DIY hot-air balloon lantern

It’s the time of the year where we pull out our lanterns, let the kids play with fire (candles and sparklers), and eat over-priced, exotic flavoured moon cakes. But apart from the usual fanfare, mid-Autumn festival has taken on a DIY perspective since the kids’ started preschool because Shannon’s school organises an annual lantern-making competition that involves recycled materials and parents.

We get the notice several weeks ahead, but always leave it until the last weekend before we’re supposed to hand it in before we scramble to put together something that looks presentable. I thrive on deadlines… it’s part of the journalism training. I feel no impetus to get work done until just before a deadline. 🙂

The slight problem this year is I no longer have a box of recycled materials in my storeroom because there is now a recycling bin at the foot of our HDB block. So instead of letting cardboard cartons pile up in my storeroom, I bring them downstairs regularly, forgetting I would need some materials for lantern-making. So I started rummaging through my kitchen cabinets and googling for ideas. And I realised I’m not the only parent looking for inspiration, because this post from last year has been the top searched post and most-visited post on this site in recent weeks! There are lots of parents out there looking for diy lantern ideas, so I’ll share this year’s lantern, for what it’s worth, in case it helps parents in a year’s time.

We(I) settled on making a hot-air balloon lantern, just because I have a girly daughter who loves balloons and all things pink and pretty.

I first attached colourful paper straws to a disposable bowl using transparent tape. I used 6 straws since the bowl isn’t very big.

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Then, in the name of recycling, I found a transparent Delifrance plastic bag, blew it up and propped it on top of the straws. I thought it was the quickest lantern I’ve ever made and felt quite proud of myself – until the rest family saw it and gave me doubtful looks. “Are you sure that’s a hot-air balloon?” “The bag looks a little deflated…”

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So because we still had time, I decided to google how to do a proper hot-air balloon and found this useful site. This time, everyone got involved and I went to take a nap after I gave brief instructions to them and watched them for a bit. (Maybe they won’t complain about my creations after this haha)

The instructions involve using paper mache on a balloon. Tear newspaper into small pieces and paste them on the balloon using diluted craft glue (one part water, one part glue).

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Repeat steps until you have three layers of newspapers.

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I went to sleep after taking the above picture. We let it dry for a day, and were out almost the whole day last Sunday for a cousin’s wedding. Some pictures from the wedding:

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We got home and remembered the we had not completed the lantern. But since it was 10.30pm by the time we got back, we shooed the kids to bed, and finished the lantern while they were asleep.

A critical step that we didn’t have the guts to carry out, involved bursting/cutting the balloon, so there is a gap at the bottom and it looks more like a hot-air balloon. Reason? Their papa had no idea if they really pasted three layers of newspapers. IF they did not, would the paper mache collapse inwards? At 11pm the night before the lantern was due, we were not keen to find out the answer. I grumbled that it didn’t REALLY look like a hot-air balloon if the whole balloon was attached. But decided to keep quiet after my husband said: “I’m not going to be responsible if the balloon collapses/bursts.”

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So we stuck the whole balloon on the paper straws, tied some ribbons and pasted colourful tape to pretty it up.

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Added a bicycle light to light the balloon.

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And called it done.

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We reused the stick from last year’s lantern. And Shannon woke up delighted to see the completed lantern. Here she is before going to school.

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Happy Mid-Autumn! Will update results in next post.

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