Pumpkins are one of the most popular harbingers of autumn, especially for children, who love to visit pumpkin farms and pick out the perfect gourd for carving. Many churches, however, are hesitant to celebrate the supernatural or scarier aspects of Halloween, preferring instead to focus on the harvest and the eternal lesson of God’s love and forgiveness. For these churches, alternatives to traditional pumpkin crafts may be desired.
Pumpkin carving doesn’t have to mean creating a scary jack-o-lantern. Instead, children’s churches can use the activity to teach about God. After an adult carves open the top of the pumpkin (or pumpkins), have the children scoop out the “icky” insides while explaining that God does the same for us when he forgives our sins. Then, have the children brainstorm some symbols of God for the pumpkin, such as a cross, heart, or even the word “Jesus.” After the adult carves out the agreed-upon design, place a candle in the pumpkin and explain that when our sins our forgiven and we accept Jesus into our hearts, it allows His light to shine through us just as the candle light shines through the holes in the pumpkin.
Estimating and Creating
Hold up three or four pumpkins of different shapes and sizes. Ask the students to estimate which is the heaviest pumpkin and which has the most seeds. With an adult’s help, cut open the pumpkins and scoop out the seeds. Count the seeds (this is a good opportunity to practice counting by 2s or 5s). In most cases, the largest pumpkin will not contain the most seeds. In some cases, the largest pumpkin will not even be the heaviest pumpkin. Explain that pumpkins are just like people: The way they look on the outside might not tell what they are like on the inside. Remind the students that God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance of people. Then, wash and dry the seeds, and give a handful to each child, along with other scraps and materials of your choice (such as fall leaves, nuts, and other seeds) so that each child can create an autumn collage, or fill in the outline of a pumpkin on a piece of paper.
Arrange the children into small groups, and give each group several gourds, including small pumpkins, and paper plates filled with paint. Have the children dip the gourds into the paint and use them as stamps. Alternately, have the children paint the gourds and pumpkins using paintbrushes. Suggest family-friendly designs such as happy faces, animals, and other non-scary subjects. Pass out yarn and press-on “googly” eyes for the final touches. This is a good activity for very young children who might not understand or be able to sit through the lessons of the above two activities.