A Thousand Paper Cranes

Have you ever read “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes”? If you haven’t, I urge you to check it out, for it is a wonderful book. There are a lot of elements going on in this book, but the one I wanted to focus on is about how a young girl with leukemia used origami paper cranes to help her through her battle with cancer. In the story, Sadako is told by her friend that if she folds a thousand paper cranes she will have a wish granted. Sadako then spends her time in the hospital trying to fold enough for her wish of getting better to come true.

Sadako was a real girl who lived in Japan

Sadako was a real girl who lived in Japan

What I want to focus on in this post is how folding paper cranes can be therapeutic. First off, when you fold origami, you are creating something, just like any other art form, therefore creativity is being used. In addition, folding a thousand cranes is a big project and is great for someone who is looking for a long-term activity that will last during a lengthy hospital stay. It’s also a great way for one to express oneself by decorating with the paper cranes. Making paper cranes can also have a meditative quality, similar to making a friendship bracelet. Finally, the act of folding the paper cranes helps develop fine motor skills. So, are you ready to learn how to make a paper crane?

Paper Crane 23

The nice thing about origami is all you need is a square piece of paper and your hands. That’s it! So grab a piece of paper and follow along!

Paper Crane 1

Step 1: Fold the paper into triangles with the colored side facing in, and then fold it like a hotdog with the colored side facing out.

Paper Crane 3 Paper Crane 2

Then using the creases you just made, fold the paper into a kite shape like so…

Paper Crane 4 Paper Crane 5

Step 2: Taking the two folds on the top, fold them towards each other into triangles again. Flip the paper over and do it to the other side. And it should look like this:

Paper Crane 6 Paper Crane 7 Paper Crane 8

Step 3: Unfold the four folds you just made in Step 2 and invert them so that the folds are backwards and the triangles are now inside the middle of the paper:

Paper Crane 9 Paper Crane 10 Paper Crane 11 Paper Crane 12 Paper Crane 13

Step 4: Now you should have a skinny diamond shape. Again fold the two top folds towards each other. Flip it over, and fold the other two top pieces over each other. You should now have a really skinny looking kite.

Paper Crane 14 Paper Crane 15 Paper Crane 16

Step 5: The two bottom triangles can now be lifted up to meet at the top. These are the head and tail of the crane.

Paper Crane 17 Paper Crane 18 Paper Crane 19

Step 6: Now take the wider triangles that were at the top and pull them down to create the wings! Choose which side is the head and then fold down the top slightly to create the head, and you’re done!

Paper Crane 20 Paper Crane 21 Paper Crane 22

You can string the paper cranes together to create a chain that can hang. My favorite way of doing this is inserting the string right through the middle and letting them hang on top of one another. Another way to decorate with cranes is using them to create a picture. This requires lots of cranes of the solid colors you want to use. Here is an example of a picture kids created in Japan.

A collage of paper cranes in Japan

A collage of paper cranes in Japan

If you get really good, you can make them super tiny, just like Sadako! (I’ve found Starburst wrappers work really well.)

Tiny cranes at the Hiroshima Peace Museum

Tiny cranes at the Hiroshima Peace Museum

Origami Paper Cranes Activity Notes

Age: 8 years and up

Materials Needed: Square paper

Therapeutic Value:
Fine Motor Skills

Let me know how many you make! Also, if you need a better step-by-step, let me know and I’ll make a video how-to!

One thought on “A Thousand Paper Cranes

  1. Pingback: Paper Cranes and the Creative Release of Painful Emotion | Barbara Scoville, LCSW

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