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Colourful candle lanterns spread out.

How to Make Paper Lanterns for Kids

Making paper lanterns is a fun craft project for kids - you'll get a bit of mess, but great decorations! Click here to find out how to make paper lanterns.

There’s a reason that kids like messy play. It’s because it teaches them lots of new skills, so have a go at making paper lanterns with your kids! The Dirt Required series of blog posts share fun activities from around the world that will help your child express themselves and develop self-confidence. Experiencing messy play activities from different countries is not only beneficial for child development but also enriches their understanding of other cultures. Don't forget to check out the other blogs in the series that tell the story of messy play activities here!

What is a Junina lantern?

Junina celebrations take place in Brazil throughout the whole of June and no celebration is complete without a lantern or two. It’s the same celebration that is sometimes known as St John’s Eve in other countries and started in Brazil during the colonial era.

Today it’s more an occasion to light a bonfire, square dance to folk music, dress in fun country-style outfits (often outfits include a straw hat, pig tails, check shirts and gingham), and set off fire balloons into the sky. It’s a festival that kids really love. And a proper Junina feast needs proper decorations. So why not let the little ones give you a hand making paper lanterns?  

There’s lots to learn through making paper lanterns

Our Junina paper lanterns are great for children between 3 and 9 years old and you’ll find it’s the perfect recipe for fun and learning. Your child will get to stretch their imagination when planning the design of their lanterns. It requires good judgement skills to measure the strips for cutting and to make the lantern handle. They’ll also need good manual skills to paint and decorate the finished paper lanterns.

Why not talk to your child about the Junina festival while you’re making the lanterns? You could even set them the task to do some research of their own by asking friends and family.  

Ingredients: everything you need for lantern making for kids

Before you start lantern making, remember that the secret to a really successful messy play project is to let your little one know that it’s okay to make a mess and express themselves. So the key ingredient is the creative mind of your child and lots of paint glue and glitter. You need:

  • Cardboard or paper card (if it’s brightly coloured even better)

  • Scissors (you’ll need to supervise your little one with these!)

  • A ruler

  • A pencil

  • Coloured pens, paint, glue, glitter, stickers – anything bright that your child can use to decorate the lanterns

  • A piece of ribbon or string

  • Sticky tape

How to make a paper lantern

First some planning and designing.

  • Your child can make their paper lanterns as big or as small as they like

  • For a larger lantern consider card that’s 30cm by 40cm. A small lantern could be made from card that’s 15cm by 25cm

  • Get your child to think about how many lanterns they want to make. One big one is fine, but they might want to make a few smaller ones then hang them on a piece of ribbon or string from one side of the room to the other

  • Once you have card the right size, fold it in half and then use the ruler and pencil to draw parallel lines from the fold to the edge of the card, stopping about 3cm from the edge

  • Once you have pencil lines right across your piece of card, cut from the folded centre to the pencil line you’ve marked. This is a job you can let older children do for themselves. It will build confidence in their own judgement

  • You also need to make a handle for the lantern by simply cutting a long strip of paper or card

  Next, it’s time to decorate the paper lanterns for kids.

  • Open out the piece of card and place it flat on the table

  • Time to get messy! Encourage your little one to decorate with pens, paint, glue and glitter or stickers. The brighter the better. (Don’t worry if there are splashes and spills – we’ve got some tips for dealing with stains at the bottom of this blog post.)

  • Once your child is happy with the decoration leave it to dry

  Assembly time. Putting the paper lanterns together is easy.

  • Roll the piece of card into a tube (making sure the decorated side is facing outwards)

  • Use sticky tape to hold the edges of the tube together. It might be a bit tricky for smaller children to do this without a bit of help from you

  • Now attach the handle at the top with a bit more sticky tape

  • If you’ve just made one big lantern, time to put it in a place where everyone can see and admire it – perhaps at the centre of the table

  • If you’re making a string of paper lanterns, repeat the process until you’ve got as many as you need and then hang them on a piece of ribbon or string. They’ll look great over doorways or suspended from the ceiling

You’ll know the job is finished when you’ve got a happy smiling child, a bit of glue and glitter on the table and a beautiful paper lantern to share with friends and family. And don’t worry too much if during the sticking part your child gets some glue (fish or animal based) on their clothes, as this should come out with cold water, followed by washing with your favourite OMO detergent. Just check the label for care details of the stained garment before cleaning the stain. There are lots more stain removal tips here.