Rather than cut open the top of the pumpkin, cut a hole out of the bottom. It's an easier place to cut, you can create a larger opening and it makes it easier to stand the pumpkin atop a candle, rather than placing the candle inside on an uneven bottom.
- Tell the kids, "Knives are for Mommy." Let them choose the pattern and trace it onto the pumpkin before you carve. They can also be in charge of scooping out the gooey innards. (An ice-cream scoop is a great tool for getting all the seeds out.) But when it comes to wielding the knives, leave that part to Mom and Dad.
- Be a neat freak. Keep the area clean and as non-slippery as possible. Make sure all the seeds are scooped out and the mess cleaned up before you start the carving. Dry your hands when you're handling the knife, so you don't slip and cut yourself.
- Who needs knives, anyway? If the kids are really young, consider uncarved jack-o'-lanterns. Have the kids decorate their pumpkins with stickers, paint or markers. They can make a fairly scary creation without any cuts at all!