Video 34: Paper Engineers – Part 1!

Who has not grown up with a paper airplane or two, or some sort of paper-folding game?

And how many of you remember doing all sorts of things to make those airplanes work? Remember those “four-leaf clover” origami games that often predicted the future for you? And when your children were really, really little, and you got them a toy in a big box, they would play with the empty box rather than the toy itself?

Well, all of these activities have a lot in common: they help children develop cause and effect, which in turn helps them organize thoughts and solidify new learning. First and foremost, children could spend some undirected time with paper and (safe!) scissors – a world of possibility awaits. For example:

Others are quite detailed with full stories to tell:

Starting with only paper, scissors and nothing else, I discovered what a group of eighteen six year-olds could do: they created two and sometimes three-dimensional ‘paper sculptures’ that gave us all much food for thought. The process of exploring paper with scissors taught them about problem solving, an important concept to develop reading, math and science knowledge. Children are beginning to take risks and leap into the world of reading at this age and the experience of cutting and shaping paper gives them a chance to playfully describe their sculptures (vocabulary), to connect their new learning with previous experiences (they make connections), as well as to construct narratives based on the images that they create (storytelling). Paper engineering also requires much effort from the small finger muscles and coordination to fold, cut, punch, and twist, helping them to develop their fine motor skills.

This brings to mind the classic by Laura Numeroff, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” circle story: “If You Give a Child Paper…”

…they will ask for a hole puncher to go with it:

And when they get a bit older (six and seven years old), this is what their explorations look like (a double cut pop-up):

A single cut pop-up:

Both, going every which way:


I love how all the exploration turned into such beautiful paper sculptures!

And one last one:

I found two great book gems in that department (listed in the BookTip section of this vlog). I highly recommend that you sift through your recycling bin and find as much paper as your children’s imaginations will need (you can always use the extra paper for collage projects anyway – coming shortly after paper engineering!). We used the “worksheet pile” that comes from school every week and junk mail from our mailbox. It will be time well spent together and their brains will be forever changed : )

Depending on your interest (leave a comment, or send us an e-mail), I’ll produce short clips for you and your children to learn four basic techniques that we show in our videos this week.

In part 2, we will look at different ways of using paper engineering with children, including dioramas.

Set-Up for Episode #34:

  • Paper of all colors and sizes (copy paper and/or origami paper work best for small hands)
  • Scissors
  • Glue (best to use either a quick-dry liquid glue or glue sticks)
Did you enjoy this post? Share it with others! Need more? Let us know how we can help you enjoy this site with your children.

Have fun and Go Beyond The Classroom!


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