≡ Menu

Uses for a Traditional Playground Paper Toy post image

Do you remember playing with this traditional paper toy? It belongs to a select group of traditional origami models. It is known as a fortune teller, or cootie catcher. Below there are more names, in many languages, by which this toy is known along with how it is used.

As a fortune teller the holder of the model asks someone to name a number from one to ten and then opens and closes it as many times as the  number mentioned. The holder then asks that a color be named, lifts the flap of the chosen color, and reads aloud the message within.

As a cootie catcher tiny dots are drawn on the model to represent bugs. Passing it gently through someone’s hair all the little bugs that were “caught” can be shown.

Here is a video describing how to make this model.

Aditional names for the Cootie catcher or Fortune Teller:

  • Catalan: quatre sabaters
  • Danish: flip-flapper, farveskifter, farvevælger, nip-napper, rap-rapper, spå, spå-maskine”, rip-rapper, lusefanger,  saltkar
  • Dutch: knip-knap, peper- en zoutvaatje
  • English: fortune teller, cootie catcher, salt cellar, chatterbox, whirlybird, snapdragon
  • French: coins-coins, salière
  • German: himmel und hölle or himmel oder hölle, salz und Pfeffer
  • Greek: Alatiera (Αλατιέρα)
  • Hebrew: qua-qua, quaqua de la Roma
  • Hungarian: sótartó
  • Italian: acchiappanaso,  inferno-paradiso
  • Norwegian: Spå
  • Polish: niebo-pieklo
  • Portuguese: inferno e paradiso, quantos queres
  • Spanish: adivinador, sacapiojos, salero, pollito, comecocos, sapito, cielo e infierno, día y noche, piquito, cuatrobocas, cumpleaños, el poto de doña María, juego de la fortuna, aguaderas, estafador de sueños

Aditional uses of the Fortune Teller

  • When turned over it can be used as a container (salt cellar!) to place spices or candy.
  • Made with a paper about ten inches square an egg holder can be made. It’s not very stable, so I would only recommend using it to hold hardboiled eggs. ;-)

Related posts
How to Fold an Origami Peacock
9 Ways to Awaken Your Creativity With Origami


{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Pepa April 23, 2016, 10:57 pm

    What is the japanese name???
    And I hear it is also called snapdragon.

    • Leyla Torres April 25, 2016, 3:04 pm

      Snapdragon sounds great. I will have to look for the Japanese name… I don’t know it. If I find it out, I will post it here.

  • Thea Mondragon October 5, 2012, 6:55 pm

    Awesome! I made the fortune teller and modified it a little. I ended up making what I call an Advice Star! It’s a four- pointed pop-up star I learned to make in another origami website. Under it are the colors that I wrote. You have to choose one color and then choose a number on the color’s side. Lift the flap and there’s today’s advice!

  • alicia July 19, 2012, 5:48 pm

    Hola Leyla! hace un tiempo, subimos a la página de origamichile una versión imprimible del comecocos, para jugar a las adivinanzas. les dejo el link por si les interesa.
    un abrazo

  • Anastasia May 21, 2012, 2:58 am

    PS Alatiera means “salt and paper shaker” in Greek.

  • Anastasia May 21, 2012, 2:57 am

    In Greek the name is Alatiera (Αλατιέρα) the kids make them and writte future predictions inside (like “you are going to be queen of the world”, or ” you are going to be the village fool”) One kid tells a number from one to ten then the other folds and unfolds alatiera as many times as the number, then the first kid chooses a quarter and reads his or hers foretold.

  • Marcia May 20, 2012, 4:20 pm

    In a Chinese book (ISBN 957-692-002-7) N, S, E, W are written on the top four squares.

  • Miranda May 20, 2012, 1:39 pm

    I’ve never heard of the Dutch name knip-knap before or any other name for that matter, it’s commonly known as ‘peper- en zoutvaatje’ (salt and pepper shaker). Kids mostly use it as a fortune teller although they often use mildly abusive words as well, as kids do at a certain age.

    I’m also not sure about the French word coins-coins but that may be correct. There are a lot of ambiguous terms in the French language, coins-coins means corner-corner and coin-coin means quack-quack. I’ve always called it a ‘salière’ (salt shaker) and everybody seemed to understand what I meant.

    • Leyla Torres May 20, 2012, 3:06 pm

      Hi Miranda, I added these terms you shared to the post, thank you!

      My source for knip-knap was a magazine from my niece, who happens to be Dutch.

      The French word was contributed by a friend living in Quebec.

  • Gilad May 20, 2012, 1:23 pm

    In Hebrew: Qua-Qua (representing the imaginary sound the model would make as a puppet…). This model is mostly used by Israeli kids as a fortune-teller.

    • Leyla Torres May 20, 2012, 3:02 pm

      Thank you Gilad. I also heard that in Israel it is called “quaqua de la Roma”

  • Anna May 20, 2012, 12:40 pm

    For the Himmel und Hölle (translates to heaven and hell) you have to paint the inside in one directions it opens blue (heaven) and on the other direction red (hell). Then you ask someone where there is heaven and he has to indicate one direction. You then open it to reveal whether he was right or not.

    • Leyla Torres May 20, 2012, 3:14 pm

      We have to play together! But I think I’m in Heaven already when I fold paper!

  • David Raynor May 20, 2012, 11:29 am

    When I was a child, before I learned any origami (apart from things like this and paper planes,) I used to make a hand-puppet out of one of these. Glue two of the sides together, so that it only opens one way. Then draw eyes. Also maybe stick on some teeth cut out of paper and a long snake tongue.

  • Philip Chapman-Bell May 20, 2012, 10:12 am

    I was thinking the other day of how we used these as kids to do fortune-telling. The binary flip-flop and the four axes, I thought, would be readily adaptable to do the personality index stuff that is so popular in the human resources world. You know, the Myer-Briggs test or the DISC test or any of those silly things. You could just use binary questions and assign numbers to the answers and after some toing and froing with the model, announce confidently, “You’re an introverted, detail-oriented, team-player with purple dots!”

    • Leyla Torres May 20, 2012, 10:32 am

      I am not familiar with those human resources tests, but this idea sounds like a sophisticated use for this toy. We should design the test and ask people to play ‘personality indexing’ at the OUSA convention!

    • Hans Dybkjær May 20, 2012, 1:41 pm

      In a similar vein I once designed one as a “decision machine” for the local Roskilde Festival (last year: 130.000+ visitors) which was printed in the festival news paper which each day would bring an “origami reuse” diagram that could be folded from the newspaper.
      http://papirfoldning.dk/da/ugensfold/2009-27.html http://papirfoldning.dk/images/diagram/RF2009/beslutter01.png
      The orange tent in each corner is their logo, depicting the major music scene.
      The model lends itself for such purposes.

  • Hans Dybkjær May 19, 2012, 3:13 pm

    And some of the Danish names: flip-flapper, farveskifter, farvevælger, nip-napper, rap-rapper, spå, spå-maskine”, rip-rapper, lusefanger (and in the other capacity: saltkar).
    many of which translate directly into the names of the other languages.
    Best regards,

    • Leyla Torres May 19, 2012, 3:45 pm

      Great Hans I added these names to the post as well. Thank you!

Leave a Comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.