5 easy and cheap (or free) fun paper ideas for children

Every house has paper in it, especially if there’s children around.  And there’s nothing cheaper or potentially more fun than getting creative with paper, whether you’re an adult or child.

N isn’t that excited about learning letters or numbers, but he’s been a dab hand at using scissors for the past year which I’m hoping will hold him in good stead for once he starts school and has to do writing!  He also brings home A LOT of paper from nursery.  Whether it’s one scrawl on each of the 14 ‘cards’ he’s made, or a full piece of paper, there’s always a good stash floating around to use up before recycling or burning.

paper cutting

The other week he was cutting away and I decided that it was time to do something more creative with the paper he was destroying into tiny pieces.  I decided to start folding and cutting myself to make some people chains.  I didn’t know if N had ever seen them before but he loved them.  The surprise once they were unfolded the excitement at choosing another subject for cutting out, and then the questions on why things didn’t quite look like he’d requested….that’ll be my lack of artistic ability, and lack of thought.

So if you’re not artistic, here’s some easy and cheap (or free, presuming you’ve already got paper, glue, sellotape and scissors) fun paper ideas for children.  And reminisce from your childhood.

1. 3D snowflake

You can find my tutorial to make one of these brilliant decorations at my 3D snowflake post.

2. Paper planes

Now I’m never that thrilled about these, but at both of N’s nursery recently they’ve been making them, and N came back with one which was a brilliant flyer.  And 2 ginormous versions that I wasn’t convinced would fly, but they did (just about).  However you make them, they’re an item that children love.

You can use them for teaching as well as play:

  • Flying competitions
  • Learn distances as you measure how far they’ve travelled
  • Solving problems – working out which is the best type of paper to use, and what’s the best method of folding.

3. Fortune tellers

I loved making these at primary school – who didn’t?  They’re great fun, and personalisable to play a game or story.  Plus they look a lot harder to make than they are.  Actually I always think the hardest bit is ensuring you have a totally square piece of paper to start with.

Instructions:

  1. Take your piece of square paper.  A4 paper cut to size is probably as small as you want otherwise it gets quite fiddly and hard to fit your fingers in
  2. Fold the paper diagonally to make a triangle, both directions to make the guidelines for folding.  Open up
  3. Fold each corner into the centre.  Carefully turn over
  4. Again fold each corner in to the centre.
  5. Folder in half and half again – you’ll have a little square.  Open up that step, then fold in so you can slot your fingers in to each 4 holes, to put the corners into the middle to make a point.
  6. Write colours or numbers on the outside 4 parts, and the inside parts that you see.  Underneath the fold write messages, forfeits or predictions.  To play, just use forefingers and thumbs to move forward and back in the fortune.  Ask someone to pick a number and open/close the fortune teller that many times before they pick a side for the message.

make a paper fortune teller

4. Matchbox ‘jack in the box’

These remind me of corn dolly making.  Making the concertina lengths are the 3D equivalent to doodling in my opinion.

Instructions:

  1. Take 2 long strips of paper – even width.  Any width works as long as they the same width, but make them around 1.5cm width if you’re going to use them in a pop up little box.  You can use any paper, but if you’re not just aimlessly making them, thicker paper or even thin card is better.
  2. Take the ends and attach one end on top of the other at right angles.  So you’ll have one piece pointing towards/away from you, the other horizontal to you.
  3. Start to fold, one piece down, the other piece across, one piece up, the other piece across, until you’ve reached the end.  Trim off if needed, and stick the 2 ends together.
  4. Let go and you should have a ‘DNA-style’ shaped length of folded card.

If you make them using different colours they look great and you can make massive ones by reattaching more paper.

make a matchbox jack in the box Bubbablue and me

Once you’ve made one, you can stick the bottom to the inside of a little box (matchbox should work), add a face or topper to it.  Fold it carefully up, pop the box lid on, and when you open it, you have a little jack in the box.

5. Paper chain people

I’m not sure if these are the right name for them, but N had a great time one evening with me making patterns to order. I can’t say they were all a success (cat with 2 tails, and he moaned about the train engine which was facing itself – you can’t please some people!), but he loved them, and days later they’re still looked at and played with.

paper people chain

All you need is paper – any length, but if you want a long design rather than portrait direction, you’ll need longer paper and longer folds.

Instructions:

  1. Concertina fold backwards and forwards
  2. Either draw on your design and cut out, or if you’re confident cut out your design freehand.  Remember to take the design to either edge of your folded paper otherwise it won’t be joined.
  3. Unfold to show your repeated design.

paper chain people

People obviously work brilliantly, and animals (if you draw them sideways rather than front on), vehicles, or geometric patterns.  Just remember with people to only draw half of them, so when you open up you get the whole person.

train papercuts

It shouldn’t really amaze me at the simple things that children enjoy, but it still does.

5 fun paper crafts for children

What paper creations do your children like to make?

 

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10 websites to learn to crochet  bean bag games  paint a reusable bag=

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18 thoughts on “5 easy and cheap (or free) fun paper ideas for children

  1. These are fun ideas. I’m working on an arsenal of crafts, activities, and games to play with the kids this summer to avoid screen-time. I used to make fortune tellers in school myself and I’d forgotten all about it! Those paper chains look like they’d take a little practice but we could figure it out and your 3D snowflakes are gorgeous! Thanks for the ideas!

  2. Wow, I haven’t made many of these since I was a child myself, let alone with my own child! Will have to try these all out with her over the coming days. Would make brilliant rainy day activities.
    Thanks for the brilliant write up and images too. Great tutorials x

  3. I love the fortune teller paper craft! I used to make it in school and now i have forgotten how to make it! Thanks for the step by step!
    Also the matchbox jack-in-the-box is brilliant! Have to be honest, it been a while since I seen a match box. My classmate used to keep spider inside the match box to scare our friends!

    1. We don’t use many matchboxes either, not that size as we usually only have the big size of box for lighting the fire. Might have to search for some boxes of that sort as craft supplies because they’re quite useful to have in a stash

  4. Such great ideas for simple fun creative play. My son loves making paper planes and all of my kids love making snowflakes, though they often turn out to look like masks rather than snowflakes, but they love creating them none the less!
    Thanks for sharing #LetKidsBeKids

    1. N was enchanted by snowflakes. I don’t think he could work out how a piece of paper could turn out like it did! So lovely when they get excited about simple things
      Thanks for stopping by Karen.

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