By Samuel Broaden

It’s October again, and you know what that means — a trip to the pumpkin patch! Families love heading to this quintessential fall spot, and the photo opps are great, but what if you don’t want to carve all the pumpkins you picked? Here are five fun and different ways to use those pumpkins, and bonus — they support your child’s development as well!

  1. Use them in a cooking project! 

We sometimes forget that pumpkins are edible. After you bring your pumpkins home, talk with your child about the different parts of the pumpkin (use this link if you are like 99% of the population and do not know the different parts of a pumpkin). Take it apart and use the edible parts to make pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, or roasted pumpkin seeds. Not only is your child learning parts of a pumpkin that many people might not know, they are also using their fine and gross motor skills, along with mathematical skills to cook and bake with you! 

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  1. Bowl with them! 

Pumpkins can make great bowling balls! Once your pumpkins are home, create a bowling alley in your yard by placing empty plastic water bottles (yay for re-use!), or something similar, and use the pumpkins to knock them over. A great way to enhance this activity is to plan for it while you are at the pumpkin patch. You can pick different shapes and sizes of pumpkins with your child and see if you can guess which ones will knock the most pins down. The winner gets the first taste of freshly baked pumpkin bread! 

  1. Use them as art!

Pumpkins come in so many different shapes and sizes that you can really have some fun if you use them for art. Get a bunch of different colored paints, a long roll of paper (or paper towels, or newspaper; whatever you have around) and use the pumpkins to make designs and shapes with the paint. Hint: this activity is really fun if you find the pumpkins that have all the different bumps all over them, too! Hang up your child’s pumpkin paintings around your house when you are finished. The best part: You can still bake with the insides! 

  1. Use tools on them! 

What kid wouldn’t love to use tools? Grab a couple of pumpkins, a hammer and some nails and let your child hammer nails into the pumpkin. This is a really good activity to help strengthen your child’s fine motor skills all while having a ton of fun! You can also encourage your child to make designs on the pumpkin with a pen first and see if they can follow the design with the nails. Be sure to talk with your child about how it feels to nail into the pumpkin. You can ask: is it hard to do, or soft going in? If you’re not ready to break out the adult tools, try a play toolset or even toothpicks and blocks.

  1. Have a pumpkin decorating contest! 

Get everyone in your house a pumpkin at the patch and have a contest for who can make the coolest pumpkin. Make it even more challenging by designing the pumpkins without carving them. Encourage your child to use anything and everything that they can think of to decorate. You can have awards for most creative, best use of materials, and best in show! Create certificates on your computer to hand out to the winners and post the results for your family and friends to see on your social media accounts.

Everyone loves fall and children love a trip to the pumpkin patch. With these ideas, you can get even more fun out of your usual trip and help your child’s development at the same time! 


Samuel Broaden is an early childhood educator, consultant and author. You can read more of his work at Honoring Childhood.

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