$ $ $ $ $
• • • •
10 mins

You remember cootie catchers, but maybe not how to make them.
You remember cootie catchers, but maybe not how to make them. People always bring them up when I show them flexagons. I didn't take them too seriously - they were so ordinary - but a couple of incidents changed my mind. I met an artist who had made some as part of a performance. I also saw some interesting artists' versions at Printed Matter, the artist book gallery in New York City. And then my children made cootie catchers at a dinner party that included a woman from Italy and one from Japan. Both women were thrilled, remembering the paper toys from their childhood. At my City University course, someone mentioned cootie catchers, so I went around the room asking people where they came from - about 16 different countries! - and if they remembered making them. Almost all did (except for the student from Kazakhstan), or remembered their sisters making them. Someone folded one quickly to show people who might not understand what we meant, and two Chinese students go excited. They had made cootie catchers, too, but just didn't know the English word for them. Their version had Chinese characters on the four sides for north, south, east and west. Inside was a normal fortune teller about love, death, and money. I began to realize that cootie catchers were universal folk form, taught by children to other children.

Posted by Esther K. Smith Published © 2023 Esther K. Smith / Potter Craft · Reproduced with permission.
  • How to fold an origami fortune teller. Cootie Catcher - Step 1
    Step 1

    Take a square of paper and fold it in half horizontally. Open. Fold it in half vertically. Open.

  • Step 2

    Fold in half diagonally. Open. Fold diagonally the opposite way. Open.

  • Step 3

    Fold all the corners into the center, using your prefolds as guides.

  • Step 4

    Turn the paper over. You will have an unbroken, folded square.

  • Step 5

    Fold all corners into the center again on this side, using your prefolds as guides.

  • Step 6

    Fold in half, making the sides you just folded the interior.

  • Step 7

    Pinching the outer triangles on both ends, push together into a 3-D diamond shape.

  • Step 8

    The outside will have open ends. Reverse the folds of the outer layers to open pockets that your fingers will fit in.

  • Step 9

    Place your thumbs and forefingers into those openings, then move them apart and together to manipulate your cootie catcher.

    You may wonder why these are called cootie catchers. Warning: This may gross you out (as it did with the person I tried it on). Cooties are lice.

  • How to fold an origami fortune teller. Cootie Catcher - Step 10
    Step 10

    Take your fingers out and flatten the cootie catcher so that the finger slots are flat on the table, revealing the inside.

  • Step 11

    Observe the four triangles that meet in the center.

  • Step 12

    Opposite triangles are revealed as you manipulated the cootie catcher. Try it and see what I mean.

  • Step 13

    Leave two triangles back.

  • Step 14

    On the other two, stipple with dots, or draw tiny bugs. I used a pen and quickly scribbles in little legs and small bodies.

    Now try it out. Push the triangles so that the inside is hidden. Open out your finger holes again and place your fingers and thumbs inside. It's good to do this one-handed if you can. Then open the catcher in one direction so the plain paper shows. When you open it the other way, the bugs show. Practice so that you can do this smoothly. It's sleight of hand. Approach your friend and show the clean inside. Say, "I'm catching cooties!". Touch his or her hair with the cootie catcher. Then open it the other way so the bugs show. Say, "Ew! Yuck! Look what I got!"

Made this project? Share your version »


Jen Bunny
Jen Bunny · Tampa, Florida, US
That's cool how everyone grew up with them but its funny how I still remember my first one... I learned how to do one by cutting out the pattern from a McDonald's Happy Meal bag lol still love them =]
Sasha · Richmond, Virginia, US · 6 projects
So cute!
Britta J.
Britta J. · Derby, England, GB · 67 projects
aaaah I remember making these! At our school, you'd write numbers around the outside and ask someone to choose a number. You'd open and close the 'snap-dragon' that many times, revealing alternate triangles. These inside ones would be coloured, and you'd get them to choose a colour. You'd lift up that colour flap and underneath would be a fortune or an insult for them!

More Projects