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Make recycled tin can lanterns

recycled tin can lanterns.

What’s the idea?

Make these recycled tin can lanterns to brighten up your dining table, patio or garden at night.

What’s the story?

Recycled tin can lanterns are great for decorating around the house or the garden (hello cubby house décor!),

They are also perfect as homemade gifts as they can be painted in any colour, and you can play with lantern pattern ideas.

Once they’re complete, pop a tealight candle inside and see how the drilled patterns glow with light.

You could also try citronella candles to keep the bugs at bay. 

People should do this because…?

This activity is also a great opportunity to upcycle empty tin cans from the recycling bin, teaching children how items can have multiple uses.

If you enjoy making decorations out of recycled items then why not also try making your own wind spinner too.

Whether for keeping for yourself or gifting to your loved ones, older kids will love the opportunity to use ‘grown-up’ tools to create designs for themselves (adult supervision is always advised when using power tools).

How do you do it?


  1. Ensure tin cans are clean, dry, and all labels are removed.
  2. Fill the cans with water and freeze overnight so they are solid and safer to punch through.
  3. On a small piece of paper, sketch a simple pattern for transferring onto the can (think hearts, stars, letters). You can find patterns online too.
  4. Mark dots along the line of each pattern for piercing.

Punching the holes

  1. Use masking or painters’ tape to secure the pattern onto the front of the can.
  2. Support the can on a towel to avoid it moving and lie the tin can on its side.
  3. Wearing gloves use a hammer and a large nail to carefully punch through the dots marked on the secured paper (adult supervision may be required).

Hanging lanterns

  1. If you want to hang your lanterns up make a hole on either side of the top of the can, to thread the handle through.
  2. Measure and cut a length of jewellery wire for the handle, including extra length for the wire to be tied off once attached.
  3. Thread the wire through the two holes on either side of the can.
  4. Wrap the excess ends around the handle to secure the wire.
  5. Once you are happy with your design and have finished punching holes, empty the can of the frozen water.

Final steps and safety

  1. If you want your lanterns to be coloured then paint the outside of the cans in whatever colour (or a mix of colours!) you desire.
  2. If planning on using the lanterns outdoors, you may prefer to use outdoor-appropriate paint. Ensure the paint is fireproof.
  3. Add a tealight candle inside the cans and enjoy the pattern of light glowing through your finished lantern.
  4. NOTE: if using real candles, ensure lit lanterns are kept out of reach of small children as they can get hot. Avoid flammable materials or surfaces too. We suggest putting them on a saucer if not hanging them up. If concerned, opt for battery-powered candles instead.

Stuff you may need

  • Clean tin cans
  • Acrylic paint
  • Hammer
  • Large nail
  • Masking or painters’ tape
  • Jewellery wire
  • Tealight candles (real or battery-operated)

Links to other stuffer pages

Make a wind spinner for summer solstice

Make your own ice cube coloured chalk

Links to other articles on the web

Homemade Gifts – Tin Can Lanterns

Links to other videos on the web


Links to books

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