Why should I learn origami

Learning to fold paper

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About the author

Dr. Birgit Ebbert is a freelance author and, as a qualified pedagogue, has been involved in parenting and teacher training for many years. In addition to children's books and thrillers, she writes parenting guides, learning aids, reading stories and books about working creatively with paper.

by Dr. Birgit Ebbert

© dyageleva - Fotolia.com
We all know paper hats and folded boats, wonderfully folded napkins and a paper bow in the shape of an accordion. Folding paper is a cultural technique that is learned in childhood and is often forgotten afterwards. Entire worlds can be created with just a few tricks and folding is also relaxing. It is not for nothing that paper folding has been part of religious ceremonies in Asia for centuries, in China grave goods are still folded from paper and in Japan bridal couples still fold 1,000 cranes together so that their marriage will be happy. And in restaurants the bags of chopsticks are often folded into small figures. Paper folding also has another positive effect: learning to fold paper.

1. About folding paper

In general, the development of paper folding is attributed to the people in Asia, because there was the first paper that opened up completely new creative possibilities. However, letters were also folded here, on the pictures of old masters there are collars and items of clothing with deliberately placed folds and napkins were folded for the guests at court.

Friedrich Froebel played an important role in the spread of paper folding. He is considered to be the inventor of the kindergarten and, in his concept in the mid-19th century, among other things, provided that children should fold with paper. Here they should learn basic mathematical principles, but also get an awareness of shapes and figures in their environment. The fact that his concept of the kindergarten was exported all over the world, especially to Japan, gave technology even there a new impetus.

In some of our kindergartens, paper is still folded today. However, this technique found its way into art and adult employment from Asia and the USA. Until then, adult wrinkles were more likely to be associated with napkin wrinkles.

Folding paper or origami is a simple technique that does not require expensive materials and that can be implemented anywhere. In Section 2 you will learn how children benefit from paper folding in their development. Section 3 reminds you of childhood folds that your children are sure to enjoy. When you have found joy in folding again, you will find a variety of suggestions in the literature and link tips.

2. Learning to fold paper - promoting concentration and math

When folding paper, skills are not taught, but demanded, so that children do not even notice that they are training and learning important basic skills while folding paper. On the one hand, there is the precise work. If you do not place corner on corner and edge on edge with halfway accuracy, you will not get the folding result that you want. It's different from writing next to the line. And when it comes to folding it automatically means that a child will work more carefully the next time they try. In addition, spatial orientation is required and the right-left distinction is practiced alongside the instructions.

A basic mathematical vocabulary is also formed in the instructions. Corner, edge, side, center, diagonal, the terms appear, are questioned once and are memorized because they are needed and not just stored theoretically.

What is fascinating, however, is that basic mathematical principles can be experienced when folding. Folding a square creates either two rectangles or two triangles. These two each form half of the square. This is how to cut in half. A triangle can only be folded into a triangle with a further fold, a square is not possible. These are topics that children all deal with in school and with which many students have difficulties. So folding paper is much more than just a children's activity; it trains important skills and makes mathematics tangible.

In addition, there are some studies that show that paper folding increases children's self-confidence, that it is relaxed and even therapeutic. So it pays to have a pile of paper in reserve so that children can always keep them busy.

3. Learning to fold paper: boat, hat and other folding figures

Here are some of the classic folding models that you will surely remember quickly when you see the instructions.

Hat and boat

Yes, exactly, the boat is being folded out of the hat, you will know that quickly.
  1. Rectangular paper is folded lengthways in the middle.
  2. The resulting rectangle is again folded in the middle and then unfolded again.
  3. The paper is with the open side facing you and the top right and left corners are folded along the center line. It already looks like a hat.
  4. Now the protruding edge on the front and back is folded up and the corners are hidden. The hat is ready.
  5. For the shuttle, the hat is opened from below and the tips are folded on top of each other. You can now see a square.
  6. The square is rotated so that the open corners are facing down. The corners are folded onto the top point on the front and back.
  7. The resulting triangle is opened from below until another square is created.
  8. Again the square is rotated so that the open corners are facing down. The corners are folded onto the top point on the front and back.
  9. The tips that stand up between this fold are pulled outwards and the shuttle is ready.

Heaven or Hell

What we know as “Heaven or Hell” already appeared in Friedrich Fröbel's first instructions 150 years ago and is called “Cootie Catcher” in English.

1. A square piece of paper is placed with the outside down.
2. One corner at a time is folded onto the opposite corner and the fold is opened again.
3. Now all corners are folded to the center.
4. The folded work is turned over and all corners are again folded to the center.
5. If you now fold the finished work diagonally in the middle, you can more easily put the thumb and forefinger of both hands in the pockets on the underside of the folding figure and move them a little. That's it.

Catcher or drinking cup

You can use the mug from these instructions in a variety of ways. If the paper is not too thin, you can actually drink from it. Tied with a ball on a thread at the bottom, a catch game is created and folded out of large paper, you get a pretty container for small items that would otherwise be lying around.

1. Fold one corner onto the opposite corner.
2. Lay the triangle with the long edge down and fold the right corner onto the opposite edge.
3. Fold the left corner onto the opposite edge so that both folded edges are on top of each other.
4. Insert the top layer of the protruding triangle into the front of the two wings.
5. Slide the second layer into the cup. Finished!

Garland man

Do you remember the garland men. They are nothing more than strips of paper that are folded like an accordion and from which something is cut out at the folding edges. With a child, you shouldn't try a figure straight away, but rather a geometric shape. It is also important that the folds are wide, they can be 5 cm wide, then your child can be more creative when cutting.

4. Literature & links to read on


Birgit Ebbert: Origami super easy! 2018
Birgit Ebbert: PapierZen. Relax with paper. 2018
Birgit Ebbert: Folding paper in daycare. 2019
Didier Boursin: Folding origami is child's play. 2015
Thomas Joseph Landa: Origami Compact Course 2006
Ines Petzschler and Heiko Etzold: Understanding math by folding paper: Instructions and worksheets for secondary school. 2014
Joan Sallas: origami fun for kids. 2002


Old and new folding figures and a lot about paper folding www.papierzen.de

Folding origami for young and old

Paper folds on Kiki's Web

Dissertation on "Folding paper" in Reimund Albers' mathematics class. 2006

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