Drawing of Children Holding Lanterns

Homemade Lanterns - A Light in the Dark

Grade Levels: Pre-K - 3

Posted: November 11, 2020 | Updated: November 11, 2020
Created by: Schoolhouse by the Sea

As the nights grow longer and the days grow shorter, we sometimes need to find our own lights. A lantern lets us do just that: create light and carry it through the world, lighting our own way and sharing the warm glow with others. A lantern can be a beautiful walking companion, but is also a wonderful table centerpiece or (with a flameless, battery-operated candle) nightlight. How will you use yours?

Though, of course, you can purchase a lantern from places like Ikea, World Market, or Etsy, why not try to make your own?

There are many, many ways to do this. All over the world, people make lights and lanterns at this time of year for unique religious and cultural celebrations. Each has their own way!

How Do You Make Your Own Lantern?

Let Me Count the Ways...

Here are some of my favorite methods for creating your own lantern. You’ll find links to other methods, but scroll to the bottom to find instructions for my favorite.

  • You might carve a pumpkin or a turnip, which made the best vegetable lantern that I’ve tried so far. Turnip lanterns are very popular beyond my family; you can find them in Scotland, Ireland, Northern England, and Switzerland, among other places! Though turnip lanterns are popular to carve and parade with all over Switzerland, one small town called Richterswil completely transforms each year with beautiful, elaborate lantern displays. Here are some silent instructions to make a Swiss-style turnip lantern yourself.
  • You might also decorate a glass mason jar, painting it or gluing tissue paper, then fashioning a handle. Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys has a wonderful tutorial for these type of lanterns.
  • Paper maché lanterns made over balloons are popular, as well. These instructions are particularly beautiful and clearly written.
  • My favorite way to make lanterns is with paper and glue. How can you make a lantern simply out of paper? Let’s take a look!

Paper Lanterns: How to Make Your Own

These paper lanterns are the first kind of Autumn lantern that I ever made! I was living with a family in Austria and had the opportunity to make lanterns with a preschool, then participate in their Lantern Walk through the streets of Vienna. We sang songs as we walked down the cobbled streets. Our lanterns shone brightly while passers-by smiled and cheered for us. It was a magical evening!

I hope you will create your own magic with this lantern, just like the one I first made many years ago.


  • Heavy construction paper or water color paper (about 9x12 or 12x16 inches)
  • Crayons, pastels, or watercolor (and paintbrushes) to decorate your lantern paper
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Glue - tacky glue, white glue or glue sticks
  • Paper fasteners (brads) OR floral wire
  • Flameless candles or tea lights
  • Masking tape
  • Tissue paper (optional)


  1. Decorate your paper. Suns and moons and stars are beautifully on-theme, but you might enjoy just playing with colors. Use warm colors for the light and the flame, or cool colors for the cold and dark around your lantern. Fill the whole paper with color!
  2. About 3 inches from the bottom of the paper, make a long fold all the way across.
  3. Make cuts about three inches apart, from the bottom of the paper to the fold. This will make squares of fringe!
  4. If you’d like, cut shapes out of the top portion of the lantern. Again, I like to make a sun, moon, and stars, but let your imagination be your guide. For this portion, you may need an adult to help you cut the shapes. Then, on the inside of the lantern, glue tissue paper pieces over the openings you created.
  5. Bring the edges of the paper together to make it into a cylinder. Fold the fringes together and overlap them to make a solid base for the lantern, then staple the top and bottom of the cylinder sides. Put glue dots or dabs of glue between the fringes to fold them together.
  6. Cut a strip of paper for a handle that is at least ½ inch wide and that is 12 to 16 inches wide. Attach the strip to each side of the lantern with a paper fastener, which is also called a brad. Instead of this kind of handle, you can also make a wire handle with floral wire (¼ inch wide) that you poke through the lantern’s sides, then twist back on itself to secure it as a handle.
  7. Use a candle (flameless or real) that comes in an individual cup of plastic or metal. Hold it in place inside the lantern with a loop of masking tape.

Lantern Paper Being Cut Two Paper Lanterns Two Candles Paper Lantern Glowing in the Dark

Enjoy sharing your light!

Remember that any time you use a candle, an adult should be told and should help you light it, while also monitoring its use. Never leave lanterns unattended!