I want to share something that is generally low-cost, yet high quality — pumpkin carving tools. (Do a search for ‘pumpkin’ in the search box if you want to see our past jack o’lanterns.)
Pumpkin carving tools like mine came in a set. I bought one set for each child — a coarse toothed cutter, fine toothed cutter, and a scraper. As our kids grew older, they could use woodcarving tools, such as gouges, to do relief work. Overall, these tools are much safer than kitchen knives and regular tools like saws, Dremels, etc. Users have more control because the cutters require sawing action. The gouges have a shorter length of razor sharp edges compared to knives, and it is an extension of your hand. That is, I can draw a line with my hand/tool with a gouge. With a knife, I am pushing perpendicular to where I want the cut. Does that makes sense?
The other thing we do is perforate the lines we want to carve out with a pushpin. How deep and close together you make the pinpushes is up to you. I remember my pumpkin carving days included markers that smeared everywhere.
I keep a bowl of soapy water out for the kids. If they are done with a tool, they put it in the water for a few seconds, then I clean and dry it, and put it away for the next year.