Learn how to make turkey leaf lanterns for Thanksgiving with mason jars and real natural fall leaves with this fun Thanksgiving lantern craft tutorial. (First published September 26, 2015; this post is updated and republished to improve the content.)
I’m in love with how these Thanksgiving Turkey mason jar DIY lanterns turned out–aren’t they the cutest fall leaf lanterns you have ever seen? Add this gorgeous fall leaf lantern craft for kids and adults to your mason jar crafts list this year. Or, use the DIY project instructions with a step-by-step video tutorial HERE to learn how to make simple leaf lantern crafts without the turkey in the middle.
These little turkey mason jar luminaries look beautiful, both lit and unlit, make a fun centerpiece for any Thanksgiving dinner table, and are festive decorations for your DIY Thanksgiving home decor. Gobble gobble! You might also enjoy this list of 20 Thanksgiving Traditions and fun things to do on Thanksgiving.
Related: The Best Fall Nature Crafts
Fall Leaf Luminaries Thanksgiving Lantern Craft
Making Thanksgiving turkey mason jar lanterns with children is a DIY project the whole family can enjoy. I’ll bet other children will be just as happy as mine are to see their fall leaf luminaries adorn the Thanksgiving table. You can see ours displayed under our Thankful Tree with real leaves–> HERE.
Our daughter gets a kick from seeing the leaf lanterns she made with me coming out of the Thanksgiving box, looking just as impressive as the day we made them. She can’t help but squeal, “My leaf turkey!” whenever she sees her Thanksgiving lantern craft again.
These cute little turkey crafts are always one of our favorite Thanksgiving decorations adorning the Thanksgiving dinner table. They look great with these turkey Thanksgiving placemats kids can make and color independently.
Related: Thanksgiving Turkey Leaf Crafts for kids and adults.
Fall Leaf Mason Jar Lanterns DIY Materials
This leaf turkey fall leaf luminary is made with mason jars and real fall leaves, but you can also use fabric fall leaves. And, although it is cute, the turkey is optional. If you aren’t interested in crafting a turkey, use the step-by-step leaf lantern DIY instructions–> HERE to learn how to make autumn luminaries with leaves surrounding the jar. (The instructions have a video tutorial that shows how to make mason jar lanterns with colorful autumn leaves.) Or look at this lantern craft tutorial that shows how to cut leaves into heart shapes to make DIY lanterns.
- Real or fabric fall leaves
- Wide-mouth mason jars (we used 16-ounce canning jars)
- Mod Podge
- Foam brush
- White tissue paper
- Burgundy or brown tissue paper (or use construction paper to make the turkey more opaque and less transparent or see-through)
- Orange and red construction paper
- Googly eyes
- Beeswax tea lights or votives, flameless tea light candles, or fairy lights
Related: Fall Leaves Watercolor Art
How to make Leaf Lanterns: Step-by-Step Directions for Mason Jar Luminaries
Leaf turkey lanterns are a Thanksgiving lantern craft that kids can help make. These fall leaf luminaries make lovely Thanksgiving lantern centerpieces because they are made to look like a Thanksgiving turkey. Or, learn how to make leaf luminaries with natural fall leaves with THIS step-by-step mason jar DIY lantern tutorial with an instructional video. Below the instructions is a photo tutorial showing how to do each step.
1. Collect, clean, and press fall leaves to make Thanksgiving mason jar lanterns.
- First, invite children on a nature walk to collect beautiful autumn leaves to make these cute turkey crafts.
- Next, use the directions below to clean the autumn leaves and press them flat before using them to make a Thanksgiving turkey leaf lantern craft:
- Rinse autumn leaves with water.
- Gently pat dry with a towel.
- Use a press to flatten leaves gently OR:
- Place several leaves between paper or paper towels to absorb any excess moisture.
- Put a large, heavy book or another heavy, flat object on top of the paper and leaves to flatten or press the leaves.
- Allow leaves to be pressed for several hours before using them to make leaf luminary crafts.
- Learn more about pressing and preserving leaves–>HERE.
- We used natural, fresh fallen autumn leaves to make the Thanksgiving lanterns in the photographs, but you can also use flexible artificial leaves.
- Play with arranging the leaves on the canning jars and decide how you would like to make them into turkey crafts before getting the glue out.
2. Cut tissue paper strips and parts for each Thanksgiving turkey craft or autumn leaf luminary.
- Cut the following parts for each DIY fall leaf luminary:
- Strips of white tissue paper 1 1/2 to 2″ wide and slightly longer than the glass jar you use to make each leaf lantern.
- Trace the bottom of the canning jar onto white tissue paper and cut out the circle.
- A small triangle of orange construction paper for the turkey beak.
- An amoeba-like shape of red construction paper for the turkey wattle.
- Circles of burgundy or brown tissue or construction paper for the head and the body of the turkey craft. (We traced the top of a tapered shot glass for the body of each turkey and the bottom of the same shot glass for the head of each turkey craft.)
3. Paint Glue onto the glass canning or mason jar.
- First, place your hand inside the wide-mouth mason jar to hold it.
- Next, use a foam brush to apply Mod Podge or a slightly watered-down white glue to the entire canning jar, starting below the threads.
- Use long downward brush strokes to paint the glue onto the mason jar.
- Most glues will appear white when painted but will dry clear.
4. Stick the tissue paper strips onto the mason jar lantern Thanksgiving craft.
- Keeping your hand inside the glass jar, carefully stick the circle-shaped tissue paper onto the bottom.
- Next, carefully place each tissue strip onto the mason jar one by one and wrap the strips around the bottom.
- Paint Mod Podge or another white glue all over the strips to glue the tissue paper to the sides and bottom of the mason jar. Make sure you wrap each strip of tissue paper down, stick it to the bottom of the jar, and paint glue over the top.
5. Paint glue over tissue paper on the mason jar luminaries.
- Carefully reapply Mod Podge or watered-down white glue to the sides and bottom of the canning jar on top of the tissue paper of each glass jar luminaries.
- This will seal the tissue paper and protect it if it gets wet–but don’t put it in the dishwasher! (These cute little autumn leaf luminaries should only be washed gently by hand.)
- Gently smooth out any air bubbles by gently rubbing the tissue paper from the top of the mason jar down if needed.
6. Glue a fall leaf onto each turkey luminary (or several autumn leaves) to make each leaf lantern craft.
- Paint glue onto the underside of each leaf and carefully arrange it onto the mason jar lanterns.
- Position the fall leaves so they look like the fan of feathers behind a turkey. Or, arrange them around the jar if you are not making your DIY lanterns into turkey crafts.
- We have learned through trial and error that fall leaf luminaries, look much better when lit if the autumn leaves are not overlapped. (Overlapping leaves look beautiful in the daylight, but it is too dark to see the features of the leaves or the turkey when the lantern is lit. So we recommend using only one autumn leaf for each turkey leaf lantern craft.)
- Or, arrange the fall leaves around the jar (so that they do not overlap) if you are not making a turkey craft, and instead, only use colorful autumn leaves to make DIY mason jar lantern crafts.
- You can move the fall leaves around before they dry, but be careful not to disturb the tissue paper.
- Smooth out any air bubbles by gently rubbing the leaf(s) from the center out.
7. Carefully paint Mod Podge over the leaves on the mason jar leaf luminaries.
- Use a foam brush to paint Mod Podge (or watered-down white glue) onto each autumn leaf to seal, preserve, and protect each DIY lantern.
8. Glue turkey craft parts on the fall leaf to finish the fall leaf luminaries (optional).
- Place your hand inside the jar to hold it.
- First, place the body circle towards the bottom of the jar.
- Then, paint Mod Podge on top of the body circle with a foam paintbrush.
- Next, place the head circle so it slightly overlaps the body circle.
- Then, paint Mod Podge on top of the head circle.
- Next, glue on the beak and wattle.
- Then, paint Mod Podge on top of the beak and wattle.
- Finally, put the googly eyes on the face of the turkey to finish the Thanksgiving turkey craft.
9. Place turkey leaf luminaries (or plain autumn leaf lanterns) upside down and allow them to dry.
- Carefully put each leaf lantern craft upside down to dry.
10. Put a candle (or fairy lights) in each leaf luminary craft.
- Once they are dry, flip them over to put beeswax tealights (or votives), flameless tea lights, or a strand of fairy lights into your DIY leaf lanterns and display them as autumn home decor, or give them away as a gift.
- If you use real candles, we recommend putting a little sand in the bottom of the lantern before placing the candle on top (optional).
- Autumn leaf luminaries as cute as these little turkeys also make a great thankful or blessing jar, and a wonderful hostess gift for Thanksgiving dinner!
- Scroll past the photo tutorial below to learn several fun ways to use these cute DIY Thanksgiving mason jar crafts.
How to Make Turkey Leaf Lanterns: Step-by-Step Photo Tutorial
Look at the photo tutorial below to make these cute DIY Thanksgiving lantern fall leaf luminaries with or without the Thanksgiving turkey. Or make a simple leaf lantern with THESE DIY project instructions with a step-by-step video tutorial, or cut leaves into heart-shapes to make gorgeous autumn luminaries!
Fun Ways to Use Thanksgiving Turkey Leaf Lantern Crafts
Make gorgeous fall leaf luminaries with the step-by-step instructions above. Leaf turkey lanterns are an easy Thanksgiving craft idea for kids or adults. Fall leaf mason jars can be used as luminaries and for several other festive purposes. They make lovely leaf lanterns, centerpieces, thankful jars, and DIY home decor! Try the ideas below:
1. Use turkey leaf mason jar crafts as lanterns and luminaries to illuminate your holiday celebrations.
These sweet little leaf lanterns with a turkey in the middle make lovely luminaries. As such, they are an excellent Thanksgiving decoration and centerpiece for any holiday table. Pour a little decorative sand into the bottom of each turkey lantern craft, drop a candle (or a fairy light string) inside, place it on a table, shelf, counter, display stand, or window sill, and use it to bring light to the dark days of early winter this Thanksgiving. You might also enjoy making leaf lanterns and heart luminaries.
2. Turn Leaf Lanterns into Thankful Turkey Blessing Jars for Thanksgiving
A blessing jar (also known as a gratitude or thankful jar) is a creative and heartwarming way to cultivate gratitude at home, or in the classroom or workplace. A thankful jar is a jar for individuals to deposit thankful notes expressing their gratitude for life’s blessings, big or small.
Encourage kids and relatives to write what they’re thankful for on small pieces of paper and drop them inside the jar. Over time, the jar will fill with these blessings of gratitude and serve as a visual reminder of the many blessings in life.
This simple DIY project is a fun thankful craft and gratitude activity for Thanksgiving. It’s also a meaningful way to reflect on and appreciate the positive aspects of everyday life. For more fun ideas look at these Thanksgiving gratitude activities and crafts.
3. Give Thanksgiving Mason Jar Crafts as hostess gifts.
Another great way to use these simple mason jar crafts is to turn them into a hostess gift. If you are going to someone’s house for Thanksgiving, wrap a turkey lantern or two up with candles, a strand or two of fairy lights, or candy inside, and give it to the host or hostess cooking dinner this year as a Thanksgiving gift.
Mason Jar Thanksgiving Crafts
We hope you enjoy making Thanksgiving turkey leaf lanterns and thankful blessing jar crafts. Happy Thanksgiving, may your harvest be bountiful inside and out! For more fall fun, check out 20 Thanksgiving traditions and fun things to do on Thanksgiving.
Learn more about Rhythms of Play HERE!
More Thanksgiving Crafts and DIY Ideas
- Best Thanksgiving Thankful Tree Tradition Ideas
- Thankful for Printable Thanksgiving Placemats
- Printable Thankful Tree with Gratitude Leaves
- How to Make Clay Gratitude Leaves
- Thankful Turkey Printable
- 40 Thanksgiving Gratitude Activities and Crafts
- Thankful Tree with Gratitude Leaves
More Fall Arts, Crafts, and Activities
- The Best Fall Art Projects for Kids
- 10 Ways to Play Outside with Fall Leaves
- Marbled Clay Fall Leaves
- Fall Bucket List (of fun fall activities!)
- Best Fall Nature Crafts
- DIY Leaf Lantern Craft