About The Daring Book for Girls

Cootie Catchers

As we all know, cooties are invisible, communicable germs that can infect anyone who is touched by someone who has them. This makes sense with what we know about the word “cooties,” which comes to us from the Malay word kutu, meaning “lice.” But how did a foldedpaper fortune-telling device become associated with cooties?

Playground lore has it that cooties, which often lie mysteriously dormant until recess, can only be eradicated in one of two ways: either the infected person can touch another person and transfer the cooties, or a pincer-like piece of folded paper can be used to catch the cooties and then throw them away. As cooties are usually associated with persons of the opposite sex, and as history has given girls numerous rituals for divining their futures in love and marriage, it makes sense that a cootie catcher might evolve into an origami fortune-telling game used to both reveal a girl’s future and to protect her from it.

Of course, when you design your own cootie catcher, you can make it say anything you want, and the fortunes it tells might have nothing to do with anyone who may or may not have cooties.

Folding instructions

If you have any size of square-shaped paper handy, use that. If you don’t, take regular letter-sized paper, fold the bottom of the paper up to make a triangle, crease the edge, and cut off the strip above the triangle. When you open the triangle, you’ll have a perfect square with a crease diagonally down the middle.

Cootie Catchers Instructions - 1

Fold the square into a triangle again, this time the opposite way, crease the edge, then unfold. You now have a square with an X folded into it.

Fold the corners of the square toward the center. When all of the corners are folded, your paper should look like a smaller square.

Cootie Catchers Instructions - 2

Turn your paper over so that the folded sides face down, then fold the corners of the square toward the center again. When the four corners are folded, your paper should be an even smaller square, composed of triangles. Number these triangles one through eight.

Cootie Catchers Instructions - 3

Now fold the square vertically, crease it, and open it back up. Fold it horizontally, crease it, and open it up again. The numbered triangle side should be facing you.

Cootie Catchers Instructions - 4

Lift up the flaps and write a fortune or message on each triangle inside, then close the flaps again. Flip the square over and color each of the triangles a different color.

Turn the square back over so the number side is facing up and fold it in half, towards you. Slip your thumbs and index fingers under the flaps and pinch them together to make the cootie catcher’s edges come together. When you open your fingers, you should see the numbered triangles inside; when you close them, you should see the colored triangles outside.

Cootie Catchers Instructions - 5

Playing instructions

Find a friend who wants their fortune told. Have them choose a color from the outer triangles, then open and close the cootie catcher (up and down and side to side), moving once for each letter in the color they’ve picked, until it’s all spelled out. Then have your friend choose a number from the inner triangles. Move the cootie catcher open and closed that many times. Then have your friend select one more number from the inner triangles. Lift up the corresponding flap and read the fortune inside. (This can be fun stuff like: “You will be a famous singer,” “You will build a scooter with your mom,” “You will beat your friends in a game of four-square…”)


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