How to Fold Origami Cranes (and Keep Your Kids Busy During Summer Break)

I think we’re all a little jealous of those Pinterest mavens who spend hours crafting gorgeous and trendy creations with their kids. Let’s face it: not all of us are quite so DIY-inclined.

But you can only break out the finger paints so many times before everyone gets bored of smudging around (and you get tired of cleaning up the mess). Time to check off another activity on our Ultimate Summer Bucket List!

This week’s challenge: Make Origami Cranes

Origami — ori meaning “folding” and gami meaning “paper” — is a traditional Japanese art involving folding single, flat sheets of paper into transformed sculptures, such as the iconic crane design most of us are probably familiar with.

There is a legend in Japan that anyone who folds 1,000 cranes will be granted health and longevity (some of us might recall reading the story Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes in school), but for now, let’s just start with one.

Besides being a fun and pretty art project, origami is a great educational activity for kids. Not only is it an opportunity to teach kids about another culture, it’s also an exercise in patience. In fact, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency uses origami as part of a test to see how potential astronauts act under pressure and whether they can complete precise and detail-oriented tasks over and over again without error.

Click through our step-by-step directions below:


How to Make an Origami Crane 1 of 34
Turn an ordinary sheet of paper into a balancing crane with our simple step-by-step instructions!
Practice Makes Perfect 2 of 34
The art of origami is just that -- an art. As you can see, my cranes got progressively better as I made more of them, so don't get discouraged if your first crane isn't perfect!
Before You Begin... 3 of 34
I suggest using specific origami paper (you can usually find the paper at craft and bookstores), but any square sheet of paper should do for practicing and little fingers. Make sure the paper is square though or the folds won't match up!

Once you have the paper, label the front (the side you want to show) with A, B, C, and D like the photo on the left. Then label the back (the side that won't show) with 1, 2, 3, and 4 as shown in the photo on the right.
Step 1 4 of 34
With the paper face-up, turn it so it looks like a diamond with the A corner closest to you.
Step 2 5 of 34
Bring the A corner to the C corner, so that the paper forms a triangle.
Step 3 6 of 34
The backside of the paper should be showing now and the 4 should be in the top of the triangle. Crease and then unfold.
Step 4 7 of 34
Once the paper is unfolded and back to face-up, turn the paper so that it resembles a diamond once more, with the D corner closest to you.
Step 5 8 of 34
Repeat Steps 3 & 4 by bringing the D corner to the B corner. The number 1 should be showing at the top of the triangle. Crease and unfold.
Step 6 9 of 34
You should now have a X-pattern of creases on your paper. Flip the paper over so that the backside is showing, and turn it so that the 3-4 side is closest to you.
Step 7 10 of 34
Fold the 3-4 side to the 1-2 side so that the paper forms a rectangle. Crease and then unfold.
Step 7 11 of 34
Fold the 2-3 side to the 1-4 side so that the paper forms a rectangle. Crease and then unfold.
Step 8 12 of 34
You should now have a X-pattern and a crease up and down and side to side the middle of the paper.
Step 9 13 of 34
With the 2 corner closest to you, take the 1 and 3 corners and pull them toward you.
Step 10 14 of 34
The paper should start to fold in on itself, with the 4 corner moving downward.
Step 11 15 of 34
The paper should resemble a kite, with the top and side corners all meeting at the lowest corner to form a square.
Step 12 16 of 34
Once the paper forms a square, flatten the paper.
Step 13 17 of 34
Fold inward toward the middle of the top square, using the A as your middle point.
Step 14 18 of 34
Do the same for the other side so that the top square now has two fold triangles.
Step 15 19 of 34
Take the triangle shape above the two triangle you just folded, and fold it downward so it rests on top. Crease.
Step 16 20 of 34
Unfold all of the triangles.
Step 17 21 of 34
With the A corner closest to you, open the first layer of paper so that you can see the backside. It should look a little like a frog's mouth.
Step 18 22 of 34
Very carefully fold the opening back until it forms a long diamond. The bottom square should be underneath it.
Step 19 23 of 34
Flip the paper over so that the bottom square is now facing up.
Step 20 24 of 34
Repeat Steps 13 to 18.
Step 21 25 of 34
The paper should now have formed a long diamond. Flatten the paper out as much as you can.
Step 22 26 of 34
Like in Step 13, fold the edges inward on each side to form long triangles.
Step 23 27 of 34
Taking one side at a time, fold the bottom of the paper up and outwards, so that they stick out away from the top.
Step 24 28 of 34
Try and angle your "legs" as evenly as possible, because it will help the crane balance later. Crease and unfold back to their original position.
Step 25 29 of 34
Bring each leg upwards and inwards to nestle in to center of your diamond. Be careful not to rip any parts (thought it's totally fine if you do!).
Step 26 30 of 34
After inserting the "leg", flatten everything out and repeat Step 25 for the other "leg."
Step 27 31 of 34
Your paper should now look like this, almost like a take-out box or funny hat. Give everything a last flattening.
Step 28 32 of 34
Now for the wings. Simply fold down and crease the A and C corners so that the fold is even with the triangle in the middle. Then unfold so that the paper stands out straight.
Step 29 33 of 34
For the last step, pick which "leg" will be your head and fold over one of the ends to form the neck and head of the crane.
You Did It! 34 of 34
Congratulations! You just made an origami crane!
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