Chinese Paper Lanterns

Chinese New Year is the perfect time to see lanterns on display and to make your own paper lantern.  The traditional Chinese lantern parades take place on the 15th day after Chinese New Year.

Here is a plan for making a lantern that can be hung on a string or stick, but doesn’t require a candle.  The yellow paper represents a glowing candle.


1 sheet 11 x 17″ yellow paper

1 sheet 11 x 17″ red paper  (For added effect you could sponge paint, dribble, brush or splash gold paint onto the red paper.)

Child’s scissors  (Straight or – as used here – pinking style.)

String (to hold the lantern up.  Yarn works well.) Or stick.

Tassels or strips of attractive paper that can make paper tassels (A recycled UNICEF card was used in this example.)


Glue stick

Gold ribbon. (Enough to go around the top and bottom edge of the lantern. (Approximately 26″)

Extra decorative paper to make paper tassels and a handle.

A short piece of gold ribbon to hang a paper tassel.

Hole punch.


This method has been written with young children in mind.  Older children can be more independent.  All comments represent what the child does.  An asterix will be in front of tasks done by the adult.

Left: Checking out the shadows on the paper.
Right: Gluing the paper and pressing the seam together.

Making the Yellow Cylinder

* If the paper is larger than 11 x 17″ you can leave the short end of the paper longer.  EG 12 x 17″   However, you will need to cut the yellow paper to a length of 15″.

* Help your child to measure the 15″ mark.

Draw a line at the 15″ mark.

Cut the paper along the line.  If your child is relatively inexperienced cutting on paper, you can give a reminder how to hold the scissors and that the nose needs to hover over the line while cutting.  The ideal way to hold scissors is to use the second finger to guide the scissors and place the third finger in the second hole.

Apply a generous run of glue on the full length  of one of the 11″ edges.

Bring the ends together and place the cylinder on the table.

Press down on the inside to seal the glue together.

Making the Red Lantern

Fold one edge of the long, 17″ side of the red paper to meet the other edge.

Press down the seam.  The folded paper should be taller than the yellow cylinder.

* Draw a line along the edge of the long, open side of the folded paper, one inch from the edge. Help your child to measure and draw lines two inches apart from the folded edge to the drawn line.  (See photograph above.) If your child is capable cutting on the lines, you can draw the lines one inch apart and have your child cut on each line. If your child is older, the lines can be half an inch apart.   This pattern was designed for three year olds who are perfecting the ability to cut on a line.  The cut lines should start at the edge of the fold and end one inch from the open end of the folded paper.

Start cutting along the lines.

* Help your child to stop if it looks like the scissors will snip through the edge of the fold.  If they do, you can tape the paper together on the other side. When your child has finished cutting all of the lines, draw a further set of lines in between each cut.  This will create cut bands that are one inch wide.  Cut these lines for your child.

Open up the cut folds and wrap the cut red paper around the yellow cylinder.  There should be a set of vertical bands going around the cylinder.  (See first photograph above.)

Ask your child to help tape the paper in place so that the amount of yellow paper showing will be covered by your gold ribbon.

Left: A paper tassel is attached to a strip of paper on the lower inside.
Top right: The handle on the lantern. Bottom right:  Attaching the gold ribbon.

* If you have tassels, you can add them to the bottom rim of the lantern or on either side of the lantern.

* If you don’t have tassels, you can create paper tassels using cut paper. In the sample above a hole is punched in the top of two rectangular pieces of cut paper.  The decorated side of the paper is facing outward for both paper tassels.  A gold cord was knotted to the top of the papers, through the hole. The cord is attached to a thin, rectangular piece of paper that is taped on either side of the lower inside portion of the lantern.

Another rectangular piece of paper, with short sections at either end bent under,  is taped to either side of the top inside of the lantern to create a handle.

Have you made a paper lantern at your home? If you have a photo on Twitpic, Flickr, your blog or a public photo page, you could share a link in the comment section below. You can comment about this posting using the comment function below or by visiting the BC Family Facebook page. Your opinion matters so don’t be shy!


If you would like to see a video of how this type of lantern is made, along with further decorative enhancements that take the lantern to a whole different level, check out Martha Stewart’s How To video.

If you’re looking for other paper lantern projects, check out the many examples available online.  The following video shows how you can make a flower lantern from lucky money packets that you might have received during the Chinese New Year holiday. You can also buy them in stores that sell supplies for Chinese holidays.

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