With so much play happening indoors, sometimes introducing a new activity to your little ones is a great change of routine. Keep them entertained for hours learning the Japanese art form of origami.

Origami is a gentle art form, so they'll not only learn to make something beautiful, but they'll also learn patience and dedication along the way. Every parent's dream, right? Lucky for you, adults can enjoy origami, too — so it’s a great activity for the whole family.

Keep reading for origami tips so you and your kids can master this delicate art form. 

The beginner's guide to origami

  • Folding decorative paper has been an art form in Japan since the 6th century, but since the beautiful paper was pricey and hard to come by, it was typically just for the wealthy and elite of Japanese society.
  • In Japanese, origami straightforwardly translates to fold paper.
  • The crane, a sacred bird in Japan that symbolizes peace and longevity, is the most traditional origami design.
  • In the 17th century, origami became more accessible when paper started getting mass-produced, thus, becoming more affordable. Since then, origami has become an activity that everyone can enjoy.
  • It was passed through generations until the first origami book was published in the 18th century.
  • Today, origami is a popular activity all around the world, as it only takes a few supplies, some creativity, and patience.

Supplies Needed:

Let's get started and gather the supplies you need.

Origami paper: You’ll need square paper for the origami projects, and it should be a certain weight to make the folds easier (construction paper is too thick), so it's best to buy specific origami paper. Buy paper with decorative patterns to resemble traditional origami. 

Origami starter book: Get your kids started with a few easy designs from the Origami for Kids book.

A ruler: Use it to guide your child's folds in the beginning and run along the creases to make sure they're precise.

A few things to remember

Before we start learning, let's go over some advice for origami beginners. 

First, always fold with clean hands.

1. Precision is important in origami 

So if your little one doesn't have too much experience with folding, it's a good idea to practice a few basic folds before starting a big project. You could draw some lines on regular printer paper for them to try folding before moving on to the origami paper.

2. Go slowly

This is an activity that could test your child's patience, so remind them to slow down and focus so they can make their best work! It takes time for their little fingers to strengthen, and they might get worn out at first. It's totally fine to do a little bit at a time and come back to a project when they're ready to sit down and focus again. Remember, it's okay if your kids learn how to fail.

3. Keep it simple to start

Start with easy projects that have ten folds or less, like the boat model. If your child enjoys these, let them do them over and over again! You just might end up with some extra nautical decorations for your home.

Here are some easy beginner models to get started.

The basic folds

There are two basic types of folds in origami: the mountain fold and valley fold.

The mountain fold is when the crease is bent down to form a mountain shape. The valley fold is when the crease is bent up to form the shape of a valley.

In most origami projects these are used over and over again, so they’re a great place to start if you're a beginner and still learning to fold along straight lines.

Another important fold to begin learning is the pleat, which is when you make a valley fold and then a mountain fold.

Your origami book will have directions for other more advanced folds, or you can learn them here.

Getting started

Now that you've got your supplies and your little ones have practiced some basic folds, let's get started. Have your child choose a model that's recognizable to them, like a favorite animal (a bear is a great starter project), an airplane, or a flower. 

Spend some time going over the different symbols and folds that your child will encounter in the directions of their model. 

Make sure you have plenty of paper on hand. If your child makes a few mistakes, the different creases on the paper can get confusing, so it's best to let them start fresh with a new sheet.

Is your child enjoying working with paper? Try making flowers out of paper next.

Take an origami workshop with us

Ready to take it to the next level? Explore our virtual origami workshops, where best-in-class educators will help your child go from beginner to expert in a hands-on, enriching environment. If you're ready to move on to the next project, explore tons of arts and crafts on our blog!

We hope you found this advice for origami beginners helpful, and that you and your little one are on your way to becoming origami pros!