Origami Cranes: Exercise For Brains!

December 15, 2009 at 2:39 pm Leave a comment

The Holidays can be mind-numbing — too little sleep, too much stress, poor dietary  choices, and long established routines and traditions that fail to challenge Origami Cranes for the Brain!   image by djeyewater on Stock.Xchngthe brain.   At least that’s how things go in my family, and most families I know of.

So I’m being a bit obsessive this year about introducing a bit of brain fitness into the mix. Today’s contribution?  Using Origami ( the Japanese art of paper folding) to make holiday ornaments.  Learning Origami can  improve cognitive functions (especially visual-spatial and motor skills) and create a wealth of new neural connections in the brain.  It’s good excercise, really!

Available patterns range from very simple to advanced, so nearly anyone can participate at a level that challenges them.  That range of difficulty is crucial for brain-boosting activities, because they must be challenging, but not *too* challenging.

What do you need?

Paper: You can buy special Origami paper in crafts stores, but any light weight paper will do for simple designs.  Holiday wrapping paper works well for many  Origami models.  Traditional patterns will begin with a simple square, and don’t require scissors, glue, or any other supplies.  Seriously, all you need is some paper, and a flat surface.

Simple, huh?

And About Those Patterns…

Paper Cranes

The most common Origami model is a  paper crane.  My mother first learned to fold cranes as a 3 year old American living in post-war Japan, and she passed it onto me, at about the same age.  Some of the folds are challenging, but remember that’s the point!

Well illustrated instructions for the traditional paper crane can be found here: Pacific Friend: How To Fold A Paper Crane and there’s a slow, easy to follow video here:

Often known as Peace Cranes because of the story of  Sadako Sasaki (a young victim of the bomb at Hiroshima) these particular Origami models have become a worldwide symbol of hope, healing and faith,   Sadako was only 2 years old when the bomb fell in her home city of Hiroshima, and by the time she was 10, the long term effects would make her gravely ill.

One of her friends visited her in the hospital, folded a paper crane for her, and told her of the tradition that whoever should fold 1000 cranes would have a wish granted.  Sadako began folding cranes with a passion, with her wish being to be well again.  And though accounts of her story vary, between her and her friends, they almost certainly folded well over 1000 before her leukemia claimed her young life.   Inspite of her personal tradgedy, her determined  hope and passion has lived on. The cranes have become a world wide symbol of hope and peace,  hold a special place at Hiroshima memorials, and are often used to decorate holiday trees even in the Western World.  Her story makes the cranes a link between past and future for the elders in our families, so I thought it a nice touch to share here.

Need Something Simpler?

If you, your guests or family members need a simpler model to start with, this should do the trick:  Origami for Beginners: The Swan or check out the YouTube version below:

Even Simpler?

If you have really young toddlers, or elders with poor dexterity, consider letting them make traditional paper chains: How To Make A Christmas Paper Chain.   Since they date back to Victorian Times, nearly everyone has memories of making these as children, and the activity may provide a jolt to buried memories of Holidays Past.

More Patterns:

Once you’ve mastered the swans and folded 1000 cranes 😉  there are many more free origami patterns online, many of them well suited to holiday decorations. A quick search turned up a Hanukkah Dreidel, a variety of stars, a pine tree, and gift boxes, Or check out the wide range of models available at the  Origami Resource Center.

Remember, it’s SUPPOSED to be a little bit difficult.

As someone who’s practiced the art of paper folding on and off through my life (mostly off) I can vouch for the neural challenges it presents. Each new model forces new connections, increasing your neuroplasticity, building a cognitive reserve, and exercising your brain effectively.  So if you  find yourself struggling even with the simplest models, keep at it…  forging new neural pathways can take a bit of persistence!

And if you do wind up folding ornaments, please take a photo, upload it somewhere and leave a link in the comments..  we’d love to see what you come up with!

Entry filed under: Be Mentally Active. Tags: , , , .

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About This Blog

A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness



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