DIY lanterns arranged on table

How to Create a Hanging DIY Lantern (& Ideas for a Candlelit Nature Walk)

Create a beautiful hanging DIY lantern with glass jars and go for a candlelit nature walk with family & friends. Project and post is from The UnPlugged Family Activity Book by Rachel Jepson Wolf.

Family standing with DIY lanterns on candlelit nature walk.

Summer’s all right, but I look forward to the first signs of fall like nothing else. The quiet, imperceptible shift from the sweaty days of summer into the cooler autumn sort is the stuff of my dreams. Bring on the wool sweaters, hot cider, and campfires! This gal’s all in.

Fall is also my favorite time of year to head outside with my kids for some unplugged, creative fun. Whether we’re building forts or fairy houses in the woods, dipping autumn leaves in sweetly-scented beeswax, or watercolor painting under a crimson tree, the outdoors beacon to us all autumn long.

As the days grow short this season, head out on an evening lantern walk. Enjoyed in autumn, it’s a wonderful way to bring light to the darkness while celebrating the changing season with family and friends. And if you’d like a printable version of this activity, scroll down to the bottom of this post to get a PDF version.

Create your own decorative glass lantern.
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These decorative DIY lanterns are easy to make, even for young children (with a bit of help). And the magic of a candle-lit lantern walk is something that no child (or grown-up!) will soon forget. (See lantern walk safety notes, below.) 

Ready to craft your own? Then gather your supplies, and let’s head outside to make a little fall magic.

And don’t miss entering to win a copy of my new book, The Unplugged Family Activity Book. Head to The Artful Parent Instagram and Facebook accounts to enter!

Child holding a glass lantern on a stick

DIY Lantern and Candlelit Lantern Walk

Click here for the free downloadable printable of these instructions!

DECORATIVE LANTERN SUPPLIES:

  • Drop cloths or newsprint
  • Upcycled, sturdy glass jar (half-pint, pint-, or quart-size, or 235, 473, or 946 ml jars work well)
  • Colorful translucent paper, kite paper works best (see the Resources section, page 137, for where to buy), or use colored tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Mod Podge craft glue or diluted white glue (2 parts glue to 1 part water)
  • Small disposable bowl for the glue (the lid from one of your jars would be perfect)
  • 1/2 to 1-inch (1 to 2.5 cm)-wide craft paintbrush
  • Wire cutters
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Flexible wire

LANTERN WALK SUPPLIES:

  • 1 lantern per person
  • Sturdy forked sticks to hold the lanterns (optional)
  • Candles or battery-powered candles
  • Poster putty or double-sided craft adhesive (optional)
  • Matches
DIY lanterns on table

INSTRUCTIONS

Part 1: Make your own DIY lantern

  1. Cover your table with a drop cloth or a few layers of newsprint.
  2. If necessary, remove the label and any adhesive from your jars (lavender or sweet orange essential oil work well for this). Let the jars dry.
  3. Prepare your kite paper: Cut it into simple shapes like stars, circles, and triangles or tear or cut your paper into 1/2 to 11/2-inch (1 to 3.8 cm) strips.
  4. Pour a bit of Mod Podge into your bowl and using your paintbrush, coat the outside of the jar with a thin layer of Mod Podge.
  5. Place overlapping kite paper shapes onto your jar, pressing gently to adhere. Use your brush (dipped in Mod Podge) to smooth the paper and reduce wrinkles.
  6. Continue placing shapes all around your jar. Let dry.
  7. After the Mod Podge has dried, add a second layer to the outside to seal and protect the paper.
  8. There is no right or wrong way to attach your wire handle, as long as your method creates a 10-inch (25 cm) or longer wire loop to carry from and is secure. I have outlined my favorite method here, if you’re looking for a bit more guidance.
  9. Cut one 18 to 24-inch (46 to 60 cm) length of wire. Using a pair of pliers, bend a hook on one end of your wire. Wrap this end of the wire around the jar neck until it makes a complete circle, overlapping another section of your wire loop. Pass the hook over the overlapping wire and pinch closed with pliers to secure.
  10. Bend a 90-degree angle into your wire just above the point where the hook has been secured. Using your pliers, create another hook at the remaining unattached end of your wire. Bring the long wire tail up and over the neck of your jar and secure on the opposite side of the jar by pinching the second hook closed.
  11. Tighten the wire around the neck, if needed, by bending several S curves into the wire that encircles the jar neck.
Family walking with DIY lanterns

Part 2: Take a lantern walk

Enjoy a peaceful lantern walk with your family on a dark, autumn night. What a magical way to celebrate the turning of the year!

  1. Around sunset, gather with friends or family for a quiet, candle-lit walk around your neighborhood or a local park. If you have access to a safe place that lacks streetlights, all the better. (Though even under streetlights, the lanterns are a beautiful sight.)
  2. Place a candle in the bottom of each lantern, securing it with poster putty or double-sided craft adhesive, if desired, to prevent slipping. Carefully light the candles.
  3. Suspend each lantern from a sturdy, forked stick (if desired), holding the stick at an upward angle to prevent the lantern from falling. Or, carry your lantern by hand, using the attached wire loop as a handle.
  4. Gather in a circle to take in the beauty of the lanterns as they light the darkness. Then, set off on a peaceful walk around the block or the park.
  5. When you return to your starting point, circle up once more before extinguishing your lights and returning home.
Decorative DIY glass lanterns standing on table

INDOOR ALTERNATIVE

If you prefer to celebrate indoors, omit the handles on your lanterns and arrange them safely in your home. Turn off the electric lights and quietly gather with family or friends for a candle-lit evening indoors.

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

Setting a calm, peaceful tone for your candle-lit walk is a must. Walking slowly and being respectful of one another is required of all who participate. The children I have taken on candle-lit walks love the responsibility of carefully transporting a candle in the darkness, but if you feel your family would do best with electronic candles, use them instead. If using real candles, teach the children on your walk how to hold the candle carefully, away from hair, clothing, and other participants. Young children can help an adult, carrying one lantern together.

Click the image above to download your free printable version of these instructions!

And don’t forget to check out Rachel’s book for other creative and unplugged ideas for your family!

The project above is an excerpt from The Unplugged Family Activity Book. Copyright © 2020 by Rachel Jepson Wolf. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Fair Winds Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group, Beverly, MA.

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How to Create a Hanging DIY Lantern (& Ideas for a Candlelit Nature Walk)

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Caroline McDonald
    October 21, 2020 at 11:18 am

    We make these at preschool but use clear plastic cups with battery operated candles for safety with the littles !

    • Reply
      Rachel Withers
      October 28, 2020 at 8:40 am

      That’s wonderful! I bet the kids love it. :)

  • Reply
    Helen Sanford
    October 22, 2020 at 9:15 pm

    good evening
    I think this idea looks wonderful and I am wondering if it is ok to add the directions to our church kits
    we are, monthly, putting together bible verses, ideas of things to do that go with the verses etc. This would be a
    great addition
    thank you in advance for your consideration
    helen

    • Reply
      Rachel Withers
      October 28, 2020 at 8:43 am

      Hi Helen,

      We’re so glad you like them! I’m sending you an email now.

      Thank you,
      Rachel

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