Pinch Pot Jack-O-Lanterns


Jack-o-lanterns. They’re fun, festive and have oh so much character! Their toothy grins lighting up the Halloween sky. Usually I leave the pinch pot pumpkins to my kindergarteners, but this year I feel like my 4th graders are itching to get their hands on clay and you can never have too many pumpkin decorations, am I right?! So here we have it, a more sophisticated pinch-pot pumpkin lesson with real wooden stems to top them off! Not to mention you get all the feels of carving a pumpkin without putting sharp objects into the hands of small children: winning!


What you need:

  • Clay – If you have access to a kiln, great! I purchase Amaco white, low fire clay. If you don’t have access to a kiln try an air dry clay.
  • Red and Yellow Acrylic paint – That’s right! We don’t use orange, we mix up our own with a couple primary colors.
  • Black Acrylic Paint
  • Sticks – I prefer sticks of the tree branch variety but a couple shorter students’ prefer a fine wood-chip from the playground, either should be fine.
  •  Halloween Spirit

Let’s get started!

Step 1

Make a smooth ball. I tell the kids to hold their clay in their ‘nest’-a rounded hand, and use the other rounded hand to smack it into shape. The smoother the ball the better the pumpkin.


Step 2

Give me a ‘thumbs up’ and dive their thumb into their clay ball. You want to push it as far in as you can without breaking through the other side.

Step 3

In order to make the hole of the pinch pot bigger you keep your thumb in the hole and stiffen the rest of your fingers. Squeeze your thumb into your fingers and turn the sphere around, pinch and turn, pinch and turn.


Step 4

Smoothing. Put the pinch pot down on the scrap paper with the hole side on the table. At this point I let the kids dip one finger in water to smooth their pumpkin. Shiny pumpkin means too much water so keep blending the water until there isn’t any shine. Once nice and smooth use one finger to create the ripples in the pumpkin. Start with your index finger at the top of your pumpkin and apply a little pressure as you drag it down to the base, turn and repeat until you have a few ripples all the way around your pumpkin.

Step 5

Use a tooth pick, needle tool, or a fettling knife to carve out your pumpkins face. Once carved, use clay tools or your fingers to smooth out the face holes. Once you are happy with your pumpkin, it’s time to cook in the kiln! Or let dry if you are using air dry clay.

Step 6

Give each table a cup of red and a cup of yellow acrylic paint. I give each student their own pallet so they can mix their own orange. Paint your pumpkin! Use black acrylic to paint the inside and the face holes.

Step 7

Plug in your glue gun and go find a stick! I take my kids outside to find the perfect stem. Like I said before, I prefer a knotty tree branch stick but if your feeling a little lazy a wood chip works… 😛 Use a little dot of hot glue and attach the stem.

Enjoy your pumpkin, Happy Halloweeeeeeen!

Have Fun!