Last night we carved pumpkins as a family. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Who doesn’t love a holiday family tradition? And doing things with your kids is supposed to be magical, right? Well, let me tell you how it really went down. The truth is, it was a bit of a nightmare. The reason? We made three common mistakes parents make when planning a family activity. But you can learn from our errors! Check out how below!
*This post contains affiliate links or referral links which means, at no cost to you, I may earn a small commission from purchases made through these links. For more information, please see my disclosure page.
Mistake #1 Not Allowing Enough Time
We started our pumpkin carving project about an hour before dinner. Clearly, that was not allowing enough time.
My kids eat dinner on a schedule. They have a relatively early bedtime because we are early risers. If we don’t eat dinner by 5pm, 5:30pm at the latest, my youngest won’t take her last bottle at bedtime, wakes up one hundred times during the night and basically, the entire night unravels. Seriously.
What actually happened, because of my dedication to our dinner time schedule, I gutted, cleaned and carved my pumpkin as quickly as one can safely wield a knife.
Then I started cooking dinner. Did I mention we were carving pumpkins in the kitchen? So, I was cooking right in the hub of pumpkin carving mayhem. And also feeding my baby dinner while my husband finished up carving and my toddler threw pumpkin seeds everywhere.
The mess was epic, from both the pumpkins and dinner. I am still cleaning it up today.
Mistake #2 Forgetting the Witching Hours
The second problem we encountered with timing was that around 4pm every day my children have meltdowns resulting from the cumulative stress of being an infant and toddler for an entire day.
This occurs daily. Yet we regularly forget to plan around it. My youngest starts crying randomly and steadily while my four-year-old screams and hits things.
We nailed it on timing for good family fun. My toddler jumped up and down on her chair, randomly yelled and screamed orders to us on how exactly to carve the pumpkins. She will rule the world someday. As long as everyone understands 4pm is the end of all rationality.
Mistake #3 Lack of Preparation
We planned on using the pumpkin carving set we bought last year. Of course, we’ve moved since then, so finding that ate up a chunk of the allotted carving time.
After a few stabbing attempts and some bent two dollar pumpkin knives from our discount price carving kit, we remembered last year we actually used my husband’s sheetrock knife. Which still had pumpkin guts stuck on it from last year, so good to go.
The second thing we forgot to get ready was the newspaper. When I was a kid we always carved our pumpkins on layers of newspaper to make for easy cleanup.
But I read the paper online now so unless I want to carve pumpkins on my phone we were pretty much out of luck. Hence the pumpkin residue on my kitchen table.
I like to think next year I’ll have all this set up ahead of time. But experience has taught me, well it hasn’t taught me anything because chances are pretty good I’ll be newspaperless and searching my house for a sheetrock knife right about this time next year. Let’s just call it a tradition.
Having said all of this, we had a blast! We carved our four pumpkins, got them on the porch and are now ready for Halloween.
Both of our children were delighted with the pumpkins and we got our annual pumpkin carving family photo. The kids were especially thrilled once we placed the pumpkins outside and lit candles inside them. Halloween magic!
How to Make Family Activities More Fun
Family activities and outings with young children can be stressful. So many times we plan a family outing or fun activity only to have it end in tantrums and tears (and I don’t just mean from the kids)!
No one wants that.
Obviously, looking back we made some mistakes in planning our fun night of carving pumpkins as a family. We forgot a couple of things.
So, to help you have a more successful family fun night here is a quick recap:
- Allow enough time to complete your family activity without running into a meal time or a nap time or anytime your child is likely to be in meltdown mode.
- Remember that late afternoons and early evenings are a rough time of day for most young kids. Maybe plan your activity for the morning. Or whenever your kids are usually at their best.
- Plan ahead, plan ahead, plan ahead. Have your activity planned and ready to roll. Kids run out of patience fast and the more time they spend waiting on you the more off the rails your outing or activity gets.
But even with careful planning, family activities with young kids sometimes unravel. Just remember why you’re doing it in the first place. (Hint: I’ll tell you below).
Why Are We Doing This?!?
In the midst of the crying and the chaos, I sometimes think why are we doing this?!? And then when we’re standing outside in our pajamas, looking at the lit pumpkins, my kids grinning and clapping with glee. I remember why. And that’s why we’ll do it again next year.
Just maybe not right before dinner.
I have great memories of carving pumpkins as a kid. And many other holiday traditions.
Looking back I wonder how often my parents were actually thinking, gah!!!! As we screamed and cried or jumped off of chairs while the pumpkins were carved or the Christmas tree was decorated. Whatever the case, I don’t remember it as anything but fun.
And that’s the reason we do this stuff for our kids.
What’s your best tip for enjoying family time with young children? Share your tips in the comments!