What Is Origami || Benefits Of Origami For Kids

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What Is Origami


What Is Origami


Origami is the art of making folds in a square of paper to create a sculpture. The sculpture must be made without making any cuts to the paper, nor can any form of sticky tape or glue be used. It’s essentially paper-folding for kids or adults.

True origami does not allow any marking of the paper. However, in many origami tutorials for children, the addition of a dot for an eye or a line for a mouth can often be found.

What Is the Purpose of Origami?

Paper, as we know it today, was invented by the Chinese approximately 2,000 years ago (1). Initially, paper was a rare and expensive item. Therefore, it was used primarily by royal households, monks, and religious leaders for recording important texts.

It is thought that religious leaders and monks were the first to practice origami. These paper sculptures were made for ceremonial or religious purposes. Origami was also used to teach some basic principles of mathematics.

As paper became more widely available, origami was also practiced to create decorations and purely for the purposes of artistic enjoyment.

Is Origami Japanese Or Chinese?

While it is assumed by many that origami is a strictly Japanese pastime, it is most likely to have originated in China. However, in the 1600’s it became a popular artform in Japan and it is here that the first known written origami instructions were recorded in 1797.

At this stage, the practice was called orikata, meaning “folded paper.”

In the meantime, the Moors brought a form of mathematically-based paper folding to Spain. Here it was further developed into a practice known as papiroflexia.

The term origami emerged in Japan in the late 1800’s. As origami is a Japanese word, it became primarily seen as a Japanese activity.

Is Origami An Art Form?

Great minds have debated about what qualifies as art. However, if you believe art is creation of something purely for the pleasure of creating it, then origami can be considered an art form.

Why Is Origami Called Origami?

The name origami is generally thought to originate from two smaller Japanese words. First is ori which means to fold and second is kami, meaning paper.

Although this explanation is thought to be likely, it is by no means the only possibility as to why this craft got its name. It could also be a direct translation of the German word papierfalten, which means to fold paper.

This theory arose because German educator and inventor of kindergarten, Friedrich Froebel, was a proponent of paperfolding. Froebel used what became known as Froebelian folds to teach basic principles of geometry and this technique was introduced to Japanese schools in 1880.

It was about this time the term origami first became used to describe paper folding as a pastime. Consequently, it is up for debate whether the word is strictly Japanese or was influenced by Frobel’s papierfalten.

What Is Origami Paper Called?

In theory, almost any piece of paper can be used for basic origami. There is no single specific “origami paper” although you often see packs of paper squares marketed as such. Here are three types you might see.


These “traditional” squares of origami paper are commonly referred to, in the west, as kami. However, this is a distinctly Western use of the word. Kami is the Japanese word for paper, so if you are conversing with a Japanese speaker, kami can refer to any kind of paper.

Kami is a relatively new form of paper which was created in the early 20th century, specifically for use in schools. Usually found in six- or ten-inch squares, it can be found in squares of as large as 15 inches or as small as one inch.

To begin with, kami was colored on only one side, because it was cheaper to make that way. However, today you will usually see these common origami squares colored on both sides.


Washi paper is handmade from local plant fibers, and paper mulberry is the most frequently used. True washi paper can be expensive and many of the commonly seen ones are actually “washi style” regular paper with traditional washi patterns printed on it.


You will also see foil origami sheets, which are paper with a layer of foil on one side. These are primarily for those who have moved past the beginner’s stage of origami and want to create more complex models.

Benefits Of Origami For Kids

Origami is more than just a nice way to pass some time. It has physical, mental, and even emotional benefits for children of all ages.

Fine Motor Skills

In order to make folds and create models, you need to have a reasonable level of hand control. Practicing origami helps to improve this fine motor skill, and this improvement benefits other areas requiring physical dexterity.

Brain Development

Not only does origami improve a child’s fine motor skills, but the process of using your fingers to create folds, shapes, and models stimulates both sides of the brain. This promotes brain development in multiple areas.

Following Instructions And Sequencing

To create a specific model in origami from instructions, a child must follow a series of directions, step by step, in the correct sequence. If your child doesn’t follow the instructions in the correct order, they will not be able to re-create the model. This is an extremely valuable life skill.


Origami can be used to teach that there may be multiple solutions to a single problem. To illustrate this, show your child a finished origami model and ask them to recreate it. Your child will then have to apply their existing knowledge to come up with a way to make the model.


Origami can be used to help teach basic concepts of math such as 2D and 3D shapes. However, it doesn’t end there. Origami can also be used to demonstrate basic concepts of measurements, length, width, geometry, and fractions.

This is especially useful for children who are visual and tactile learners. The concept of a half can be difficult for a child to grasp, but by folding a piece of paper in half a child has a visual and physical reference for understanding.

Physics And Engineering

Origami is an excellent tool for learning how a simple art material can have different levels of strength depending on how you use it.

A thin, light piece of paper can become a strong, load-bearing item just by folding it in the correct way.

Learning To Fail

In school, we are usually taught that to be successful you must have the correct answer to a question. We learn that there is one correct answer and that you must not fail when seeking it.

However, failure is a part of life. Learning how to fail gracefully, how to learn from your failure, and how to move on is a critical life skill.

Origami provides a way to fail without consequence, allowing your child to learn to deal with failure in a more positive, healthy way.

Building Self-Esteem

On the flip side of learning to fail in a healthy manner, there are the self-esteem benefits of being successful. Any child can derive pleasure from taking a piece of paper and folding it to create something else.

However, for children who are struggling in any way, the apparent simplicity of origami is non-threatening. This makes it more accessible and a great medium for building a child’s confidence.

Artistic Expression

The benefits of art and creating something purely for the pleasure of it can be severely underrated. Using origami to express yourself creatively can benefit all children, but especially those who struggle to express themselves through language.

Final Word

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