Stay Safe: Pumpkin-Carving Safety Tips
How much of the pumpkin carving can a child safely handle? A child's manual dexterity improves with each passing Halloween but does not guarantee improved common sense, as any ER doc will confirm.
What are the best ways to include younger kids in the pumpkin-carving festivities while keeping everyone safe? The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at State University of New York, and the American Society of Hand Therapists provide some insight on this matter. Here are some great tips to help keep your little ones safe around the pumpkin-carving table...and perhaps will keep Mom and Dad from needing a stitch or two, as well.
Carve pumpkins in a clean, dry, well-lit area. Wash and thoroughly dry all of the tools: carving tools, knife, cutting surface, and hands. Any moisture on your tools, hands, or table can cause slipping that can lead to injuries.
Very young children should never carve — but they can still help. Leave the sharp stuff to older kids or parents. Little ones can draw on pumpkins with markers. Some families carve a big pumpkin and have younger kids create designs on mini pumpkins. Kids can also help clean out the "goop" and seeds from inside the pumpkin. Messy fun!
Always provide adult supervision during carving – even with teens. Doctors often report seeing adolescent patients with injuries from pumpkin carving. Adults feel that the kids are responsible enough to be left on their own but accidents happen and teen judgment is not that of adults.
Teach knife safety to older kids. Teach the following safety rules: Always point knives away from you. Keep your free hand away from the direction of the knife. Use slicing motions and never force the knife.
Consider buying pumpkin tools instead of using a knife. Special pumpkin-carving kits are available and include small, serrated pumpkin saws that work better and are less likely to get stuck in the thick pumpkin tissue. According to a study by the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at State University of New York Upstate Medical University, people who used pumpkin-carving tools had fewer and less-severe injuries then knife carving incidents.
Light your pumpkin safely. Small, votive candles, as opposed to tall, tapered candles are safest for candle-lit pumpkins. Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy surface and only outside; away from flammable objects and never unattended. Better yet...use battery-operated candles.
Know when to seek emergency help for a cut. Bleeding from minor cuts will often stop when direct pressure is applied to the wound with a clean cloth. If continuous pressure does not slow or stop the bleeding after 15 minutes, an emergency room visit may be required.
— Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist who frequently covers parenting and health issues.