How to build a model lighthouse

Getty creative

Lighthouses have been used for centuries to warn seagoing vessels of hazardous shorelines. The advent of electricity in the late 19th century made modern lighthouses even more effective and enabled them to become literal beacons during the night and in the midst of storms.

Traditionally these lighthouses were operated by lighthouse keepers who lived in a small attachment to the lighthouse itself or in a nearby dwelling. By the turn of the 21st century, most lighthouses were automated and no longer required keepers other than for maintenance. Share this bit of history with the kids as you help them build a model lighthouse night-light of their own.

Cut a 20-cm (8-inch) circle of aluminium foil. Remove the label from a 1.5 litre clear plastic water bottle. Use a craft knife to cut the bottle in half. Be sure to leave the cap on the bottle.

Flip the top half upside down and squirt some glue onto the upper 5 cm (2 inches) of the tapered dome. It's all right if some of the glue runs into the cap. Form a cone with the aluminium foil circle and press the centre point of it down into the bottle's dome and cap. Smooth the foil against the glue on the sides of the bottle. Don't worry if it isn't perfect, you won't be able to see it. This will simply add a nice reflective quality to the lighthouse's dome. Allow the glue to dry completely.

Turn the top of the bottle right side up and cover the outside of the foil-lined area with red acrylic paint, including the cap. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly.

Apply three pieces of black electrical tape vertically to the lighthouse. They should be positioned evenly apart, beginning at the edge of the red paint and extending to about one inch from the bottom cut edge of the bottle. Set the top of the lighthouse aside.

Roll up a piece of modelling clay to about the size of a tennis ball and drop it into the bottom half of the plastic bottle. Press the butt end of a flashlight firmly into the clay. Cut a 2.5-cm (1-inch) notch in the bottle's side to expose the flashlight switch.

Cut a piece of white craft foam to fit around the bottom of the bottle. It should extend about 10 cm (4 inches) above the cut rim of the bottle or just enough to completely conceal the flashlight.

Warp the craft foam around the bottle, making sure the edge of the foam lines up with the bottom edge of the bottle. Trace the notch onto the foam with a pencil or pen and cut it out with the craft knife. Apply glue to the foam and wrap around the bottle, making sure the hole you cut in the foam lines up with the flashlight switch. Allow the glue to dry completely.

Slip the top of the lighthouse into the white foam sleeve. Secure the foam into place on the top of the bottle with a horizontal band of black tape, forming the bottoms of the lighthouse windows. Paint some red horizontal stripes or diagonal barber pole stripes on the white foam, if you like, and let them dry thoroughly. Set the model lighthouse nigh-tlight on your nightstand and switch it on when you go to bed.