Light up the Night with These Kid’s Lantern Activities

As parents and educators, we’re always looking for activities residing at the intersection of fun and learning. We love to see our little ones become wholeheartedly engaged in an activity that makes them smile while teaching them valuable new physical, mental and emotional skills.

While most lessons happen during daytime hours, there are special ways to celebrate the nighttime with kiddos, too. It’s wonderful to enjoy the outdoors as a family and help little learners foster a sense of wonder about the evening’s sky, smells and sounds.

Making a lantern is one great way to get children of all ages excited about this, while encouraging them to practice essential life skills along the way.

Here are three activities to do just that.

Decorate a Plastic Cup Lantern

PBS Kids offers up an activity to turn transparent plastic cups into bright, hanging votive holders. All you need is a variety of permanent markers, some twine, and a battery-powered votive light to bring the contraption to life.

Encourage young artists to get creative with shapes and colors as they doodle decorations all over their cups. Then help them safely create a handle with string or twine. Finally, look for a perfect place to hang these lanterns so you can see their soft glow at night. PBS even suggests taking the completed lanterns along on an outdoor adventure to find fireflies.

Celebrate Fall with a Glass Jar Lantern

This fall-themed kids’ lanterns activity from Tinkergarten also sources materials crafty parents have lying around the house:


  • Any jar with a screw-top lid
  • Tissue paper
  • School glue
  • Water
  • String

Applying the tissue paper to the outside of the jars helps kids practice their fine motor skills. It also helps kiddos learn to focus, as sometimes working with craft materials requires a lot of patience and perseverance. Young artists can employ loads of creativity here; whether they decide to create a lantern displaying traditional autumn colors or think outside the box with other bright hues.

What makes a fun afternoon of crafting even sweeter is taking those completed lanterns on a nature walk through your yard or neighborhood when the sun goes down.

Create a Chinese Paper Lantern

Lanterns can be a wonderful way to teach children about other cultures and traditions, as exemplified by these Chinese Paper Lanterns. With some sheets of colored paper, a pair of scissors and glue, it’s possible to help young crafters create vibrant lanterns, perfect for adorning a table or hanging in a row on a string. This activity works well with a variety of different paper sizes and textures, so play around with it to find what works for your kids.

As one teacher adds for Scholastic, making paper lanterns goes hand in hand with learning more about the Chinese Lunar New Year. Bringing cultural lessons to life with a hands-on crafting component helps many children conceptualize what they’re learning and become excited about taking part in tradition.

These lantern activities for kids are creative, practical and fun for the whole family. Everyone will have a great time making their own one-of-a-kind lantern — whether you use plastic cups, paper cutouts or glass jars — and they’ll enjoy seeing the lamps lighting up the night as well.

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