How to Create a Paper Lantern and Explore By Night With Your Kids

Do your kids love to create things that glow?

Are you looking for a fun nighttime activity that will get them outside and moving?

Now you can share a lamp-lit evening stroll with your kids, visiting neighbors and connecting with nature, using a lantern they made themselves.

It’s old-fashioned fun with a colorful twist.

In this article, I’ll show you how to create a lantern out of nothing more than tissue paper, a balloon and glue. Your kids will welcome the night toting their very own light.

Paper lantern - create a lantern out of nothing more than tissue paper, a balloon and glue. Your kids will welcome the night toting their very own light.

Why an Evening Paper Lantern Walk?

Tissue paper lanterns create the opportunity to bring a little beautiful light into your world.

As the day winds down, an evening stroll is a great way to connect with your kids. You can talk and share time together without all of the distractions found at home and reconnect with your neighborhood—the people and animals who share your world. It’s a special way to bring the day to a close together.

But how do you tear them (and maybe you, too) away from all the enticing indoor diversions that keep them firmly planted in front of a glowing screen?

This project can help. These lanterns give off another kind of glow altogether, one that you’ll be pleased has captured their attention.

Kids love things that light up and glow. When you create tissue-paper lanterns, the kids will be eager to go outside and light the way. As the nights get longer, they won’t have to wait until near or after bedtime to see them glow.

This adventure is done in two parts on two different days for twice the family fun.

First, you’ll create a tissue-paper lantern. This is a simple and creative activity the entire family can do together regardless of their ages. In my family, making our lanterns has become a fun family tradition. We customize them for the current season or holiday and take a few moments to plan our very special evening walk together.

glowing lantern

Anyone can make these simple lanterns to light the way during a family stroll.

On another day, after they’ve had time to dry, you light the lanterns and tour through your neighborhood together. With these colorful lamps to lead your way, friends and neighbors will all stop to chat and ask about them. It’s a nice way to connect with your community (and show off your kids’ artistic talents!).

You Will Need

  • Tissue paper in assorted colors and patterns
  • Medium- to large-sized round party balloons
  • Bowl to rest balloon in
  • 1 inch (2.5 cm) bristle or sponge paintbrush, one for each person
  • White glue
  • 8 oz. (250 ml) plastic cups
  • Coffee filters
  • Clothespins or twine
  • Single-hole paper punch
  • Thick yarn
  • 1 tree branch stick ~2 ft. (61 cm) long per lantern
  • 2 LED tealights per lantern

Preparation Time

  • 1 hour to create
  • 2 days for the lanterns to dry

Activity Time

Evening walk: a half hour or as long as you’d like

Location

Your house, neighborhood or anywhere in your community

Gather these simple materials. You can choose tissue paper in any color or pattern.

lantern supplies

Gather supplies and cut tissue paper into small, manageable blocks.

Let’s get started. If you have ever done decoupage, then you’re already familiar with the process.

#1: Prepare Your Materials

Cut the tissue paper into large squares and rectangles. This makes it easier for little hands to work with and easier to curve the pieces around the balloon without too many wrinkles.

Empty 1/4 bottle of glue into each plastic cup. Stir in a tablespoon of water and mix well. Continue to add little drops of water until the glue is thin enough to spread with the paintbrush.

Blow up your balloon to a large size. Find a bowl that’s the right size to hold it upright.

With your paintbrush, dab a large area of glue onto the bottom of the balloon.

glue on balloon

Start with a thick layer of glue on the bottom of the balloon.

#2: Build a Coffee Filter Foundation

Place a coffee filter on top of the glue and flatten into place. Brush glue on top of the entire filter, saturating the paper. Make sure to cover the edges with glue.

coffee filter on balloon

Place a coffee filter on the bottom to add strength.

The coffee filter will create a solid and strong base for our final product since it’s thicker than the tissue paper alone.

Place a piece of tissue paper on top of the filter. Brush glue over entire piece of tissue paper, saturating it and covering the edges as you did with the filter.

#3: Cover Your Balloon

Continue to brush a section of the balloon with glue, add tissue paper (smoothing out the wrinkles as much as possible) and coat the paper with glue until the bottom of the balloon is covered.

making lantern

Overlap the edges of the paper as you cover the balloon.

Alternate colors to give it a fun and festive look and be sure to overlap the edges of each piece of tissue (otherwise, they won’t be connected).

painting the glue on balloon

Paint the glue on carefully to avoid tearing the wet tissue paper.

As you apply the squares, use slow, steady strokes to brush glue over entire sheets of tissue paper. The wet paper is delicate. If you go too fast, you may tear holes in your lantern.

balloon in bowl

Place your balloon in a soup or cereal bowl while you’re working on it to help keep the balloon from rolling around.

Continue to add and glue tissue paper up the sides until 3/4 of the balloon is covered.

Keep the top portion of the balloon (near the knot) free from glue and tissue paper so you can get your LED candle inside.

#4: Hang Your Creation Up to Dry

Once you’ve finished gluing and papering your balloon, take a clothespin or piece of string and pin the balloon to a hanger by its knot.

attach balloon to hanger

Attach your balloon to a hanger with a clothespin or twine.

Use a clothesline, shower rod, hook or chandelier to hang your balloon up to dry.

It may take several days for your creation to completely dry. If you’re drying your balloon indoors it will sometimes dry faster (if the room is warm) and be ready overnight.

lantern drying

Hang your creation up to dry. It may take a few days.

When the balloon starts to shrink, the lantern may fall off. You’ll know it’s dry when this happens.

Check after two days to see if your lantern is dry. If it is, and the lantern is still attached to the balloon, cut the top of the balloon off, deflate it and peel it out of the lantern.

dried lantern

The lantern may wrinkle as the balloon shrivels. You can fix it when it’s dry.

When the lantern comes off of the balloon, it will be a little bit dented. It’s perfectly okay to gently pop out and smooth over the dents.

#5: Add a Handle

Your next step would be to cut four pieces of yarn that are each 30 inches (75 cm) long.

measuring yarn

Make sure the four pieces of yarn are of equal length or your lantern will hang crookedly.

Using your single-hole punch, punch four holes at the rim of your lantern; one hole in the middle of each side of the rim.

Thread the yarn through the hole and then bring it up and over to match up with the other end. Do this on all four lantern holes.

add handles to lantern

Add handles to your lantern.

Gather up all of the yarn ends, lift them up and hold them over the lantern. Tie a big loop knot. It will look a lot like a colorful little basket!

#6: Take an Evening Lantern Walk

As the sun sets, prepare your lantern for a neighborhood walk. Turn on the LED tealights and place them in the bottom of your lantern.

led tealights for lantern

Be sure to use LED tealights, not flame-burning candles.

Grab a stick and slide it under the knotted handles of your lantern. Be careful not to poke someone or bang the walls and furniture as you make your way outside and into the night.

adding tealights to lantern

Two candles per lantern give a perfect amount of glow.

To add a fun and festive twist, we often bake a batch of pumpkin or banana bread in small loaves and deliver them to neighbors as we walk and explore our neighborhood by lantern light.

visiting neighbors with lanterns

Connect with neighbors and surprise them with some tasty fall treats delivered by lantern-light.

It’s also fun to listen for night sounds and look for nighttime animals.

kids with lanterns at night

The lanterns are colorful at sunset.

Since your lanterns eliminate the heavy glare of a flashlight, you’re more likely to see small nighttime creatures and hear sounds of happy frogs and singing crickets.

kids walking with lanterns

The lanterns glow and give the perfect amount of light to explore nature after dark.

Final Words

Enjoy this time of togetherness with your family as you step out into the darkness of the evening with your lanterns shining so bright. We always have a great time making our lanterns and just as much fun as we walk through our neighborhood showing our beautiful creations.

exploring with lantern

Enjoy exploring your neighborhood by lamplight together.

What do you think? Have you had any fun nighttime experiences with your kids? We’d love to hear what you’ve been up to. Don’t forget to share your fun family lantern walk experiences in the comments below. Photos welcome!

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About the Author, Valarie Budayr

Valarie Budayr is a children’s book author, publisher, and advocate who is committed to instilling the love of reading and play in children. You can connect with Valarie at Jump Into A Book. Other posts by »


  • EmilyQuestions

    I love this idea! Thinking of making these for my next holiday/party event!

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks, Valarie! These are so pretty. What a great way to get outside and connect with the neighbors.

  • Valarie Budayr

    That’s a great idea !! Be sure to share some photos. Enjoy.

  • Valarie Budayr

    Thanks Jennifer. We had a great time doing this.

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