This is a fun Mother's day present that kids can make to surprise Mom - you can even get a new tea/coffee mug to put the finished project on.
The total project will take between 20 minutes and an hour or more depending on the level of detail your kids want to put into it.
While the LED flower does not look 100% finished with a 3D printed case or similar I think it adds to the allure and thoughtfulness of the project - it also means Dads don't need to stress as much about making it look perfect, just about doing a fun project with their kids to thank Mom.
Step 1: Step 1: Materials
- Mom's favorite mug (or a new one to gift)
- Pipe cleaners
Get a variety of colors. They sell packs of 45 at the Dollar Store in both 'plain' like I used here and 'metallic. This tutorial will work with either as the metallic pipe cleaners are made out of shiny plastic, not actual metal slivers.
- CR2032 Battery
You can find these at your local grocery or hardware stores for a few dollars, although ordering them online is far cheaper. If you plan on making LED cards or simple paper circuits with your kids I would go online and find a bulk pack.
You can find these at local hardware stores or online. Again, online is your best option. I like 5mm LEDs since they are larger and can be seen easily through the pipe cleaner flowers. I also love using rainbow flash LEDs as it adds a layer of complexity to the project with no extra work on your part. You can get mixed color sets for $10 or less online.
To strip the fuzz off a few pipe cleaners.
- Paper clips (2)
Step 2: Step 2: Prepare the Pipe Cleaners That Will Light the LED
Many of the pipe cleaners you use in this project will be to sculpt a flower.
However, to connect the LED to the battery we need to add two wires to extend the LED legs. It just so happens that pipe cleaners are long pieces of wires twisted together with fuzz or shiny plastic stuck in the twists.
You will need to prepare two pipe cleaners to act as wires for this project. Prepare the pipe cleaners by using a pair of pliers to pull out the fuzz of the pipe cleaner in that area, leaving bare twisted wires. Strip 1cm of fuzz off both ends of each pipe cleaner.
Step 3: Step 3: Prepare Your LED
Use your pair of pliers to roll each LED leg away from each other. This will create wire circles that we can crimp to the pipe cleaners.
Step 4: Step 4: Connect the LED to the Pipe Cleaners
Create a hook with the stripped piece of pipe cleaner and loop it through one loop of the LED. Use pliers to crimp the LED leg and pipe cleaner firmly together. You can also twist the pipe cleaner hook to get a better connection.
Crimp one stripped pipe cleaner to one LED leg and another stripped pipe cleaner onto the other LED leg.
You should have one LED with two long fuzzy legs.
Step 5: Step 5: Wrap Your LED Around the Mug
Wrap the LED/pipe cleaner piece around the mug so that the LED straddles the mug. Where the two pipe cleaners overlap is where we will ultimately put our battery, so leave that area clear of designs.
Step 6: Step 5: Test Your Circuit
There is nothing more frustrating than going all the way through a project and finding out something is not working. Test your circuit now to troubleshoot it before adding in all your glorious flowery creations.
To test your circuit but the battery between the stripped ends of the pipe cleaners that are not crimped to the LED. Do this like a sandwich, stripped pipe cleaner-battery-stripped pipe cleaner.
If your circuit does not work:
Flip the battery over. LEDs have a polarity or are like slides, electrons can go down the slides but not up. If you have the battery inserted into the circuit in the wrong direction you basically have a bunch of electrons hanging out at the bottom of a slide refusing to do anything useful...like light up. This will fix your circuit 99.9% of the time.
Test your battery. Sometimes a battery is a dud. Make sure your battery has juice by checking your circuit with another battery - again, test both directions to make sure the battery is inserted correctly.
Test your LED. Just like batteries, sometimes LEDs can be duds as well. You can check the LED by putting the batter directly through the legs instead of at the ends of the pipe cleaners. If it doesn't light up (again testing both directions of a good battery) then you have a bad LED.
Check your connections. If you can get the LED to light up at the bulb, but not at the end of the pipe cleaners check your connections at both the LED end and the battery end, as well as double checking the polarity.
Step 7: Step 7: Make Your Flower Petals
I decided to make a daisy type of flower for this project, but you can choose Mom's favorite flower to add an extra special touch.
To make your flower really jump out you will need to build it in pieces out of multiple pipe cleaners. I created each petal out of a long pipe cleaner that was folding and wrapped back upon itself, allowing me to fill in each petal.
Step 8: Step 8: Attach the Petals to Your Mug
You already have a ring of pipe cleaners around your mug from the LED circuit. Use this ring to attach petals. I slipped a piece of each petal under the pipe cleaners near the LED and twisted them in place.
Step 9: Step 9: Attach Your Battery
You can attach the battery right before giving the mug to Mom by either taping the pipe cleaner-battery-pipe cleaner sandwich in place (the easiest and most convenient method) or by crimping paper clips to the ends of the pipe cleaners and taping those to the battery.
There is no switch in this super simple LED circuit, but the battery will last for hours, if not days. Just tape it in right before serving her breakfast in bed!
I hope you enjoyed this project! If so, check out our other Mother's Day craft ideas .