Make A DIY Kids Lantern Craft (From Recycled Supplies!)

As the sun sets on warm, golden afternoons and the fireflies begin their enchanting dance, there’s a certain magic that fills the air. In the spirit of nostalgic summer evenings and the allure of vintage camp-inspired adventures, we invite you to create a delightful DIY lantern craft with your little ones, using simple, recycled supplies like peanut butter jars and plastic bowls.

Ahh, summer nights….don’t ever end! I’m already getting nostalgic over our long summer nights fading into fall, making way for chilly autumn mornings. The hum of cicadas and heavy, slow air make it hard to leave the porch at night. I just want to sit still and soak it all in, which is how I spent my Sunday night putting together this cool flameless DIY lantern.

Our DIY flameless camp lantern sitting in front of a peach-colored backdrop

A little nod to summer camp days gone by, this functional DIY lantern craft is a super cute upcycled project & kids’ art activity all rolled into one! It’s useful, made from simple recycled items, is kid-safe, and glows with timeless charm (all of my favorite things).

Our lit DIY lantern hanging in a flower bed at night.

And unlike most paper lantern kids crafts, it’s waterproof (perfect for a diy garden decoration)! If you have a peanut butter jar and a ¬†disposable plastic (or paper) bowl you can make this recycled lantern too!

Watch our kids’ lantern craft DIY video tutorial

This heartwarming project not only sparks creativity and fosters cherished memories but also teaches the importance of sustainability and embracing the beauty of repurposing everyday items. So, gather the kids around the kitchen table, and try making your own handcrafted lanterns.

For a fall twist on easy lanterns, visit our black cat paper bag lanterns for a festive set of DIY paper luminaries that are the purr-fect front porch decor for trick-or-treat.

To make your own recycled DIY kids lantern, you’ll need:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains either our own printable products, or Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*

BASIC SUPPLIES:

  • 1 Plastic peanut butter jar (with lid). I used a 40 oz. jar to make a larger lantern, but any size will work.
  • A plastic bowl (paper if you prefer)
  • Scissors
  • 14″ (roughly) piece of 1/4″ cotton rope, wide ribbon, or similar (I used this kind)
  • A flameless tea light (like this) or glow stick
  • A small velcro dot (like this)

FOR THE INNER LINER:

  • Craft or spray paint (make sure it’s a paint that sticks to plastic – I used this water-based, low odor spray paint that holds up outdoors (and is formulated with kid-use in mind!)
  • Colorful tissue paper
  • A large piece of wax or parchment paper (for a large peanut butter jar I used 11″ x 6.25″)
  • A glue stick
A peanut butter jar and plastic bowl sitting on a light blue background

How to make a Kids Lantern Craft from Recycled Supplies – DIY Instructions:

DIY lantern kids craft video preview

Light up your child’s imagination with our DIY kids’ lantern craft using everyday recycled supplies like peanut butter jars and plastic bowls. This step-by-step tutorial offers a fun and eco-friendly project that’s a perfect kids’ camp craft or quality family time activity.

Paint a plastic bowl and peanut butter jar lid.

DIY camp lantern instructions

To prep, you can paint your plastic bowl and peanut butter jar lid a fun color, as we did. Let dry thoroughly and set to the side.

I used spray paint to coat the plastic bowl and lid simply because it was FAST, easy, and waterproof, but your kids can use paints and a paintbrush to decorate their own.

Cut a hole through the bottom of a clear plastic peanut butter jar and thread it with cotton roping or ribbon.

DIY camp lantern instructions

Cut a small (1/4″) hole in the center of the bottom of the peanut butter jar. This is actually going to turn into the top of your lantern. Tie a knot at each end of your cotton roping or wide ribbon. Starting from the inside of your jar, push the center of your rope through the hole. From the outside, pull the center out and pull up to create a handle.

Cut a hole in the bottom of the plastic bowl and thread the roping through to create a cover for the top of the lantern.

DIY camp lantern instructions

Cut a small hole in the center of the bottom of your plastic bowl. With your bowl bottom-side up, push the handle up through the hole and pull the bull down so it covers your peanut butter jar – now your lantern has a cover!

Just a note: I cut off the lip of my plastic bowl to make it look more like an actual lantern cover – you may not need or want to do this, depending on the kind of bowl you use. If the cut plastic has left a sharp edge, you can sand it down with a small piece of sandpaper or steel wool to make it extra smooth for small fingers.

Add a small square of velcro to the inside of the peanut butter jar lid to keep your flameless tea light in place.

Recycle a peanut butter jar and plastic bowl to create this lovely colorful camp lantern. It lights without a flame, is super-safe for kiddos, perfect for summer nights and a DIY + kids art project all rolled into one!

Grab the lid of your jar and a flameless tea light. Put one side of a velcro dot on the bottom of your flameless light and the other in the middle of your jar lid. Now when you want to light up your lantern, you can turn your lea light on, stick it to velcro, screw the lid onto the bottom of your lantern, and you’re ready to roll!

At this point, your lantern is ready to use, but we wanted the inside to light up with bright and colorful patterns, so we went ahead with a few extra steps…

Fold a large square of parchment paper in half to line the inside of your lantern.

old a large square of parchment paper in half to line the inside of your lantern

To create the colorful liner, I started by doubling up a piece of parchment paper (2 layers make it a little stiffer so it will hold its shape in the jar and stand up straight). Measure the height and lid diameter of your peanut butter jar and cut your parchment paper so it will fit inside.

Cut or tear pieces of colorful tissue paper to decorate your liner.

Cut our tear pieces of tissue paper to decorate the liner of your DIY lantern.

Once your parchment paper has been cut to size, start cutting tissue paper into fun shapes – they can be geometric, organic – anything you prefer! You could also use stamps, draw with crayons, and decorate with stickers. or glue on leaves to decorate your liner.

Glue the tissue pieces to the parchment to create a fun composition.

Glue the tissue pieces to the parchment to create a fun composition

Use a glue stick to glue the pieces of tissue paper onto the liner. You can create a colorful liner using abstract shapes as we did, or keep reading below for more liner decoration ideas!

Roll the liner up and slide it into your peanut butter jar.

Roll your liner up and slide it into your peanut butter jar lantern

Roll the parchment liner up and slide it into your peanut butter jar when you’ve finished. Screw the lid on, and you’re all set!

For more artistic interest, you could use a hot glue gun to add other decorative craft supplies to the outside of your DIY lantern. I’m a less-is-more kind of person, so I stopped at the liner.

I love that we were able to create a fully functional DIY camping accessory from supplies that won’t break the bank and were mostly saved from the recycling bin! I can see a whole set of these being hung up in a children’s garden – their little LED tea lights lighting up the rock-lined garden path at night.

Eight ways for your kids to decorate their flameless DIY camp lantern…

The bright, bold shapes on our lantern create a colorful glow, but there are also so many ways you could decorate this to reflect YOU and your favorite things. Here are a few more ideas for decorating your parchment paper liner…

  1. Lay the parchment paper over gathered leaves and use crayons, oil pastels, or charcoal to create beautiful leaf rubbings. Cut to size and insert it into your handmade camp lantern just as we did!
  2. Cut out simple tree shapes from paper and use a glue stick to glue them to the bottom of your piece of parchment paper. When you turn your lantern on, you’ll see a beautiful forest in silhouette!
  3. Use paint to make nice big strokes and swashes of all different colors on your parchment paper.
  4. Use stamps or stickers to decorate your parchment paper liner.
  5. Spell out your name in big paper letters that wrap all the way around your flameless lantern.
  6. Use our hammered nature process art as inspiration and smash some natural flower patterns onto the paper liner.
  7. Paint the outside with DIY sidewalk paint. Because the paint is washable, you can wash off the chalk paint and give your DIY lantern a new look anytime you like with one quick rinse!
  8. Use these same instructions with a baby food jar to make a smaller-scale fairy lantern for a bit of nighttime summer magic.
our DIY lantern kids craft lit up and sitting outside on a table

Perfect occasions for our kids’ lantern craft

  • Outdoor kids’ parties and other summer festivities: Our DIY lantern craft makes an easy kids’ party craft they can take home as a functional party favor. It also provides a charming and eco-friendly lighting solution for outdoor get-togethers, enhancing the atmosphere of any summer celebration. Pair them with our spark-free paper sparklers for an extra festive feel!
  • Camping with kids: Crafting lanterns with your kids for camping trips creates an engaging bonding activity and provides a practical, personalized touch to illuminate the campsite.
  • Fall afterschool programs: Introducing DIY lanterns in fall afterschool programs promotes creativity and resourcefulness while offering a unique opportunity for children to collaborate on a cozy seasonal project to help kids prep for shorter nights.
  • Summer camp craft: As a fun and easy-to-make summer camp lantern craft, this project encourages campers to explore their artistic skills and develop a greater appreciation for nature. The cool vintage camp aesthetic makes these little lanterns a camp craft to save!
  • Fairy gardens and fairy parties: Incorporating kid-sized DIY lanterns into a fairy garden creates a whimsical and enchanting environment, elevating the magical allure of these miniature landscapes.
  • Evening nature walks: Using a handcrafted lantern during evening nature walks adds a sense of adventure and excitement, making the experience even more memorable for participants.
  • Indoor camping and sleepovers: These lovely little lanterns offer a creative way to transform indoor spaces, setting the stage for cozy camping-inspired sleepovers or simply adding a touch of warmth to any gathering. They’re also a great sleepover craft kids can make as a party activity.
  • First or last week of school: Celebrating the beginning or end of the school year with a handmade lantern fosters a sense of community and accomplishment and provides students with a functional, tangible memento to commemorate their academic journey.
Our lit DIY lantern hanging in a flower bed at night.

This sweet little summer craft is a total winner for camp group activities, art classes, or a kids’ party – it even made this awesome list of DIY camping craft ideas from The Spruce Crafts (also our own list of over 100 summer outdoor play ideas for kids!).

For more incredibly fun recycled summer kids’ crafts, try making a DIY nature explorer kit from a shoebox! Or turn a cardboard box and takeout container into a colorful upcycled bug observation box.


*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Blick Art Materials, Amazon, Etsy, or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!

Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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