With Matariki readying itself to re-enter our skies, I thought it was timely to make some lanterns. These upcycled tin can lanterns with LED lights are easy for kids to create, and make really lovely night lanterns.

Every year for the past 5 years we have been involved with our local community’s Matariki celebration. These celebrations usually involve a wonderful night sky walk through our bush reserve.

So this year, rather than using torches or headlamps to light our way, our kids are going to have their very own upcycled lanterns.

And, as with all our Matariki craft, it’s a great way to start a conversation about Matariki and what it means for us.

If you’re doing this with children under 7 or 8 you will need to work together to punch the holes through the cans. This part can be a bit fiddly for small hands.

If you want to make these lanterns with your kids you’ll need to get ready the day before by filling your can with water and freezing it overnight. This is important to stop the tin can from bending too much when you hammer your pattern into it.

Also once the tin cans are out of the freezer you’ll need to work fairly fast as the water will melt faster than you think.

A bonus activity that come out of making our tin can lanterns was the exploration with the ice melting. There was a lot of enjoyment hammering the ice once it started to fall out of our cans. My daughter had a lot of fun breaking up the ice and pretending that it was crystals and ice mountains!

Here’s a few useful tips before you start:

  • having a pair of gloves handy for children and adults is helpful. The ice makes the can extremely cold to hold, but gloves solves this issue.
  • Using tins that have the peel off lids are recommended. These have a blunt top once the lid is peeled off, so no sharp rims and cut fingers to worry about.
  • Lastly, if you have some playdough or clay handy, its really useful to help stop your can from rolling around when punching in the holes.

How to make an Upcycled Tin Can Lantern for Matariki

You will need
A used tin can (preferably with the peel-off type lid)
A nail, or icepick, or hole punch, or small, sharp screwdriver
A hammer
Resene test pots (we used Galaxies, Scotty Sliver, Enchanted and Yeehaa)
Pipe cleaner
Paint brush
Selection of beads
Long stick
An LED light candle
A freezer
Masking Tape

What to do

1. Peel off the label and wash out your tin can.
2. Fill it with tap water to just below the top and then freeze overnight.

Matariki Tin Can Lanterns ice
3. Decide on your design and either draw it on to a piece of paper or use our free Matariki star and heart dot templates.
4. Take your can out of the freezer and stick your pattern onto it using the masking tape.

Matariki Tin Can Lanterns pattern
5. Find a stable surface for hammering on. We used a strong outside wooden table. You could try using playdough, or similar, to press your can into and keep it from rolling around.
6. Start hammering holes into the outline of your design using the hammer and nail.

Matariki Tin Can Lanterns hammering
7. Once you have hammered all the way around your pattern add 2 extra holes at the top of your lantern. This is where your pipe-cleaner handle will go through.
8.Remove the paper and tape.
9. Using Resene test pots paint the whole outside of the can with at least 2 coats. I used Yeehaa to paint mine and my daughter used a trio of colours, Enchanted, Scotty Sliver and Yeehaa. She loved mixing these 3 colours together and discovering the beautiful colour it made.

Matariki Tin Can Lanterns painting Resene test pots
10. Find a decent sized stick that you can hold your lantern on.
11. When the paint has dried attach one end of your pipe-cleaner to the tin. Then thread it with beads and attach the other end.

Matariki Tin Can Lanterns pipecleaner
12. Place your candle into the tin can and hang it to the long stick by the pipe cleaner.

Now you are ready for your Matariki night walk. Have fun!

If you love this idea, you should also check out our Upcycled herb planters here.


If you are looking for other great Matariki craft ideas. Or, for hundreds more craft ideas, check out our Creative arts and crafts section.

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Alayna lives in the Horowhenua with her husband and two beautiful children, where she runs Laynescreative.com. She's a qualified primary school teacher with a passion for visual arts. Alayna's work has featured in print and online publications, you can check out her work on her website.

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Hi there, I absolutely love the Matariki cans with tea lights and plan to do this with some children at school. Whereabouts do I find the free printable template please?

Thank you

Jarrod Rendle

Argh, the printable was uploaded, but we forgot to link to it! All linked up in the article now. Hopefully you gave this project a whirl anyway, it really is lots of fun! — Alayna

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