Don’t carve your jack-o’-lantern too early or it won’t survive until Halloween night. Once cut, a pumpkin lasts about four to five days, then starts to rot. Here's how to do it:
Step 1: With a serrated knife held at an angle, carefully cut an opening around the stem, making a small notch in the back (to guide you when replacing the lid).
Step 2: Use a large spoon to remove the pulp and scrape the sides clean of stringy bits. Tip: Give the kids the job of separating the seeds from the pumpkin innards while adults handle the carving. Put aside the seeds to be toasted later (see Real Simple's pumpkin seed recipe for instructions).
Step 3: Draw on a face (washable markers allow kids to draw, rinse, and repeat).
Step 4: Carve, then add a tealight.
To cut down on the mess, try one of these no-carve pumpkin decorating ideas.