Light Up Paper Lanterns

So maybe this isn’t exactly “Paper Circuits” but it is an easy and fun project that lends itself pretty well to pop-up programming, as well as a more formal structured program.

Construction paper/origami paper/scrapbooking paper
Paper punches (as many shapes as you’ve got or just regular hole punches)
Coin batteries
Paperboard/thin cardboard/thick paper


For the Paper Lanterns

  1. Fold the paper in half (if it’s rectangular, folding long ways works best)
  2. Cut slits from the folded edge, leaving at least an inch on the open edge
  3. Use the hole punch or paper shape punches to decorate your lantern
  4. Unfold your paper and roll it into a cylinder; tape or staple it closed

For the LED lights (in practice, I explained how LEDs work with batteries, about positive and negative, etc)

  1. Slide the battery between the legs of the LED
  2. Tape around the battery to hold it in place

If you want to make a switch for your LED

  1. Lay piece of tape at least 3" long non-sticky side down on the table
  2. Cut a small piece of paperboard/cardboard and lay it down on the tape (for this, I used the excess paperboard from the packaging the batteries come in)
  3. Hold the paperboard against one side of the battery while it’s inserted in the LED and wrap the tape around the whole thing (this prevents the tape from sticking to the battery, making it easier to insert the next piece of paperboard to turn off the LED)
  4. Cut a slightly smaller piece of paperboard and insert it between the battery and one leg of the LED, on the side that has the first piece of paperboard

This could certainly be done as actual paper circuits with the copper tape and everything. For this project, I just threw the LEDs in the bottom of the lanterns as they sat on the table. Some of my participants wanted to hang their lanterns, so I had to encourage them to think about where to tape their lights in - if at the bottom, it would be too much weight and stretch out the lantern.


@LissaMonster Thank you for sharing this project, with such detailed guidance. I love the repurposed paper board and the use of paper punches.

The overall effect is very visually appealing!

For the hanging, it can be a fun math opportunity to learn about circumference, and add in shapes (circles, or even squares and triangles!) to cover the hole on one end. Then, you’ll also have a surface to attach the LED!

1 Like

Note on paper for the lanterns:
Printer paper doesn’t work well - the lanterns collapse under their own weight
Construction paper, scrapbooking paper, cardstock all work really well. And, surprisingly, origami paper works well.


These are beautiful! Great idea.

1 Like

These look great! Many thanks for sharing.

1 Like

This is a GREAT project! Thank you for sharing this. I plan on using this with my groups.