While the crane is one of the more advanced origami designs, it can be mastered by most nine-year-olds. Repetition is the key to memorizing all the steps, and the best results come from carefully matching the corners and making the creases sharp.
Don't be discouraged if your first few cranes look a little scrunched or lopsided. After you get it right the first time, make five more within the next day, and it will stay with you for a long time. One of the best ways to remember the steps is to teach them to someone else.
Go to the printable version of the folding instructions. Print out as many copies as you like. Share them with friends, family and classmates.
Now, to begin ...
Begin with a square piece of paper -- ideally one side colored and the other plain. Place the colored side face up on the table. In all diagrams, the shaded part represents the colored side.
Fold diagonally to form a triangle. Be sure the points line up. Make all creases very sharp. You can even use your thumbnail.
Unfold the paper. (important!)
Now fold the paper diagonally in the opposite direction, forming a new triangle.
Unfold the paper and turn it over so the white side is up. The dotted lines in the diagram are creases you have already made.
Fold the paper in half to the "east" to form a rectangle.
Unfold the paper.
Fold the paper in half to the "north" to form a new rectangle.
Unfold the rectangle, but don't flatten it out. Your paper will have the creases shown by the dotted lines in the figure on the right.
Bring all four corners of the paper together, one at a time. This will fold the paper into the flat square shown on the right. This square has an open end where all four corners of the paper come together. It also has two flaps on the right and two flaps on the left.
Lift the upper right flap, and fold in the direction of the arrow. Crease along line a-c.
Lift the upper left flap and fold in the direction of the arrow. Crease along the line a-b.
Lift the paper at point d (see the previous diagram) and fold down the triangle bdc. Crease along the line b-c.
Undo the three folds you just made (steps 6, 7, and 8), and your paper will have the crease lines shown here (dotted lines).
Lift just the top layer of the paper at point a. Think of this as opening a frog's mouth. Open it up and back to line b-c. Crease the line b-c inside frog's mouth.
Press on points b and c to reverse the folds along lines a-b and a-c. The trick is to get the paper to lie flat in the long diamond shape shown here. At first it will seem impossible. Have patience.
Turn the paper over. Repeat Steps 6 to 9 on this side. When you have finished, your paper will look like this diamond with two "legs" at the bottom.
Taper the diamond at its legs by folding the top layer of each side in the direction of the arrows along lines a-f and a-e so that they meet at the center line.
Flip the paper over. Repeat steps 14 and 15 on this side to complete the tapering of the two legs.
This figure has two skinny legs. Lift the upper flap at point f (be sure it's just the upper flap), and fold it over in the direction of the arrow - as if turning the page of a book. This is called a "book fold".
Flip the entire figure over.
Repeat this "book fold" (step 18) on this side. Be sure to fold over only the top "page".
This figure looks like a fox with two pointy ears at the top and a pointy nose at the bottom. Open the upper layer of the fox's mouth at point a, and crease it along line g-h so that fox's nose touches the top of the fox's ears.
Turn the figure over. Repeat step 20 on this side so that all four points touch.
Now for another "book fold". Lift the top layer (at point f), and fold it in the direction of the arrow.
Flip the entire figure over. Repeat the "book fold" (step 22) on this side.
There are two points, a and b, below the upper flap. Pull out each one, in the direction of the arrows, as far as shown. Press down along the base (at points x and y) to make them stay in place.
Take the end of one of the points, and bend it down to make the head of the crane. Using your thumbnail, reverse the crease in the head, and pinch it to form the beak. The other point becomes the tail.
Open the body by blowing into the hole underneath the crane, and then gently pulling out the wings. And there it is!