Origami Storytime

Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding. This storytime would be appropriate for Children’s Day, which is celebrated on May 5 (the fifth day of the fifth month) in Japan, or anytime in May, in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Welcome/Opening Activity:

Open with your regular storytime welcome song and greet the children with “konnichiwa,” which means “hello” in Japanese.


Title: Butterflies for Kiri
Author/Illustrator: Cathryn Falwell
Publisher/Date: Lee & Low Books Inc., 2003
Comments: Recommended for ages 4-8. Young artist Kiri receives an origami kit and experiences the frustrations and joys of experimenting with its rainbow of beautiful papers. Includes instructions on “How to Make an Origami Butterfly.”

Title: Yoko’s Paper Cranes
Author/Illustrator: Rosemary Wells
Publisher/Date:  Hyperion Books for Children, 2001
Comments: Recommended for ages 4-8. In this richly illustrated intergenerational story, origami cranes connect Yoko with her grandparents in Japan after she moves to California.

Title: Lissy’s Friends
Author/Illustrator: Grace Lin
Publisher/Date: Viking Juvenile, 2007
Comments: Recommended for ages 4-8. New student Lissy doesn’t have any friends, so she “makes a friend” – an origami crane – out of a lunch menu. A menagerie of vibrantly-rendered origami friends develops and leads to Lissy developing a true friendship.

Title: Fold Me a Poem
Author/Illustrator: Kristine O’Connell George, ill. by Lauren Stringer
Publisher/Date: Harcourt, Inc., 2005
Comments: Recommended for ages 4-8. Thirty-two short poems reflect a boy’s experiences as he creates and plays with a collection of origami animals. The book includes a bibliography of origami resources and the author’s and illustrator’s websites (http://www.KristineGeorge.comandhttp://www.LaurenStringer.com) provide instructions for creating some of the origami critters featured in the book.

Storytelling/Oral History:

Between reading the books, demonstrate how to make the featured origami animal (butterfly or crane) from each book, using extra large paper and explaining the steps as you go.


Butterfly Fingerplay
To be sung after Butterflies for Kiri
To the Tune of:Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star; hook thumbs together and flutter hands and fingers

Flutter, flutter butterfly
Floating in the springtime sky
Floating by for all to see
Floating by so merrily
Flutter, flutter, butterfly
Floating in the springtime sky!

From: http://www.thebestkidsbooksite.com

Origami Folding Song
Sing this song to the tune “Frére Jacques” (After everyone knows the words, perform it in a round!)
fold and crease
fold and crease
my imagination
my imagination
brought to life
brought to life!

From:  Teachers Guide for Fold Me a Poem, available at: http://kristinegeorge.com/teachers_guide_fold_me_a_poem.html


After hearing these stories children will want to make their own origami creations. Butterflies for Kiri has instructions for making an origami butterfly. The author and illustrator of Fold Me A Poem include instructions for making origami animals on their websites (http://www.KristineGeorge.comand http://www.LaurenStringer.com). Another popular origami project for children to make is a “fortune teller” or “cootie catcher” (see: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/origami/fortuneteller/

There are many wonderful books and websites that provide detailed instructions and diagrams for folding origami. A couple of good ones are:http://www.origami-fun.com/origami-for-kids.htmland http://www.origami-fun.com/index.html.

Origami may be a bit tricky for young children, making it an ideal activity for children working side-by-side with a parent, grandparent or older sibling or in small groups with your library’s teen volunteers.

Games/Other Activities:

Fuku warai, or “Lucky Laugh” is a Japanese game played by children similar to “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.” Place a blank outline of a face on the floor or mount it on the wall. Blindfold participants and have them try to place cutouts of individual facial features in the right place, with other kids providing guidance (“right,” “left,” “higher,” etc.). This can be adapted for a library storytime by using a feltboard.

Another popular Japanese children’s game is Jan Ken Pon, which is played just like the American game “Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

For more traditional games, see Children’s Traditional Games: Games from 137 Countries and Cultures by Judy Sierra and Robert Kaminski (Oryx Press, 1995).


Simple snack possibilities are seasoned rice crackers or Pocky sticks, the chocolate-covered cracker sticks that are “Japan’s most popular and iconic snack.” A more healthful alternative is steamed edamame, or soybeans, served in the pod. Edamame are available in the frozen food section of your grocery store and fun for kids to eat. Another popular snack for children is inari sushi, sweet seasoned rice stuffed into a deep-fried tofu pouch.


Sing your regular storytime closing song and say “sayonara,” which means “goodbye.”

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