How to Make a Glow-worm Lantern

Glow-worms and fireflies have to be among the most magical creatures around. Living creatures that glow; is there anything stranger or more wonderful?

When we discovered there is a native British (or rather, European) glow-worm, we were inspired to make a lantern version, that shines just like the real thing.

Quick and easy to do, they are a great way to inspire children to learn about real glow-worms and the magic of phosphorescence. Read on to find out how to make them!

Not got much time or just want the bullet points on how to make these? Click here for the Quick Read Instructions.

This post uses affiliate links, which means I receive a small amount when you click through and buy. You can find out more on my ‘about affiliate links’ page.

Stars in the grass

It was while camping in Dorset one summer that I first learned about our native glow-worms. Until then, I’d always assumed that fireflies and other bugs that glowed were the kind of exotic wonder only found overseas.

But as we sat round our campfire one evening, I caught a glimpse of green light in the long grass of the meadow. Intrigued, we discovered that it was a glow-worm. While their numbers (like many insects) are in decline, they can still be widely found all over the UK, including right on our own doorstep here in Buckinghamshire.

The poet, William Wordsworth, called glow-worms earth-born stars
(Image source
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Motivated by this sighting, the children and I decided to learn more, and were inspired by what we found to make these fun lanterns.

If you’d also like to discover all about the glow-worm, you can read all about them on this separate page, where I’ve also listed our favourite external resources. There’s lots of fun stuff for the kids as well as links to more detailed information, including how to find them in the wild.

How to make a glow-worm lantern

Making a glow-worm lantern is a great way to to get kids interested in these amazing insects, and the end result is absolutely beautiful. They are simple to make, although very young children will need help with the fiddly bits.

I’ve also got a separate template for a firefly lantern instead, in case you live in a place where they are your native glow-bugs. It’s put together exactly the same way, but it also has wings for you to cut out and stick on the back!

The template for the firefly lantern has a different body (though it’s a similar shape) and an extra sheet for wings.

This post uses affiliate links, which means I receive a small amount when you click through and buy. You can find out more on my ‘about affiliate links’ page.

Materials needed

You will also need to download my glow-worm lantern template or firefly lantern template to print out. It’s a very simple design, so if you don’t have a printer, you should be able to copy it freehand instead.

Download my printable templates for either the glow worm lantern or firefly lantern

Instructions

Print & cut the glow-worm lantern template

Start by printing or copying the glow-worm template or firefly lantern template onto a piece of tracing paper. You could also use regular plain white printer paper – the light should still shine through, though it obviously won’t be quite as translucent.

If you want to give the kids more practice of their fine motor skills, you could get them to trace the template from the print-out instead. They could trace the template onto coloured tissue paper if making their glow-worm lanterns this way.

We like our glow-worm lanterns plain, but they also look great with colour and patterns. If your children want to colour theirs in, then do that now.

Cut out the glow-worm shape and fold in half along the dotted line, making the front and back of your lantern.

template for glow-worm lantern
Make sure both sides line up once folded in half.

Punch out holes

Using a hole punch, sharp pencil or scissors, cut out the three holes on the dotted line. These holes are for you to poke twigs into later, to make the legs on the folded side of your glow-worm.

Also cut out the four holes at the top. With the glow-worm folded in half, these holes line up so you only need to punch twice. These top holes are for threading string through at the end, to make a handle for your glow-worm lantern.

If your tracing paper is very thin, you might want to reinforce these parts by sticking down a strip of clear tape on the inside of this area, before you make the holes.

cutting out glow-worm lantern template
Fold your glow-worm in half before using the hole punch.

Add legs and antenna

To make the legs, insert a twig through each of the three holes along the fold line. Use sticky tape on the inside, to hold the legs in place.

Insert sticks into holes at the side
Making a paper glow-worm lantern

Position three more twigs opposite these, on the open edge, so that you have legs on both sides of your bug. Then tape these into place too.

Now add two last twigs at the top for the antenna. With these top twigs, be careful to not block the holes and leave a clear gap between them, so that your LED light will fit through.

Glow-worms are insects, so they have six legs and antenna. Take a look at a picture of a real one so that you have an idea of what size twigs to use.

Stick on twigs for legs
Use crooked twigs for a more realistic effect

Make a frame for the inside

Cut three thin rings from your cardboard tube. About half a centimetre wide is fine.

Cut six strips of double-sided sticky tape, each long enough to go half-way around the cardboard rings. Then attach these pieces of tape all the way round the outside of each ring, two strips of tape per ring.

cut three thin rings from a toilet roll tube
Thin rings of cardboard tubing give shape to your glow-worm lantern.

Next, place the rings horizontally on the inside of your glow worm, lined up at a 90° angle to the dotted fold line. Positioning them on the horizontal lines makes them less noticeable when the lantern is finished.

Now remove the backing from the sticky tape on one side of each ring only and stick down on the right-hand side of your glow worm. Leave the paper backing on the rest of the tape for now, so that you don’t accidentally stick the two halves together before you are ready.

rings stuck horizontally inside template
Sticking the inner rings along the horizontal lines of your glow-worm will make them less noticeable from the outside.

Finishing your glow-worm lantern

On the inside-right side of your glow-worm lantern, stick double-sided tape around the bottom and outer edge, including the gaps between each ring.

Be sure to leave the top edge (where the antenna are) clear of tape. Because you’ll need an open gap big enough for your LED to fit through later.

Use thin strips of double-sided sticky tape so that you only stick together the very edges of your lantern. This tape is 5mm / 1/4″ wide.

Remove the backing paper from all of the sticky tape (including the tape on the cardboard rings).

Fold the open side of the glow worm cut-out carefully over the rings, sticking it down into place and sealing the edges.

Make sure the bottom, where your light will sit, has no open gaps for the LED to fall through.

(For a simpler method to use with younger children, just get them to stick their glow worm lanterns together with clear tape on the outside. This makes it a lot easier for them to do by themselves)

Once the sides are stuck together, your glow worm lantern is nearly complete.

Firefly wings

If you’re making a firefly instead of a glow worm, now’s the time to cut out and stick on the wings. There is a picture on the template to help you position them.

Cut out both sets of wings for your firefly lantern.

Fireflies (like male glow-worms and other beetles) have two sets of wings. The top set are actually hard protective cases, called elytra (a fact that will delight any young Minecraft fans). The bottom set are the flight wings.

Make it glow!

Turn on your glow-worm LED light and drop it down into the bottom of your lantern, shaking it into place if necessary.

Pop an LED balloon light into your lantern – but remember to turn it on first… (doh!)

We used bullet-shaped green LEDs (often used for balloons), that have replaceable batteries and an on-off switch. Some similar LEDs flash or fade on and off, like a firefly. You can also get them in yellow, white, blue, red, or even multicoloured.

These ones glow steadily, just like a real glow-worm, and the green is not a bad match either, so we thought they were perfect.

Once you’ve dropped the LED into your lantern, all that’s left is to thread some string for a handle.

Handles to hang on with

To finish off, thread string through the holes at the top of your glow worm. These will close up the top of your lantern and form a handle. This will also allow you to tie your glow worm to a long stick for carrying.

Thread some string through the two holes you made at the top of your lantern. This will close up the gap until you want to take out the LED,. It will also make a handle for holding your lantern.

When you want to turn off your glow worm, just open up the string and shake out the light.


Finished! A glow-worm lantern

These glow-worm lanterns are fun to make, and look fabulous when finished. We made ours in the summer, when real glow-worms were lighting up the countryside, but I think any kind of lantern really comes into its own in the darker days of autumn and winter.

Because they are relatively small and very light, these glow-worm lanterns are great for kids to carry around, too. The twig legs and antenna are a bit vunerable though, and won’t take a lot of knocks or swinging around. So you might want to make ‘carrying’ versions without these!

More from Rhubarb and Wren

If you’d like to find out more about glow-worms, head over to our Great British Glow-worm page (aka the European Common Glow-worm). We’ve gathered together loads of information, web links, films, podcasts and book recommendations, all about the glow-worm.

Looking for more fun things to make and do with the kids? Check out these great activities from Rhubarb and Wren!

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DIY firefly lantern
How to make a glow-worm lantern

Glow-worm Lantern Quick-Read Instructions

For when you just want to get right to the point…

Materials needed: 
(these are Amazon affiliate links – see my ‘About Affiliate links‘ page for more information)

A4 tracing paper 
Toilet roll cardboard tube 
Twigs
Double-sided sticky tape (optional)
Clear sticky tape 
String
LED light – green, like real glow-worm lights, or multicoloured
Single hole punch (optional)

Method:

1. Print the glow-worm lantern or firefly lantern template onto tracing paper, and cut it out. Fold in half along the dotted line.

3. Cut out the three holes on the dotted line and the four holes at the top (these top holes are for a handle).

4. Cut three thin rings from your cardboard tube, and attach two pieces of double-sided sticky tape to the outside of each ring, one front, one back.

6. Stick the rings inside your glow worm, horizontal to the dotted fold line. Leave the backing paper from the sticky tape on the top side of each ring for now because you don’t want to seal up the lantern yet.

7. Insert a twig for legs through each of the three holes along the fold line and use sticky tape to hold in place.

8. Stick down three more twigs on the opposite, open edge, for the remaining legs.

9. Stick down two twigs at the top for the antenna. These do not go through the holes. Leave a clear gap between them for your LED light to fit through.

10. Stick double-sided tape along the bottom edge of your glow worm. Then add more along the open edge, in the gaps between the cardboard rings. Be sure to leave the top edge (where the four holes are) clear of tape, because you’ll need to fit the LED through there later.

11. Remove the sticky tape backing paper, and fold the open side of the glow worm cut-out carefully over the rings. Stick it down into place over the rings and sealing it along the edges and bottom. Now your lantern just needs a light.

12. Turn on your glow-worm LED light and drop it down into the bottom of your lantern. Shake it into place if necessary.

13. Finally, thread string through the holes at the top of your glow worm. These will close up the top of your lantern and form a handle, allowing you to tie your glow worm to a long stick for carrying. When you want to turn off your glow worm, just open up the string and shake out the light.

Hints and Tips:

● Be aware that some LED balloon lights do not have a switch to turn them on and off. Batteries aren’t usually replaceable on these models. To avoid waste, I always get lights I can reuse and replace the batteries in, and turn off the light when we’re not using it.

● Real female adult glow-worms’ light is constant, while the larva of both sexes sometimes put on a display of flashing lights. You can get LEDs that have either constant or flashing lights, and in lots of different colours.

● We like our glow-worms plain. But you can also decorate your templates before sticking them together if you want to make extra colourful bugs!

3 Comments

  1. oh my goodness ! i love this craft ! it looks super easy to make , even for non crafty person like me , and it looks super cute

  2. I honestly had no idea that we had glow worms in this country! I really want to see one now!

    These are brilliant, such clear instructions as well x

  3. I’ve never seen anything like this before. Looks really fun.

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