How to make: Chinese Flower Paper Lanterns
By Guest Contributor: Claire Zee Yorita
What this DIY paper lantern craft means to me
我们用我们找到的花朵做灯笼! (Wǒmen yòng wǒmen zhǎodào de huāduǒ zuò dēnglóng)! My mother loves to remind me that some of my first Mandarin words spoken were 花花好漂亮 (Huāhuā hǎo piàoliang)。Once my first steps were taken, she and I would spend every afternoon walking the small and narrow shared garden space of my parents’ first condo while my mom pointed out and introduced to me all the pretty flowers in Mandarin. I learned these words and phrases as I touched the pretty petals.
I use this flower lantern activity to also teach Chinese
I now do the same with my little one, and since she was born, we’d take our strolls at our local arboretum in search of pretty flowers and colors, and believe it or not, some of her first Mandarin words were also to request to find flowers, or 要找花花 (Yào zhǎo huāhuā).
I’ve always felt a connection to flowers and nature (perhaps why I love working with florals as a wedding planner and am an advocate for nature-based education as an educator), and I’m a firm believer that my connection to nature and hands-on learning helped to foster language acquisition. Children can learn Mandarin vocabulary while foraging and even during or at the completion of the craft itself (names of supplies, the process, the discussion of end product, and even the connection to Mandarin culture).
Suggested Age Range: 3-12
Really, any child can do this craft! Younger kids can assist the parent(s) in foraging, pressing florals or putting together the lantern, and if they are older and would like more of a challenge, they can make their own! There’s something about foraging your own florals in nature, getting away from screens, and how pretty the pressed flowers look against the illuminated lantern that makes this activity feel so rewarding for both parent and child.
Table of contents
- Sample phrases
- Supplies & Materials
- Cultural Connection & Tips for Parents
|压花||yā huā||pressed flowers|
|土||tǔ||dirt, soil, earth|
|花的生命周期||huā de shēngmìng zhōuqí||Life cycle of a flower|
|元宵节||yuánxiāo jié||Chinese Lantern Festival|
wǒ zhǎodào huāle
I found flowers!
zhè zhǒng huà hǎo piàoliang
This type of flower is so pretty.
wǒ zuì xǐhuān hóngsè de huā
I love red flowers the most.
nǐ hǎo yòng gōng zuò nǐ de dēnglóng
You’re working so hard on your lantern!
nǐ de dēnglóng zhēn de hěn piàoliang
Your lantern really is so beautiful.
- Tissue paper: White, cut into squares or rectangles.
- Glue - Elmer’s or other liquid glue
- Flowers- Try bouquet flowers if they are currently out of season or even just greenery
- Water Balloons
- Paint or sponge brush
- Jars or something to place your lanterns on while drying
- Flameless tea light
Instructions for Chinese flower paper lantern
Step 1: Forage and collect flowers, leaves, & other pieces of nature that are relatively thin and that will dry nicely
Step 2: Press the flowers and leaves into a heavy book and stack heavier books on top. Typically it takes a couple of weeks for florals to dry completely. Alternatively, you can also purchase pre-dried florals to use as well!
Step 3: Prepare the supplies and the glue mixture by adding equal parts liquid glue and water. This craft can get a little messy with the glue and water, so parents can choose to cover the space with a towel, newspaper, or other material.
Step 4: For the first layer of tissue, use water only, as this will prevent the paper from sticking to the balloon once we pop it in step 6.
Step 5: For the second layer, you can use your paintbrush or dip the pieces of tissue paper into the glue mixture and adding it to the balloon. You can also begin adding pieces of your dried florals and leaves during this time, and you can also add it to additional layers so that you can see more depth to the lantern. Continue this until you have about 4-5 layers; remember we want to keep it thin so the light can shine through the lantern!
Step 6: Set the lantern to dry overnight (or it may take a few days depending on the temperature and humidity of your location). You can have it sit on a jar or anything to hold any dripping glue.
When you’re ready, pop the balloon and dent the bottom of the lantern so it sits nicely on your table surface.
Step 7: You can now display your flower lantern or add a tea light and turn it on once the sun sets for a beautifully lit pressed flower lantern!
Cultural Connection: About Chinese paper lanterns
Making flower lanterns is a great way to introduce your child to Chinese paper lanterns! Chinese paper lanterns are a popular craft to make among kids, especially during Chinese Lunar New Year, which dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 BE).
The Lantern Festival, or Yuan Xiao Festival, is celebrated on the 15th day of the Lunar Calendar, and along with other fun activities, like Lion dancing, fireworks, and traditional festival foods, houses come alive with lively and bright decor, such as colorful paper lanterns.
While this craft’s lanterns look a bit different than the traditional lanterns used for Chinese Lunar New Year or Mid Autumn Festival, parents and kids can experiment and make different styles of lanterns! Rather than putting a tea light, lanterns can also be strung up around the house as well.
During Chinese Lunar New Year, the color red symbolizes good luck and blessings. If the lanterns will be used during these Chinese holidays, kids can also forage and collect flowers and foliage of different red tones or even use one layer of red tissue paper for a more traditional Chinese paper lanterns.
If you liked this, you might also appreciate the following:
- More interactive activities: Learning Chinese in our kitchen with felt food and Habbi Habbi
- Perspectives: 5 Tips to keep up Chinese for kids, when it feels like English is taking over
- Culture: Not ABC / Chinese / Cantonese / Taiwanese: I am part of the International Chinese Diaspora
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About our lovely guest contributor: Claire
Claire Zee Yorita, M.Ed.,PPS | Claire is a bilingual educator, wedding planner, and a mom raising a multilingual baby girl in Mandarin, Japanese, and English. As an educator, Claire is passionate about incorporating hands-on and creative activities to enhance both teaching & learning. Outside of work, you could find Claire working with florals, trying her hand at gardening, or exploring the great outdoors with her husband and her nature-loving little one.
- Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Lantern Festival". Encyclopedia Britannica, 15 Dec. 2021, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Lantern-Festival. Accessed 4 February 2022.
- Original Source for Craft: “Magical Pressed Flower Lanterns.” Little Pine Learners, 3 Apr. 2021, https://littlepinelearners.com/magical-pressed-flower-lanterns/.