It’s October which means pumpkins and pumpkin patch photos have flooded onto social media. Shops are full of pumpkin carving kits, halloween decorations and costumes. It’s a fun time of year. However, for children with sensory issues…or who simply don’t like messy activities it can be full of pressure too. Carving a pumpkin is fun but it’s also messy, it smells and involves lots of potential touching of pumpkin ‘guts’. For J this puts him off wanting to get fully involved. So this year we have done some fun pumpkin (and guord) decorations that don’t involved carving in any way.
We enjoyed going to two difference Pumpkin Patches this year. These photos were taken at Undley Pumpkin Patch (which I wrote a post about last year). It was incredibly muddy but we came prepared with wellies, waterproof trousers and thick coat. This meant that the risk of the mud touching J was minimal…but the potential of touching something oozy and sticky was ever present hence the ‘stimming’ with his hand (you can see one of his ‘stress positions’ in this photo. Stimming and the stress positions enable J to have a physical outlet for his anxiety and discomfort. This helps him with his autistic needs and allows him to still join in. It’s almost a distraction technique for his body but also let me know that he was not 100% relaxed so to be prepared for sensory downtime. This is one of the reason I wanted to take the pressure off pumpkin carving this year. It’s meant to be about fun…’process over product’.
Once the nails were in we took turns to add elastic bands (once J got the hang of it, I let him take over 100%). This was a great activity for ‘fine manipulative’ skills which build the strength and control of the fingers and wrist. This leads to good pencil control for handwriting as children get older. For J, it’s beneficial because he is hypermobile in his hands/wrists so this helps with control and stopping him from over extending. The resistance from the elastic band is what strengthens the fingers so we had competitions to see to who can stretch the furthest. I think it makes a very colourful pumpkin design.
2. ‘Potato Head Gourds’
This activity requires any Mr potato Head pieces you have and a screwdriver. We used the screwdriver to make the holes where J wanted and then pushed in the Mr Potato Head pieces. J had a go with the screwdriver with some help because I didn’t want it to go all the way through and risk injury. I have seen some similar activities where parents pre-drill the holes in the pumpkin and gourds.
This is another good finger skills activity as children use hand-eye coordination to fit the pieces into the holes. It’s creative as J had his own ideas of what he wanted the guords to look like. If you don’t have Mr. Potato Head pieces you can use cocktail sticks pushed into any left over craft bits such as pompoms, or even cut up fruit/veg you might have left over in the fridge eg: carrot for eyes.
3. Paint Sticks
We were gifted these Little Brian Paint Sticks a while back and although our review has long since been completed, we love the paint sticks so much that they are used regularly in our creative play. The best bit about paint sticks is that they are almost completely mess free (its still paint but it dries a lot quicker and the use of the ‘tube’ to hold means no dipping or dripping paint). J didn’t really have a design in mind. He was just having fun making marks and patterns. The colours were bright and it was all his own masterpiece.
My plan is to hollow out the pumpkin myself and use the screwdriver to make holes so the light can shine through.
4. Using Stickers
We are big sticker fans in our house. We have lots of stickers that I save from magazines and sets. It’s times like this that they come in handy. J found this guord at the pumpkin patch and instantly loved it. He said “it’s a pie”. So he wanted to decorate it with his Star Wars stickers. Ok, so it’s not particularly Halloween themed but it was still fun. You could try stickers with faces and monsters on to keep in with a theme.
5. A ‘Mummy’ Pumpkin
I had a nosey around the house to see what we could else we could use. I found some old bandages so thought we could make a Mummy. This is another mess free method as we just tied the bandages so no need for glue. I made the eyes and use masking tape to secure them. If you don’t have bandages then masking tape could have been a good alternative for the bandages.
If you have ribbons, ties, old clothes you could cut up, then you can get inventive in how you decorate.
I’ve found other pumpkin themed activities that I think look a fun alternative to carving:
This one by ‘Smith Little Life of Ours’ is called ‘Changing Faces Pumpkin‘ and you could make it quite easily with blu-tac or Velcro, along with a cut up cardboard box eg: an old cereal packet. You could get invention of make other Halloween characters too such as a vampire, a witch or Frankensteins Monster.
A baking themed activity called ‘Cheesy Pumpkin Bread’ by Baking With Kids is another fun activity to bake together and enjoy as a Halloween snack. It’s a low sugar option and looks delicious.
There’s plenty of options out there for fun pumpkin themed activities so it’s worth having al ook on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook etc. I’d love to know if there’s anymore activities that you recommend. Comment below or come find me on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.