How to Make a Cootie Catcher in 12 Simple Steps

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How to Make a Cootie Catcher? 

Imagine yourself as a student in grade school again, sitting at your desk or perhaps out on the playground with your peers. Your friend reaches into their bag and pulls out what could only be a sacred relic crafted from earlier this morning. The paper is still brilliantly white with precise, angular folds allowing the object to open and close easily and in multiple ways. This is a special item, there is no doubt about it, and your friend had clearly taken great care to etch every possible fate onto its interior flaps. What number should you guess? What color should you pick? What will your future have in store for you? Only the all-knowing cootie catcher could know, at least until later this afternoon when it starts to rip and you have to make a new one.

Making a cootie catcher in 12 steps.

Still popular today, the cootie catcher has been on record as a children’s fun paper activity since the 1920s. Its use as a toy fortune teller was first documented in the 1950s and has since been enjoyed by all. Originally published in the 1928 book, “Fun with Paper Folding”, the cootie catcher was in fact presented as a salt cellar. In other words, rather than a do-it-yourself fortune-telling craft, this fun origami project was first described as being a homemade container for keeping salt.

The cootie catcher has come a long way since its salt cellar days and has gone by a variety of different names including chatterbox and whirlybird. No matter what you refer to this paper toy by, it has been intriguing and engaging children and teens for decades, sharing precious secrets and revealing fortunes that only a child’s imagination could conjure up. In today’s article, we’ll be going over step by step how to make your own cootie catcher and enjoy this century-old paper toy whenever you’d like.

Making a Cootie Catcher in 12 Steps

1. Choose your paper

In truth, any paper will do as long as it’s not too thin. As a child, you may be limited to what you can find in your folders and notebooks, although as a grown-up and now parent I like to use card stock.

Steps 1 and 2 of making a cootie catcher.

2. Bring the bottom right corner up to the left side of your paper.

You’ll want to make sure you line up the sides of your paper so that there is no funny overlap. What you are doing here is making your typical 8-inch x 11-inch paper into a square. This technique will work for generally any size paper and you can adjust your paper’s width and height accordingly depending on how big or small you want your cootie catcher to ultimately be. No matter what the size though, a square piece of paper is an essential foundation for this origami craft.

3. Cut off the excess paper.

Cutaway anything that extends beyond your folded paper. This is important as you’ll want to make sure you have your square ready to go. Unfortunately, you can’t make a cootie catcher like the one shown here with a piece of paper that’s any size other than a square, so make sure this extra part is removed!

4. After you have done the cutting, you should end up with something that looks like this.

Make sure all of your edges are the same length because once you unfold the paper you’ll have your final square.

5. Unfold and reveal your cootie catcher’s square!

You’ve done it! You’ve created your square piece of paper that will act as your catcher’s foundation. Now onto the fun part where you can start creating the catcher itself.

Steps 3, 4, and 5 of making a cootie catcher.

5b. Bring the bottom left corner up to the top right corner and fold your paper the opposite way.

This is an extra step that’s not absolutely necessary, although it is something I learned to do after many, many attempts at making cootie catchers as a child. I like to do this part mainly because I end up having a perfect “X” that marks my paper. I’ve found that these fold-lines are actually great guidelines for the rest of the craft.

6. Bring your bottom left corner to the center of the “X” and fold.

This is where the fun begins. Start bending in each of the four corners of your square so that each of the corner’s tips meets in the center of the paper’s “X”.

7. Continue folding corners until all 4 are done.

This is what your paper should look like at this point. It’s almost like an envelope but not quite!

Steps 6 and 7 of making a cootie catcher.

8. Turn your folded paper over.

You’ll now want to flip your paper over. Keep your corners folded in and turn the paper over so that the opposite side is now facing upwards.

9. Continue folding corners.

Repeat what you did in steps 6 and 7, only this time you’re folding your already folded paper!

10. Make sure to fold all four corners!

You’ll notice that the crease marks left in the paper from the previous steps are yet again helpful guidelines. Fold in your corners so that each of the corners’ tips meet in the paper’s center. Repeat this step until all four are complete.

Steps 8, 9, and 10 of making a cootie catcher.

Wait! Before we move on to the next step, this is actually a great time to pause on folding your cootie catcher. Let’s make sure we label everything we need to, shall we? What use is a fortune-teller without fortunes?

  • Turn your square over so the flaps are facing up. On each square, write the name of a color. You can add designs or use colorful markers to make the outside of your cootie catcher “pop”.
  • Flip your square over so you now see the inside tabs. This side will look like it’s made up of eight triangles. On each of these triangles, write a number.
  • Flip your now numbered tab upward to reveal the space where your fortunes will be hidden. Within each of the tabs triangles, write a potential fortune! This is where you can get creative and have a lot of fun. Usually I like to include the traditional “Yes”, “No”, and “Maybe” options, although it’s also a great opportunity to have a few surprise smiles and laughs with some pretty silly prophecies.  

How to label a cootie catcher

11. Now fold your new square in half.

Make sure to do this step both horizontally and vertically. You are creating folds so your cootie catcher moves smoothly when opening and closing, so this important!

12. Gently separate the loose flaps away from the folded interior to create four little pockets.

These pockets are where your fingers will go and will also be how your cootie catcher can stand by its self.

Finished this last step? Congratulations! You’ve just made your very own cootie catcher!

The final steps to making a cootie catcher.

Conclusion

This origami craft can take a few attempts before coming outright, so don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t end up looking exactly like the pictures here at first. Keep trying and in no time you’ll have an amazing collection that’s all your own. Try using different types of papers with fun patterns and see what kind of fancy cootie catchers you can create!

References:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fortuneteller_mgx.svg

http://mentalfloss.com/article/67389/brief-history-cootie-catchers 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_fortune_teller 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_cellar