Thursday, June 9, 2011

IDMommy Project: Animated Paper Bird Tutorial!

Ever since I was little I used to fold these bird mouths out of paper.  It's super easy to make the mouth itself, which pops open and snaps shut when you squeeze it gently in the right spot on the top and bottom.  As a kid I remember eventually stepping it up by adding a little paper pole for a handle, and threading some string through it to make it string operated, like a puppet.  A couple weeks ago I made one with Sammy, only I added a body for it.

As an afterthought, we even made some quick paper bugs for his bird to eat, since we got to talking about what birds eat... (see how much fun learning can be?!)

Chomp-chomp...num-num-num!! Mmmm...protein!

Of course, now I'm kicking myself for not working in some animated flapping wings, which I have completely engineered in my head, but he loved it as-is.  So, I thought I'd document the process and make up this tutorial so you can do it with your kids too!  These photos are of the pieces I made and cut out of construction paper.  I have put together a free pdf for you to download, which has patterns for all the little pieces.  You can either print it out and use it as-is (since I did it in color), or you can print in black and white and use it as a template/stencil and cut out your own construction paper pieces. If you use construction paper, you can mix up the colors and make a blue jay, a red cardinal, etc!

So, maybe in the future I'll make a paper bird 2.0 with flapping wings.  Or a little paper nest full of baby string-operated birdies.  But, for now, here's how you make this one...hope you like it!

 Materials Needed:
- Patterns (download here)
- Paper (colored construction paper, or white paper you can color, or my printed template)
- Scissors
- Glue
- Tape
- A piece of String or yarn
- Crayons or markers, if desired


1) First, make the bird mouth itself.  You really could just stop after this step and have a lot of fun with it if you want! I used a 9" x 6" rectangle which will fit best with the rest of the body pieces on the template.  But, you can use a full sheet of standard letter sized paper if you want a larger one. Below are some instructions to fold it. You can get a larger, printable version in my template.
Was that part confusing?  If so let me know. I can make a quick video of it!  (warning: You'd have to watch me clumsily fold with a cast on)

2) Cut a little hole in the bottom of the bird's mouth, on the center fold about half way between the front and back.  This is where your pole and string will attach through.

3) Next, make a paper tube.  This will act as the handle, and house the string that animates the bird.

a) Roll up some paper into a tube, about 1/2" in diameter.  I'd roll along the long side of the paper you're using, so it's like 11" long-ish.  Glue it so it stays in a tube.
b) Cut four slits on one end, maybe 1/2" in.  (These will form tabs for gluing)
c)  Stick the end with the flaps up through the bottom hole you cut in the bird head.
d) Fold those flaps down and glue them against the inside of the mouth.

4) Attach the string to the bird. I glued the eyes on at this point can do that whenever.
a) Poke a tiny hole in the top of the bird's head, in line with the bottom tube/hole. Put your string up through it and tie a knot.
b) Put a piece of tape over the yarn/thread end to make sure it'll stay put.
c) Glue your beak piece over the top.  Do one on the bottom too.  Sorry, I know I only drew one on my pattern...but you can cut two of the same pieces out if you want a top and bottom!
d) Glue the tongue inside the mouth on the bottom, so the holes line up. Now thread that piece of string through the hole until it comes out the bottom of your tube.

5) Make the tail and glue on the legs.
a) Cut out the body shape and fold it in half along the dotted lines. Cut out and fold the tail in half lengthwise.
b) Fold across the short end and cut that little slit if you haven't already (which enables you to bend it when you glue it in the next step)
c) Glue the tail to the back of the bird. The template shows you where.
d) Finished tail!  Glue the legs on now too.  Glue them on the INSIDE of the folded body.

6) Now attach the body...
 a) Glue the belly on the front of the body.  Slide the handle/pole down through the hole you've cut in the folded body.
b) Glue the pole to the back so it's centered down the middle.
c) Put some glue on the front of the pole and on the edges of the wings and body.
d) Glue together the body.

7) Now PLAY!

Make some paper bugs to eat, or make a family of birds & perform a paper puppet show...then sit back and marvel at the fact that you can make your own fun toys out of paper!!

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