Urban Version of a Toddler Lantern/Laterne to Celebrate St. Martin

This is for all the German-American families out there. Well, more specifically, for all of the American parents in those families who want their children to participate in the Lantern/Laterne festivities but did not get the memo about this day — or how to make a lantern — early enough…:)

This is also for those of us who live in cities, perhaps, and who do not have milk or juice cartons lying around. 

The great thing about this lantern/laterne is the size: it is perfect for little hands!

The following instructions will show you how to make a lantern using a paper coffee cup, ubiquitous in the urban habitat! 


You will need:
1 Coffee Cup from any deli, bodega, or diner — or a pint-size ice cream container!
1 Chopstick, wooden, from your junk drawer or recent take-out order
1 Hook, small, from the dollar store or hardware store or from your junk drawer — or one small nail
1 Light, batter-operated, from your local card shop or household or party store
Exacto Knife or sharp kitchen knife
Paper, lightweight (not shown)
Markers or crayons (not shown)

These are the basic supplies you will need.

STEPS – Please read entirely before starting!
1. Examine your cup and figure out what logos or ads need to be cut out.

2. Decide with your child which shapes to cut from the cup.

3. Cut out the shapes.

4. Poke two small holes,, one each directly across from each other, at the top of the cup. These will be used to put through the string. Set aside.

5. Have your toddler choose one to two colors to add to the lantern. These colors will go onto the paper.

6. If your child is old enough to color the paper, then go that route. If not, color it yourself. Make sure to color more of the paper than is needed just in case! You can also draw onto the cup itself — stars, moons, you name it!

7. Cut out the colored paper in sizes large enough to cover the shapes cut out of the cup. Set shapes aside.

8. Before running string through the sides of the cup, put tape on the area where you will poke the holes. This reinforces the cup.

9. Run the string through the cup, knotting both ends. Make sure the string is long enough to hang nicely. If it is too tight, it won’t work as well! BTW, one easy way to get the string through the tiny holes is to wrap tape around the ends of the tape.

10. Once the string is knotted in both ends, you can cut off the taped ends — if that’s what you did. Otherwise, go to the next step!

11. Tape the colored paper onto the inside of the cup.

12. Tape the little light inside the cup on the bottom of it. Since the battery should last for days, consider leaving it on so that little hands leave it that way. Set aside the cup.

Tape the paper and light to the inside of the cup.

13. Take the little hook and gently but firmly screw it into the end of the chopstick. If the chopstick rips, just use tape, making several revolutions with it.

14. If necessary, use the pliers to open the hook slightly to allow the string to pass through.

15. Get the cup and put its string through or on the hook. Then close up the hook with the pliers — if necessary. *You could also just use a nail and then tie a loop of string onto the nail. Then you could tie the string holding the cup onto the loop of string that is on the nail!

16. Relish in your child’s excitement.

17. Then, give a short explanation: “This is your lantern/laterne. Be gentle with it. This means fingers stay out of the cup. And, hold the lantern/laterne carefully by keeping it as still as possible. For the parade, we will walk for a while and you want your lantern/laterne to last the whole time! Let’s practice.”

This is what a coffee-cup lantern/laterne looks like in daylight!


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  1. Mariant

    Very cool…and clever!

  2. Barbara Rellstab

    So cool, Lee, cannot wait to sit down with Oliver and make his first lantern! Thank you for the precise instructions!

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