Luminarias, or candle lanterns, can lend an extra glow to a stargazing party, an outdoor storytelling session or a night hike. To create a classic luminaria, nest a candle in a small brown paper bag, half filled with sand. For a stained-glass effect, glue colored tissue paper over cutouts in the bag. Or make the luminaria pictured here by saving your soda can and following the four steps below.
LUMINARIAS: Draw two lines around the can, the first 1 inch down from the top of the can and the second 1 inch up from the bottom of the can. Using the craft knife (an adult's job), make straight cuts between the top and bottom lines 1/2 to 3/4 inches apart.
Once you've cut all the way around the can, make a cut across the bottom of two adjacent strips to create an opening for the candle. Wearing gloves, carefully pull the two strips away from the can. Next, use the pencil to bend out the remaining strips, while slightly pressing the top of the can so it has a squatty, Chinese lantern-like shape.
Pass the candle through the opening and use a drop of melted wax to attach it to the bottom of the can. Next, bend the two cut strips and tuck them into place inside the can.
Screw the hook into one end of the wooden dowel. To hang, loop a length of wire between the hook and the circular opening on the soda can tab.
FLASHLIGHT MASK: Telling tales takes on a dramatic flourish with these eerily glowing faces. When the light wanes, your children can bob and dance around in the dark with them for a bit of evening theater. With a flip of the switch, the luminous visages appear, then mysteriously disappear back into the darkness. Turn one paper plate upside down and have your child draw a face on it (remind him that the bigger the features, the more light will shine out of the mask). Using an X-Acto knife (an adult's job), carefully cut out the shapes to form openings. Now, hold the two plates with their top sides together and staple around the outside edges, leaving an opening that's about the width of a flashlight at the bottom of the face.
Your child can decorate the mask by cutting out and gluing on additional construction paper features (ears, whiskers, horns) and adding bright splashes of paint. When the paint dries, it's time to light up the mask. Insert the lens end of the flashlight into the opening between the paper plates (use masking tape to hold it in place if the fit isn't tight enough), and have your child hold up the mask in front of his face. Let there be light.
HOBO BAG: When your campsite is just a stone's throw away from home, you need only pack the bare necessities: bug spray, a flashlight and the fixings for s'mores. So take a cue from a band of travelers who know how to pack quickly and lightly. Pile your gear on a bandanna, tie the four corners around a stick and sling the bag over your shoulder.
For a sturdier bag that requires a little sewing, fold the tips of the four bandanna corners in toward the center. Create a casing for two drawstrings by using a needle and thread to stitch a line 3/4 inch in from each crease.
From one corner, thread a 5-foot piece of cord through the casing and tie the cord ends together to make a handle. Starting from the opposite corner, thread a second cord of the same length through the casing and tie the ends to make a second handle. To gather and close the bag, pull the two drawstrings taut.
Finally, fill the bag with provisions. If you have a problem with raccoons, you can use it to store nonperishable breakfast items overnight by tying it securely and hanging it from a branch. During a nature walk, the bandanna bag (removed from the stick) can even double as a campy hat.