Party Plans: Pumpkin Decorating Party

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If you like to use real pumpkins in your home and yard décor throughout the month of October, you may not want to carve your jack-o-lanterns at the beginning of the month because they will decay too quickly. But if you decorate your pumpkins with paint, glitter, stickers and other fun items, you could use your pumpkins all month and avoid the mess of pumpkin goo. So why not host a pumpkin decorating party for your friends and family at the beginning of October and enjoy your holiday creations all month?

A pumpkin decorating party doesn’t have to be just for children.  It would work well for mothers who want to create artistic-looking pumpkins that will look great with their home décor. You could invite your friends over for an outdoor or indoor brunch and creative decorating session while the children are at school. You and your cohorts can paint designs, add ribbons, jewels, feathers and more to your pumpkins.

This kind of party would work for teenagers, too. It could be held one weekday evening or on a weekend day. It could be done as a school organization activity or for a church youth group. The pumpkin decorating could be approached as an individual’s art project or as a team project. Teams can work with a certain set of decorative accessories, work against the clock or work to best represent a particular theme. For example, the teams might be encouraged to decorate their pumpkins like cartoon, TV or movie characters or like an animal or celebrity.

You might want to ask the teens to bring a decorated pumpkin they have made at home, where they can spend more time on their work. Then have a pumpkin parade where each guest can display their artwork, and everyone can vote on the most inspired pumpkin design. Have lots of awards–most creative, ugliest, cutest, best use of unusual accessories and more. Then, at the party, you can divide the guests into teams to create a group pumpkins with supplied decorations.

A children’s pumpkin decorating party is safer for than a carving party, doesn’t require the same level of supervision and yet still allows for the same type of creativity. Children love the opportunity to paint, use stickers all over, glue on googly eyes, feathers, flowers, leaves, ribbons, buttons, jewels, nuts and bolts and other interesting items. They might add visors, sunglasses, wigs, and masks to their pumpkin-heads.

Regardless of the age of your party guests, in your invitation, you might ask them to bring a bag of varied decorative supplies, so you can combine them with yours and get a truly varied assortment for everyone to use. Have a laptop or tablet set up with websites of pumpkin designs that your guests can scroll through to get ideas, or print out pictures of lots of decorated pumpkins to use as samples.

Any pumpkin decorating party will need these items:

  • pumpkins of medium and small size and assorted colors with stems, wiped clean and dry to prepare them for decorating (you could use faux pumpkins if you prefer)
  • tables on which to work
  • plastic tablecloths, old vinyl shower curtains, painting drop cloths or old newspapers to put on the floor and tables
  • aprons, old men’s shirts or large old t-shirts, large plastic trash-bags with cut neck and arm holes for guests to wear over their regular clothes
  • old towels, shoes, rags or power towels for your guests to use to wipe up their hands and work spaces
  • acrylic paints, paint brushes, bowls of water for brush-dipping and cleaning
  • bottles or bowls of craft glue or glue dots and straight pins or t-pins for attaching items to the pumpkins
  • craft items like fur, feathers, craft foam, construction paper, sequins, jewels, ribbons, twine, pom-poms, stickers, Easter grass or Spanish moss for hair,  and anything else that would make a crazy-looking pumpkin
  • scissors and washable markers
  • a hair-dryer to speed the paint-drying process
  • a large trashcan for your guests to put the trash they create and plastic zip-lock bags for the craft supplies you are saving when everyone is finished.
  • a fun spooky and silly Halloween playlist to entertain your guests while they work.
  • large trays, cookie sheets, or pieces of heavy-duty cardboard to go under each decorated pumpkin so you can move and display them
  • a staging area where you can display the pumpkins–you might have bales of hay or old wooden boxes covered with spooky tattered fabric or spider webbing

Be certain to have a camera or cell phone ready to capture pictures of all the “artwork” that will be created. Take lots of photographs of the children during the creative process and with their finished pumpkins, and send copies to their parents’ emails. Give each quest a strong paper tote bag so the pumpkins can get home safely. Put a piece of corrugated cardboard inside the bottom of each bag for extra support.

After everyone is finished decorating their pumpkins, have them pose together with their creations and get photos of them individually and as a group. Then you can appoint two judges, who don’t vote on their own pumpkins, to evaluate them and give out awards. Or you can have slips of paper and pencils with jars or cans by each finished pumpkin and let your guests vote on the winners. Then you can serve refreshments, and let two appointees tally the votes to be announced before everyone goes home.

Party refreshments can easily tie into your pumpkin theme, because there are so many pumpkin spice cookie, cake and muffin mixes available this season. You can make a cheese ball in the shape of a pumpkin, and serve it with crackers or cut-up vegetables. You can also create “pumpkin” fruit snacks by peeling mandarin oranges or clementines and inserting small pieces of celery as the stems.  You can cut off the top and scoop out the inside of a small pumpkin to fill with a dip for vegetable or pretzel dippers. You can also cut the top off a larger pumpkin and scoop it out to serve as an ice bucket for your canned or bottled drinks or juice boxes; a large scooped out pumpkin can also be used as a punchbowl.

If you have time in addition to the pumpkin decorating, try some other party games. Place ordinary items in Halloween-embellished bags, and let each guest reach inside and try to guess what he/she feels without looking. Use easily recognizable items with strong textures, such as two grapes, a kiwi, marshmallows, dry peas, pillow stuffing or mini-carrots that have been boiled and cooled. Cover rolls of toilet paper with orange tissue paper and add half a cardboard roll for the stem. Stack these “pumpkins” in a tall pyramid. and let guests toss another toilet paper “pumpkin” to knock down the tower. You can also draw a large pumpkin on a large piece of corrugated cardboard and cut a large jack-o-lantern grin in it. Then have your guests toss the toilet paper “pumpkins” to see who has the best aim.

“Orangen’t” you glad that you decided to have a pumpkin decorating party? It’s a great way to kick off the Halloween season!



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