Belfast Telegraph

Eight ways to have fun with pumpkins

Don't just throw it in the bin after Halloween. Lisa Salmon finds out how to reduce waste

Fun alternatives: a used pumpkin
Fun alternatives: a used pumpkin

By Lisa Salmon

Helping to carve a scary face in a pumpkin is a big part of the Halloween fun for kids. But most of them, and their parents, don't give a thought about how much pumpkin flesh they're wasting, and what could be done with it instead of just throwing it in the bin.

Every Halloween more than 18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin is thrown away in the UK alone. But there are many ways of using the fruit and not just by eating it, despite its impressive nutritional credentials.

Childcare expert Deena Billings, head of quality at Busy Bees Childcare which last year ensured more than 1,000 pumpkins were put to good use after Halloween, says: "Children love Halloween and pumpkins are part of the fun, but it's such a shame that so many go to waste each year.

"There are lots of ways to reduce how many we throw away and it doesn't just have to be cooking with them. Showing children different ways to use their pumpkins after Halloween teaches them a really valuable lesson about reducing waste and how they can do their bit to help the environment."

Here, Billings suggest eight ways children can use pumpkins after Halloween:

1. Cook up a soupy treat

Pumpkins are often seen as just a Halloween decoration, but their flesh is rich in vitamins - particularly vitamin A - and minerals that can support children's development. But make sure you buy a pumpkin suitable for cooking. Pumpkins are versatile and can be used in lots of ways from a nutritious savoury soup to a deliciously sweet pumpkin pie. Try this quick and easy soup:

What You'll Need

1.2kg diced pumpkin

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

400g tinned, cooked chickpeas

1 medium potato, diced

1.5l water

Pinch black pepper

1 tbsp sweet paprika

1tsp cumin

Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped (leaves only)

125ml double cream

Sunflower oil

Method

Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan on a medium heat. Add the onion, potato and pumpkin, cook until the onion is soft but not coloured. Add the spices, chickpeas and garlic and stir well before adding the water. Simmer until the pumpkin and potato are cooked, then take off the heat and blend before stirring through the cream (optional), black pepper and parsley.

2. Fill a sensory bag

The fun doesn't have to stop once you've finished carving, as pumpkins offer a great sensory experience for children. Sensory play supports their language development and enhances their ability to problem solve, as well as building their fine and gross motor skills.

To make a sensory bag for children under three, scoop out the insides of a pumpkin and place it into a gallon-sized Ziploc freezer bag. Children can feel and squish the bag with their hands and even feet.

3. Bright bird feeder

Why not give back to the environment by making a pumpkin bird feeder? Add holes in the pumpkin for the string and place some bird feed into the bottom before hanging it in the garden. Hang the pumpkin somewhere young children don't have access to.

4. Pumpkin necklace

Parents can help over-threes make a necklace out of the seeds. Dry them out before letting children paint the seeds. Help them with the tricky part and use a needle to make holes in the centre of the seeds so they can thread them on to some string. Remember the seeds should only be used under adult supervision.

5. Learn through seeds

Use the coloured seeds to do learn through play activities, like practising colour recognition or counting with them.

6. Pumpkin stamps

Budding artists can use the firm part of the pumpkin to make stamps to dip into paint and create their own masterpieces. This is great for learning about different shapes and an ideal fine motor exercise for little hands.

7. Brighten up the garden

Leftover pumpkins make great planters for an autumnal garden feature. Cut a drainage hole in the bottom and place plants or flowers inside before surrounding them with soil. This is a great activity to teach kids about the environment.

8. Back to earth

Instead of pumpkin planters, make compost out of them to keep the garden thriving.

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