Make: A Playdough Jack-O-Lantern with Pop-In Features

Recycle a cereal box and celebrate Halloween with this super cute build-your-own playdough Jack-O-Lantern activity for kids! Mix and match spooky features with your own round little playdough pumpkins for an afternoon of wickedly creative form and design play.

Three play dough jack-o-lanterns sitting against a white background

With their silly pumpkin faces, our squishy jack-o-lanterns are so full of character, aren’t they? This fun activity is a whimsical invitation to create, Halloween sensory play activity, fine motor skill practice, and not-so-spooky storytelling prompt all rolled into one.

A play dough jack-o-lantern sitting against a white background

And here’s a frighteningly good Halloween trick AND treat…you can reuse these same cardboard face bits for a rearrangeable jack-o-lantern 2D alternative!

To make your own pumpkin playdough jack-o-lantern you’ll need:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains either our own printable products, or Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*



Makes enough playdough for 1 pumpkin

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon apple or pumpkin pie seasoning
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • Food coloring

How to Make Pumpkin Playdough Jack-O-Lanterns – DIY Instructions:

Sketch features or download & print our templates

Print out the desired feature pages onto cereal box sides that have been trimmed to fit your printer (you may want to run a test print through first to make sure your printer can handle the thickness of the box).
A preview of our printable Jack-o-lantern activity template pack
You don’t have to print our templates – drawing imaginative jack-o-lantern features is a great creative exercise for kids all on its own! Sketch out your features and pumpkins onto cereal boxes or scrap cardboard and color or paint.

Cut out and color features

Use scissors to cut out all of your features. If you drew your own on the cardboard you can color or paint them any way you like! Give ample time to dry.

Glue straw knobs to your features

We added small, trimmed pieces of paper straw to the backs of our features so we could push them into our pumpkins. Use a hot glue gun to add a little dot of glue to the center back of your eyes, mouths, noses, etc. then attach a short length of paper straw to each. Let dry completely before use.
Celebrate Halloween with this fun build-your-own Jack-O-Lantern play dough activity for kids!

Make the pumpkin playdough

Combine the flour, salt, cream of tartar, and pumpkin pie seasoning in a small mixing bowl.

Bring a cup of water to a boil and add the oil and food coloring. Turn the burner down to low and gently stir in the dry ingredients until fully combined and smooth.

Form your pumpkin

You can use store-bought playdough or make your own using our easy recipe. Form your play dough into pumpkin shapes. We squished ours into round balls, then used a piece of cardboard to create the ridges in the sides. You can add a paper leaf and twig stem, as we did, too!

Design & play!

That’s all there is to it! You can cut out as many pieces or pumpkin shapes as you like to build your own adorable jack-o-lanterns over and over again. The straw knobs make it easy for little hands to push the features into their playdough and re-arrange for hours of fun!
Celebrate Halloween with this fun build-your-own Jack-O-Lantern play dough activity for kids!

Pumpkin Play Dough Fine Motor Skill Activities

These little jack-o-lanterns are a great way to build fine motor skills, and there are so many variations you can quickly create for different kinds of play…

  • Decorate your play dough jack-o-lantern. Instead of pushing in features to make a face, add some beautiful decoration to your pumpkin by sticking in a few feathers, and pushing in pebbles, gems, or cabochons.
  • Make stacked play dough pumpkin people. Form a few pumpkins then stack them like you would a snowman. You can add elements like stick arms, a hat, and more!
  • Make 2D play dough pumpkins. Instead of 3D pumpkin forms, you can roll out the playdough and use cookie cutters to cut out flat pumpkin shapes. Experiment with adding the cardboard features, using simple tools (like forks or pinecones) to create texture, or add decoration with pom poms, dry beans, cinnamon sticks, pipe cleaners, and other Halloween baubles.
  • Turn your pumpkins into play dough pumpkin pie. Invite your little ones to use a cutting wedge or kid-safe scissors to cut their 3D playdough pumpkins into slices. Use a rolling pin to roll flat, then grab a small round foil tin or dish and form into a pie. Your kids can practice cutting the pie into slices and “serving” from the tin with a fork, spatula, or small pie server. Top with a cotton ball of “whipped cream”!
A play dough jack-o-lantern sitting against a white background

More Kids Halloween Activities

Here for the boos? We have Halloween covered with this adorable free printable Halloween doodle book, some super hip upcycled costume ideas, a roundup of our fav modern no-carve pumpkins, and even a recipe (and ghost stickers!) for healthy homemade Ecto-Cooler!

For another upcycled jack-o-lantern craft, use a leftover box to make our DIY cardboard jack-o-lantern shape sorter! For a few more seasonal “build-your-own” crafts, be sure to visit our build-a-felt-turkey DIY  and felt fall rainbow tree tutorial.

Celebrate Halloween with this fun and easy build-your-own Jack-O-Lantern play dough activity for kids!

In the mood for kid-friendly Halloween tunes you can craft along to? Fire up our Spotify Halloween playlist!

A note about Amazon affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Amazon. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click through to make a purchase, we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!

Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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