Have you ever made a paper airplane? If so, you know how much fun it can be to make simple crafts with paper. Would you believe there’s an ancient Japanese art form dedicated to making things with folded paper? It’s called origami!

Origami comes from the Japanese words for “folding” and “paper.” And that perfectly describes what origami is. Origami transforms a simple, flat sheet of paper into a three-dimensional sculpture through nothing more than folds in the paper. Cuts and glue are not allowed!

Origami started in the 17th century in Japan. By the mid-1900s, it had become a popular art form outside of Japan. Today, origami is a well-known art form around the world.

Have you ever tried origami? Anyone can learn with a little practice and patience. The basic number of folds is small, but they can be combined in a seemingly-endless number of ways to create sculptures of everything from simple boxes to complex animals. Some of the basic folds include valleys, mountains, pleats, sinks and reverse folds.

Special origami paper — often called “kami” (Japanese for paper) — is now sold in craft stores, but basically any paper that will hold a crease will work! Some people even enjoy making origami sculptures out of paper money!

There are several different types of origami. Action origami, for example, includes sculptures that can move in interesting ways. One of the most popular examples of action origami is the flapping bird.

Modular origami involves combining several smaller pieces of origami into a larger origami structure. A popular example of modular origami is the decorative ball known as kusudama.

Some of the more intricate origami sculptures require a technique called wet folding. Wet folding is exactly what it sounds like. Origami paper is dampened so it can be folded and sculpted more easily. This allows gentle curves to be created that then stay crisp when the paper dries.

Does origami have any practical application beyond mere art? It does! Insights gained from origami have led to the development of advanced airbags for automobiles and safer stent implants for heart surgery patients.

The most fascinating pieces of origami are probably the smallest and largest examples that have ever been created. The smallest origami crane was made by Mr. Naito of Japan with a piece of paper that measured 0.1 X 0.1 mm square. He folded the crane using a microscope and special tools he created himself!

On the other end of the spectrum, a Seattle organization called Wings for Peace made the world’s largest paper crane in 1999. It was over 215 feet wide and weighed about 1,750 pounds!

84 Join the Discussion

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  1. I love origami I can never do it though even with instructions. I heard about a book called Origami Yoda. Origami is very interesting! That is amazing how Mr. Naito made that small crane and how that organization made the huge crane!

    I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about why turtles hide in shells.

    • It seems to take a LOT of practice to be a great origami artist, Wondergirl101! So don’t worry, if you keep practicing you can do it! Thanks for letting us know about the book Origami Yoda! Another Wonder Friend mentioned that book, too!

      We’re glad you enjoyed WONDERing with us today, and thanks for sharing your SUPER guess for tomorrow! :)

    • Hi well I know how to do it maybe sometime I can teach you and you can teach me something I don’t know.
      My webpage is awesome group and I will post pictures of it.

      • Hey there, Jimmy, that’s a WONDERful idea! We love learning cool new things from our Wonder Friends, and we hope you enjoy learning new things with us here at Wonderopolis! What is your favorite origami figure to fold, Jimmy? :)

  2. Hi I am the first one yay! Anyways the man was awesome to make those wow! I can make paper airplane. And the bird. They can be difficult to make but that man made the seahorse I really love them. Go Seahorse Go!!

    From, Monkey geek :)

    • Hey there Monkey Geek, we’re so excited that you enjoyed our origami Wonder today! We bet your paper airplane is great– have you ever tried origami on your own? It looks like a great deal of fun!

      Thanks for joining the fun today, Monkey Geek! Have a SUPER day! :)

    • We’re glad you’re back, Kamron! Thanks for sharing your comment about origami today– we Wonder what your favorite part of the Wonder was? :)

    • YIPPEE! Thanks for letting us know that today’s Wonder was one of your favorites! We think people who create cool creations from paper are very talented! We Wonder if you have ever tried your hand at origami, Bryleigh?! :)

    • We Wonder what you learned from today’s Wonder, Haley?! We’re so excited that you joined the fun at Wonderopolis today! :)

    • We’re so excited that you liked today’s Wonder video, Mallorie! We Wonder if you have ever tried your hand at origami?! :)

    • It’s so nice of you to say hello to your Wonder Friends, Gabrianna! Thanks for sharing your love for origami with us! We Wonder if you have created any origami creatures of your own? :)

  3. I love origami and I have instructions for a “fly fishing” oragami you can make with a dollar! Keep up the cool wonders!

    Wonder Hunter out

    • WOW, how very cool Wonder Hunter! Your fly fishing origami sounds really amazing and creative! Thanks for sharing your comment with us today! :)

    • That’s pretty cool that you enjoy reading the origami books, Jacob! It’s okay if you don’t enjoy making anything but you do like the books! Thanks for letting us know how you feel! :)

  4. My class has been reading “Darth Paper Strikes Back.” It is a book about a boy that has an origami Darth Vadar. This wonderopolis came at the right time!

    • How cool that our Wonder Friends in Ms. Blanchard’s are reading about origami! WOW! That’s a WONDERful coincidence! We think the book sounds funny and interesting! Thanks for sharing your comment with us, Wonder Friends! :)

  5. I love making paper airplanes. Sometimes making origami is hard but fun! I loved today’s wonder. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be abot who made slippers? See you later Wonderopolis!!!

    • You’re right, Ryleigh! We bet it takes time and practice to create origami figures, but it’s really fun to do! What a SUPER guess for tomorrow’s Wonder! Nice work! :)

  6. This was fascinating and I agree with Ms. Blanchard because I’m in her class!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • How cool, Daniel! It’s WONDERful that you and your classmates have been learning about origami today! What’s your favorite part of the origami book so far? :)

    • The most important thing is that you’re learning something new, Kim! Some of our Wonder Friends are better at some things than others… origami is a very specific type of art, but you might be a great writer, singer or basketball player! You can learn about your very own talents, too!

      Wonder #684– Are You Talented? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/are-you-talented/ :)

    • Hey, hey, hey there Superman! We’re oh-so-glad that you are a fan! Wonderopolis welcomes new friends– there’s a ton! So we hope you’re having lots of fun! :-)

    • Well thanks so much, Wonder Friend Allure! We really appreciate your comment, and we’re glad you stopped by to Wonder with us! :)

  7. Hey it’s so hard to make origami but I can’t stop because they’re so fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • It’s very difficult, you’re right, Alyssa J! We think it’s awesome that you’re doing your best to try your hand at origami! It takes lots of practice and patience– we’re so proud of you, Alyssa J! :)

  8. We loved the origami. We just had an art unit called From Caves to Canvas. We liked seeing the art of origami!

    Catie has a Wonder about Hurricane Sandy. How did Hurricane Sandy get its name? Do other types of storms have names?

    Thanks for helping us learn new things!

    • That’s great news, Danielle! We’re glad today’s Wonder was right up your alley! Thanks for sharing your comment with us– we hope you keep up with your origami! :)

  9. Hi, I always knew about origami but I didn’t know when it was invented in 17th century in Japan. I did a school project on it too.

    • WOW, it’s so much fun to learn cool, new things with you, Minecrafter! How AWESOME that you completed a school project about origami! We Wonder what your favorite thing from today’s Wonder was? :)

  10. I thought today’s wonder was really cool! I once heard about a legend or something that if you made a thousand Origami cranes, you get a wish granted. I would like to do some origami some time. I once did make a bunch of the origami cranes, though. It was really fun! :) P.S. Hi Gabrianna!

    • You’re right, Berkleigh, there is a story called Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes! It’s about a girl, who is sick, with a goal of folding 1,000 paper cranes. Her story is amazing, and a bit sad, too, but she is full of determination! She is a true Wonder Friend, just like you! :)

  11. Today’s wonder was so cool!!!!! I love wonderoplis!!! A good friend gave us some frogs out of paper she made. Thanks for today’s wonder!!! :P

    • WOHOO, you’re a lucky duck to receive some origami frogs from a friend, Blakeleigh! Thanks for letting us know that you enjoyed today’s Wonder! Have a SUPER weekend! :)

  12. That person in the video has a very special talent and could become famous too, and this video and wonder was and is spectacular.

    • We certainly agree with you, Yeniffer! We think that origami is very difficult to do and it takes lots of talent to accomplish! Great job, Wonder Friend! :)

    • What a great question, Tiyanna! We think that there are lots of ways to express yourself and your feelings, including art! Origami is a type of art, so we bet you can show how you feel through origami! We are very impressed with your Wonder! :)

    • How great, Sheyla L! We’re so happy that you learned something new about the ancient tradition of origami! We Wonder if you’ve tried your hand at origami? :)

  13. Hey wonderopolis,
    I never knew that origami was started in Japen but not in the 17th century. I have never tried origami but I have some friends that do it. I never really knew that there was different types of origami.

    This was one of my favorite wonders of all time!:)

    • Your comment made us smile, Fitz! Thanks for summarizing what you learned from our origami Wonder! Origami is a very unique and interesting art to learn about– and even cooler when you try it yourself! We hope you have a WONDERful Wednesday! :)

  14. I LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD it.

  15. Hi I’m Madison I never knew that origami was so old. I think my favorite part was hearing about the guy who made the teeny tiny crane!
    :) ;)

    • How cool, Sofia! We Wonder what your favorite origami sculpture is? Have you tried your hand at origami, or do you enjoy the looking at all the different figures that have been created? :)

  16. I am not sure how old oragami is but the world’s greatest oragami artist was a Mr. Yoshigawa and he did amazing sculptures. He actually passed away on the day of his 94th Birthday.

    • Thanks for sharing your comment with us, Wonder Friend! We appreciate you adding even more WONDERful information! We’re so lucky to have a Wonder Friend like you! :)

    • Hey Rue! Thanks for coming to Wonderopolis today! Forming origami is definitely a beautiful art form. Have you ever tried it? The action origami, like making a flapping bird, seems like a fun thing to try! What do you think? :)

  17. Dear Wonderopolis,

    What kind of origami do you make? And I have my own little kid origami set it is fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! P.S. YOU HAVE GOOD WONDERS.

    • We like to try our hands at all kinds of origami, Hannah! We think animals are lots of fun, and it takes lots of patience and practice to get it just right! Thanks for sharing your kind comment, we hope to Wonder with you again soon! :)

    • Hip-hip-hooray, we’re glad you enjoyed our origami Wonder today, MaryCutiePie2001! We Wonder if you have tried your hand at origami? What’s your favorite object to create? :)

    • Keep up the great work and practice, MaryCutiePie2001! We bet you’re getting better each day! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

  18. Do you know what 3D origami is? I do, it’s origami put together with tiny other origami pieces! I’m learning how to make it but I’m having trouble! WHOOPS! :D

    • Thanks for sharing something you’ve learned about origami, Wonder Friend! We bet with some practice and hard work you will be creating beautiful origami pieces! Keep using your WONDERful imagination! :)

    • How cool, Abby! What is your favorite formation or creature to make? We bet you have quite an origami collection! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How old is origami?
  • Where did origami start?
  • What origami crafts can you make?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Ready to get folding? Grab some friends and family members and try your hands at origami! You might need to get a few supplies first, so be sure to check out what you might need for the projects you want to create.

When you’re finished, upload a picture of your origami creation to Facebook for all your Wonder Friends to see. We can’t wait to see what you make!

Still Wondering

In Illuminations’ Pinwheel lesson, children create parallelograms from square sheets of paper and connect them to form an octagon.

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