Tin Can Lantern Activity

3.1 based on 7 ratings
Updated on Jun 19, 2013

Kids love candles, whether they’re perched on cake tops or on elaborate holders.  But in our gadget-happy age, it can be easy to forget that in the “olden” days, those candles were the only source of light around!

Here’s a craft that supports this kind of social studies learning. It also happens to reuse household materials and create a very attractive table piece, or camping lantern. And did we mention it’s more or less free? Read on!

What You Need:

  • Clean, dry tin can
  • Hammer
  • Nail
  • Wire clothes hanger
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Wire cutter
  • Small votive-sized candle

What You Do:

  1. Fill the tin can with water, and place it in the freezer until the water is frozen solid.
  2. Take a wide-headed nail (roofing nails work great), and pound it into the side of the tin can until it pierces the metal. (The ice will keep the can surface firm as you pound!)  Keep piercing the metal to make any design you like—a star, perhaps, or a moon, or creative sun. When you’re done, make two more extra holes across from one another near the very top of the can—these will be for your handle.
  3. By now, your block of ice will be melting. Dump it out, and you’ll see that you’ve got a very attractive small lantern!
  4. Now use the wire cutters to cut the wire hanger, and use the needle nosed pliers to shape it. Stick it through each side of the tin can, and loop it around to make a handle.
  5. Congratulations! You’ve made a tin can lantern, quite similar to ones that lit our country’s log cabins across the frontier. Take it on your next camping trip, or use it to decorate your table. You might even make several, and then turn off all the lights for an entire evening—something our ancestors did every night!


Julie Williams, M.A. Education, taught middle and high school History and English for seventeen years. Since then, she has volunteered in elementary classrooms while raising her two sons and earning a master's in school administration. She has also been a leader in her local PTA.

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