Papercraft books are within the favorite gifts of my nephew. When he was 4-5 years old we used to buy one of those books that have the models lined and ready for cutting out directly from the book pages. Then he would take the book and sit with it and work on the model until it's finished even if this was going to take several hours. Can you imagine a healthy 4-5 years old kid staying calm and quiet for so long?
When I saw this for the first time I started to think there was some magic in paper crafts. Paper is so easy to work with and so flexible - it's ideal for kids that would otherwise get bored quickly by the hurdles in working with wood or other not so flexible material.
So I went further and explored what kind of paper toys we can make together with kids (or leave them make themselves). I found these four types to be of greatest interest:
This ancient art of paper folding is good for kids of all ages. There are shapes simple enough for a 3-4 years old and ones that are complex even for adults. Some kids may find the shapes in the most popular type of Origami a bit hard to make or even boring. In such case I suggest you take a look at action Origami, wet folding, and modular Origami. This craft allows you make a lot more than paper cranes! The variety of toys kids can make by folding is really unlimited.
Most paper airplanes can be made just by folding and instructions for making them are available for free online. For the beginning however it might be a better idea to buy one of those books that have real-size colored models inside, ready to be cut out.
Kinetic paper toys
Kids love moving toys and feel very excited to make such ones together with their parents. Some simple functional toys can be made of paper and cardboard using rotation or some other basic mechanics.
One of the most popular and simple kinetic paper toy is the paper windmill. Have you not made at least one when you were a kid? All you need for such a toy is a piece of paper, a pin or nail and a pencil or a tall, thin stick.
If you go further you can make some simple cam toys from paper and cardboard. It's a way to combine fun with learning by showing the kids how elementary mechanics work.
Complex paper toys and models
Another interesting category of paper toys are the complex models of buildings, cars, trains or other vehicles that are usually cut out from colored papercraft books (for example see here). These models don't have any moving parts but making them involves cutting, folding and sticking many parts - sometimes hundreds. I remember how myself and my brother spent more than a week as kids making a model of monastery.
Usually you can find such papercraft books with lined parts in your local bookstore or places like Amazon. But if you want some really advanced stuff you can start with blank sheets of paper and draw the models yourself. Sometimes drawings can be downloaded from the web. In any cases making this kind of models is for more experienced kids, 6-8 and more years old.
Besides affordable, toys made from paper are very diverse, eco-friendly, light and safe. I can hardly think of other types of toys that can offer the same advantages. If you haven't made any toys together with your children, maybe it's time to think about making paper toys.
Author bio: Bob Johnson writes for Mechanical Retro Toys where you can learn how to make cam toys and other types of mechanical toys.