I signed up 60 kids, which is about all our meeting room can hold (once you add parents) and set up the room with various pumpkin related stations.
This seemed like a simple enough craft: wrap a ball of (pre-cut and pre-balled) orange yarn around a cardboard square. Slide it off, tie it in the middle, and add a green stem. It turns out, however, that this was the most difficult craft of all - I spend most of the times during the program helping people manage this. On the plus side, the results were adorable and people really liked their pumpkins. So I had that going for me. :-)
I found this idea on Pinterest so I brought out two Wilton candy melters and added orange candy melts. Then I put out trays with small pretzels (the twists, not the sticks) and some M&Ms. The idea was to dip the pretzel in the melted candy and then add an M&M as a stem.
This could probably end up as a Pinterest fail (I did my best!)...
... but the kids were totally happy with the results because there was candy involved. Can't argue with that (even if some of those pumpkins had a lot more than one stem).
I pre-cut the centers out of paper plates and the set up tacky glue, crayons, and foam shapes. These came from a wreath kit at Michaels, I just cut the plates so I would have enough wreath bases for all the kids.
Paper Plate Pumpkins
I was worried that some kids might feel left out if they didn't have real pumpkins to decorate (more on that station in a minute), so I set this station out as a contingency plan (part of my "try not to make the kids cry" motto). I bought some orange paper plates and printed out green stems and yellow and black pumpkin face parts. The kids cut out the pieces they wanted to create paper jack-o-lanterns.
Game: Pumpkin Bowling
This station was a big hit. I bought some large water bottles and three fake pumpkins at Michaels. The kids were given three chances to knock down the water bottles. If they managed, they got a small fun sized candy bar. Lots of kids tried their luck (and improved their skills - pumpkins are not perfectly round and therefore unreliable rollers) several times.
Game: Pumpkin Ping Pong Toss
I put ten ping pong balls in one pumpkin (that's behind a tape line) and set up six pumpkin buckets in a taped off section. The idea was to try to toss the ping pong balls into the six buckets. There was no prize with this particular game and it was self-led for the most part (I was missing a volunteer). Some kids played it properly and one little boy amused himself for a good while moving the ping pong balls from one bucket to another.
This was the most obvious and most mobbed station I offered. The kids brought their own pumpkins and I provided all sorts of things to decorate with and a bunch of tacky glue (I had made it clear ahead of time that this was all non-invasive decorating - no knives or scooping here!). Decorations included self-adhesive fall foam stickers, yarn, pom poms, feathers, felt, flowers, ribbons, and googly eyes. I also bought some Crayola Slick Stix which were great for drawing on the pumpkins.
This station had two tables because I anticipated a huge demand for the decorations. I had printed out pictures of decorated pumpkins that were not carved because I feared the kids would be disappointed that they couldn't carve, but it turns out that I underestimated my kids' creativity.
Bobbing for Donuts (Pumpkin flavored!)
It took me forever to come up with a solution for hanging donuts that didn't involved hanging them from the ceiling or reusing the strings (because eeewwww). I finally used my flannelboard, taped a yardstick over the top, and hung donuts from the ends. It wasn't elegant, but it worked for the game. The downside: having to pre-string a bunch of pumpkin donut holes.
I was worried about this program because there were several town events going on the same day and I worried that no one would be able to come (even though I had closed registration because I had too many kids signed up!). Turns out that one of the events was immediately before mine and they were giving out free pumpkins. Talk about perfect set-up!
I had forty five kids attend and they all had a great time and turned out some pretty fantastic pumpkins.
Next year, though, I won't over-think this program or over-plan it: I'll set out several tables for decorations and the pumpkin bowling and have it the same day as the free pumpkin event and advertise "come decorate your pumpkin!". I think it will go over just as well.
(But I might buy pumpkin donut holes again just for fun. Because yum.)