Paper fortune tellers, also known as "cootie catchers," are an example of childhood entertainment at its best. Easy, cheap and infinitely adaptable, these origami projects inject a burst of randomness and fun into any gathering. Use paper fortune tellers with children to practice manual dexterity, deliver information, play a game or simply tell your fortune.
Folding a Fortune Teller
Start with a square piece of paper and fold it in half twice, making four even squares. Unfold completely, then fold each corner to the middle. Flip the paper over, and again fold each corner to the middle. Fold the paper in half, forming a rectangle. Work the thumb and index finger from each hand under the four square flaps. Press gently together to form a three-dimensional fortune teller. Include kids in the folding process to give them practice at following instructions and a sense of satisfaction in their work. Although standard fortune tellers begin with a paper a few inches in diameter, you can also use very large or very tiny squares for a fun twist.
Questions and Fortunes
Children commonly decorate fortune tellers various colors and include pictures and designs. A question-based fortune-telling game begins with four questions, written on the four outer squares. Some example questions are, "What is your name?" or "How many children do you want to have?" The player chooses a question to answer, which causes the fortune-telling child to alternate the inside orientation several times, counting numbers or letters in the answer. Inside the fortune teller, the player may choose from eight smaller triangles decorated with numbers or pictures. This spurs the fortune-telling child to make more moves or to lift a flap and read the fortune. Each fortune teller can accommodate eight different fortune outcomes.
Themed Fortune Tellers
For a fresh twist on the traditional fortune teller, create a project based on a theme in science, literature or history. When reading a novel, build cootie catchers that tell the fortunes of the characters based on student predictions. A historical cootie catcher might synthesize student research on events in a particular time period, such as the likelihood of striking gold during the Gold Rush or getting scurvy on a pirate ship.
Fortune Teller Games
A paper fortune teller game may have directions rather than fortunes written on its inside flaps. Use the innermost flaps to hide activities or challenges such as "Give the person sitting to your left a compliment" or "Draw a picture of a giraffe in ten seconds." Use a modified cootie catcher to play "Truth or Dare," labeling the middle triangles "truth" and "dare" depending on the instructions lying beneath. To use a cootie catcher in a board game or other game of chance, leave the outside and middle flaps completely blank and write numbers on the innermost flaps. Spin the cootie catcher before playing to ensure randomness. Like dice or playing cards, you may use a cootie catcher to explore the phenomenon of probability through repeated trials.
Mary MacIntosh has been writing professionally since 2007, contributing articles to "The California Tech" and serving as an editor for the "Biweekly Frink Digest." She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in computational neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology.