As an alternative to the many glass lantern tutorials available online, here’s a simple, unbreakable alternative! This is a wonderful, pretty simple craft for families to do together. Children aged three and older will be able to do many of the steps. My own children, pictured are 4 and 7.
You Will Need:
Watercolor paper, at least 8 1/2 x 11 in, one sheet for each lantern, plus one additional sheet for every three lanterns (to make the bottoms)
Colored tissue paper, one or two sheets, light colors work best
Paints, Brushes, & Jars to hold water
Smocks (optional, watercolor does wash out of clothes pretty easily, generally speaking)
Exacto blade or something similar
Self-healing mat or cardboard to protect your table when cutting
Pen or Thin Marker
Beads, large enough hole that the wire can fit through them (optional) <—General Bead is a great SF store for buying beautiful, inexpensive bead assortments
LED Tea Light – one per lantern. (Also known as a “Flameless Candle,” LED tea lights can be found online, or at your local art supply store.)
1) For every lantern you wish to make, make one watercolor painting, ideally filling the whole page.
2) Once these paintings are reasonably dry, draw some shapes on the painting in pen or marker. Around ten is a good number. These shapes need to be large enough that you’ll be able to cut them out with the exacto blade, so avoid getting too detailed. Shapes around 1 inch in diameter are best. Kids can do this step!
3) Place painting on self healing mat or cardboard and use exacto blade to cut out the shapes. (This step you will need to do for your children.)
4) Have fun peeking through the shapes you cut out! 😀
5) Turn the paintings upside down so that the white sides are facing up. Now we’re going to cover each cut out shape with tissue paper. You can use one color, or different colors. Light colors work best. Use either tape or a glue stick to stick the tissue paper down around the edges of each shape. (You can use one tissue paper scrap to cover multiple shapes if you’d like them to be the same color.)
6) When you’re done, turn the painting over to see how it looks. If you hold it up to a window, you should be able to see light coming through the tissue paper. Magical!
7) With the painted side facing out, bend the painting into the shape of a cylinder with just enough overlap that you can staple the two meeting sides together. Then staple the sides together. About four staples should hold it well.
8) Now, lay out the remaining sheet of watercolor paper. We are going to use this sheet to make a base for each of the lanterns. Lay out the lanterns on the paper so that each one is standing on its end. Be sure to lay them out in such a way that there’s room for all of them on the single sheet of paper, with about an inch of extra space around each one. Then trace around the bottom edge of each lantern. Remove the lantern, and you should see a circle that’s the exact size of your lantern’s base. (TIP: It’s a good idea to label each circle with whose lantern it was, since they may all be slightly different sizes.)
9) Draw a concentric circle around each of the first circles you drew, so that each larger concentric circle is around 1 inch larger on all sides.
10) Cut out each circle, using the LARGER concentric circle as your cutting line. Older children can do this step.
11) Connect the inner circle with the larger circle by drawing a series of thin “V”s, ideally pretty evenly spaced about 3/4 inch apart from one another. Doesn’t have to be exact… The purpose of this step is to make flaps that we can fold up to attach this base to the lantern. If you are a sewer, you will be familiar with this idea from the cuts you need to make in fabric around a curve when you plan to turn something inside out. Same basic idea. And if this feels confusing, bear with me! It will all make sense very soon… 😉
12) Cut out the “Vs”, taking care that your cuts go all the way to the inner circle, or even a little bit into the inner circle. (This step is probably best done by a grown up or older child.)
13) Fold up the flaps that have been created by your cuts.
14) Insert base into the bottom of your lantern, taking care that all the flaps are hidden inside. Make sure you’re attaching the base to the bottom of the lantern, if your lantern has a clear up side!
15) Tape the base onto the lantern to stick it in place. I used packing tape for this, cut into thin strips, since I like the way it looks when it’s a little glossy. You could also use regular Scotch tape.
16) Now we’re going to make the handle. You can use plain wire, or string your wire with beads. Whichever you choose, the next step is the same – use the hole punch to punch two holes, one on either side of the lantern, around 1 inch from the top.
17) For each lantern, cut a length of wire, 1 1/2 feet to 2 feet long. I recommend holding your lantern up with the wire bent like a handle to see how long you want the handle to be. For small children, you’ll want a short handle, so the lantern won’t drag on the ground. For the littlest children, you may even want to make your lantern a little shorter, by cutting a little off the top.
18) If you want to add beads, add them now! Start by adding one bead around three inches from the end of the wire, and wrapping the wire around just that bead to hold it in place. This will be your anchor when adding the other beads.
19) To make the handle, stick the wire (either plain or beaded) through the hole, so that you have a few inches to work with sticking out. Affix the lantern wire on each side of the lantern by wrapping the small end of the wire around the larger end.
20) Your lantern is finished! Add an electric tea light. (Do not use use flame with a paper lantern, of course…) Turn off the lights and watch it glow.
If you enjoyed this project, please join us in our Facebook group, Parenting with Nature, to share your pics! We’d love to see what you made!