It’s pumpkin season! Harvested in September and October, pumpkins are an autumn favourite. It’s common to see them used as jack-o’-lanterns on doorsteps or used as decorations prior to and on Halloween. While Halloween may not be everyone’s cup of tea, pumpkin picking is becoming more popular each year and we can certainly see why.
There are patches and pick your own farms all over the UK offering a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and different coloured pumpkins and gourds to choose from. Heading off to pick a pumpkin can be a fantastic family day out, and the fun continues at home with carving, decorating and cooking. So get your wellies on, wrap up warm and get picking!
Find out where your nearest pumpkin patch or PYO farm is HERE!
Once you’ve picked your pumpkins, we’ve put together a few fun, creative and educational things to do with them:
Carve and Decorate
Carving and decorating pumpkins as a family can create fun memories and an ongoing autumn tradition for years to come. Work together to choose how to carve them, maybe try creating some funny faces as well as spooky ones! Let your child get as involved as they’d like, let them help to make the cuts (if they are old enough) and help with the messy work of scraping out the pumpkin seeds. Remember to save the seeds for roasting later! If you’d rather not carve (especially if you have a younger child), you can get creative with paint, markers, glitter, or even Mr. Potato Head pieces.
Keeping everyone safe
In addition to your pumpkin for carving, pick out a variety of mini pumpkins and gourds with your child. Create a sorting game with them and have your child sort by colour, shape, and size. You can introduce the concept of comparison and have your child arrange the pumpkins and gourds from smallest to largest, and vice versa.
Challenge the Senses
Pumpkins provide so many different textures for your child to explore. Help your little ones develop fine motor skills, dexterity and vocabulary by putting some of the skin, seeds and the slimy pulp in different containers for them to touch and feel. Provide tools like tongs, spoons or scoops and encourage them to move the objects around, and if you have additional containers, they can also move the objects from one container to another. If they’re old enough, ask them questions about how it all feels – encourage them to describe the textures.
Roasting Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are packed with vitamins and minerals, and they are a great source of fibre. To clean the seeds, tip them into a sieve and wash under cold running water, pulling away any of the pulp from the pumpkin to discard it. Don’t worry if it doesn’t all come off, as it will once the seeds are boiled. Boil some salted water in a large saucepan, add the cleaned seeds and boil for 5-10 minutes depending on the size, then drain on a kitchen towel. Toss the drained seeds with a little oil, some seasoning and spread evenly across a large baking sheet. You can add lots of different flavours to your seeds before roasting. Try paprika, chilli, cumin or a little brown sugar and honey for candied seeds. Alternatively, just season with rock salt and pepper. Roast the seeds at 180C for about 8-10 minutes.
Keeping everyone safe
Create a pumpkin vase - one for us parents!
Simply cut the top off, creating a big enough hole for your flowers and hollow out the pumpkin. Half-fill with water and add some beautiful autumn flowers. These will make a stunning autumnal centre piece for your table!
Books to read and inspire your child:
Pick a pumpkin by Patricia Toht
“Pick a pumpkin from the patch – tall and lean or short and fat.” With warm, autumnal art and a rhythmic read-aloud text that captures all the excitement of visiting a pumpkin patch and Halloween.
Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper
A delightful story of three unlikely friends; a cat, a squirrel and a duck, who live together in an old white cabin, with a pumpkin patch in the garden. This funny, rhythmical story is about friendship and sharing and is beautifully illustrated - one you'll want to pull out year after year. (Also available as an audio book)