I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve never been the crafty kind of geek. My mother exposed me to all the normal arts-and-crafts growing up, so I have knitted a scarf, and made a block quilt, and woven some table runners in my day. The only one I took to was cross stich, and even that failed to hold my interest past college. Likewise my father introduced me to basic carpentry, as when we designed and built a table for his model railroad, but I have rarely worked with wood since then. My geekdom now revolves around creating carefully crafted book reviews more than any tangible product.
But now I have a toddler, and I want him to feel more comfortable with these things than I do. So I’m dipping my toe in the arts and crafts world, ever so carefully. So I went to Pinterest, bless ‘em, and searched on “craft toddler.” I’m not quite sure why melting crayons on pumpkins comes up, but I see that it is a very popular thing to do. So I decided to try it!
This one worked out great. All I needed was a pumpkin (on sale after Halloween, got this one for $1), a box of crayons, and a lighter. I spread newspaper on the kitchen floor, gave my son the lecture about fire being hot and only adults being allowed to touch the lighter, and got to work. Frankly, the hardest part was unwrapping the crayons—they get that paper on tightly! Fingernails or an X-acto knife recommended.
But the crayons melt very easily, and you can either let them drip down or, once they’ve melted a bit, draw on the pumpkin with nice, rich streaks. My son (2 years, 2 months old) had no trouble holding the crayon at one end and putting the other in the flame, and found it kind of fascinating. And he generally enjoyed pulling all the crayons out of the box and mixing them up. He did get some of the melted wax on his hand, but it didn’t hurt him at all, and he was quite interested in the way it hardened and could be peeled off.
Our pumpkin isn’t as wax-encrusted as some on the Pinterest page, but the nice thing is that we can keep adding to it over time. My son seemed to lose interest in about 15 minutes, so what you see above is just 15 minutes worth of melting wax time. Luckily, cleanup was a cinch. Crayons go back in the box, crayon wrappers get folded up with the newspaper, and you’re done.
If we do this again, which seems likely because it’s easy and fun and satisfying to one’s inner pyromaniac, I’d do a couple things differently. I’d use a smaller pumpkin to start with (I honestly couldn’t find a smaller one, likely because I was looking in November instead of October). And I would make sure to focus on brighter, primary colors. The pink, yellow, red, white, and green all stand out well. Orange and peach blend into the pumpkin, and any darkish color such as blue or purple just looks black. Finally, next time I will take the advice of several Pinteresters, and use a tapered candle instead of a normal lighter. Works the same, and with even less annoying risk of burning oneself. (Although after years of long experience with Bic lighters, I had no trouble using one for this project.)
Pinbusted or Pintrusted? Pintrusted! This works with a toddler as long as the adult keeps control of the open flame, and I imagine it will work even better with older kids. I was especially glad that melted wax is as harmless to my child as I remember it being when I was a kid. And it will make a spiffy centerpiece for our dining room table leading up to Thanksgiving. (I usually forget all about centerpieces and such… did I mention I’m not naturally crafty?)
Karen Burnham is vocationally an electrical engineer at NASA and avocationally a science fiction book reviewer. She works at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston and writes for magazines such as Locus, Strange Horizons, SFSignal, Cascadia Subduction Zone, and others. She is the proud mother of a two year old son.