Making tin can luminaries requires a bit more planning than our usual projects, but the results were worth it. It is a great project for older kids, tweens and teens and it is one that both boys and girls want to participate in.
This was a neat activity for our kids because it allowed them to use materials that thought were cool and do things they don’t get to do everyday like hammer and light matches. Teaching your kids these types of skills is important and teaching them in the context of a project allows for it to be an organic learning opportunity.
We made these tin can luminaries with five of our kids who range in age from 9 to 13 and they were all able to do it. Some of them needed more help from us than others did but they all were able to do the majority of it themselves.
- empty tin can, washed out
- tea light or flameless tea light candle
Please note that this activity requires adult supervision both because of the use of hammers and the optional lighting of candles.
Making tin can luminaries requires some planning. The first step of course is gathering some empty tin cans. You can use any size. It is important that the cans were opened with the type of can opener that doesn’t leave any jagged edges. Wash the cans out.
The night before you plan to make the luminaries, fill the cans with water to a little more than 3/4 full and stand them upright in the freezer. Overnight, the water in the cans will freeze. This is an important step because if you don’t, the walls of the can won’t be strong enough to hold their shape while the nails are being hammered in.
Use a permanent marker to draw dots in the places you want to create holes. You can do this randomly or you can create patterns or images with the dots.
Using a hammer, nail into each of the dots one at a time, removing the nail once the can is fully pierced through. If you want, you can make the holes different sizes by using different thicknesses of nails. When you have finished nailing holes into each one of the dots, dump the ice from the cans into the sink.
Place a tea light candle in the bottom of the can and light it. You can use a flameless tea light that is lit by battery or you can use a real tea light.
The candle light will show through the holes in the tin can and the pattern created will show through. They are really quite beautiful.