Recently a friend's son visited Hong Kong and returned home with a folded paper dragon kit. I thought I knew what she meant when she described it to me, because some time ago I had come across videos for an Asian paper craft that relies on pointy pieces of folded paper to make all sorts of colorful structures. So off I went on a hunt for those same videos without either one of us knowing what the craft is called... and yay, found them! More about that in a moment, first let me give credit for the following pictures.
The projects belong to kattykong on Flickr, and all but one are quite unusual... see if you can guess which picture is a beloved and frequently made model in this genre.
The craft is called Chinese 3-D modular origami. Multitudes of little paper rectangles are folded into triangles that interlock without the need to glue each piece. In Japan, it's referred to as block folding origami.
It seems you can make just about any structure imaginable, large or small, complicated or not. It's probably best to start out by following a diagram, and you'll find quite a few by searching for 3-D modular origami patterns.
Now back to those YouTube videos... Made by Julia Zhu, a teen in New Zealand, I found them enjoyable to watch. She's a natural born teacher, and thanks to step-by-step instructions with a good bit of humor thrown in, Julia makes the mindless folding of little paper rectangles seem like a very fun thing to do. Here is her beginner tutorial and there are many additional ones on the page's sidebar.
I contacted kattykong in China about sharing her photos and despite the language barrier, she told me she used paper from cigarette packages to make the complex bicycle and advertisements for the flower vases. Kattykong's examples are elaborate compared to the cute and colorful animals that are often seen. With snow days ahead, those would be great, inexpensive projects to keep the kids busy, and a paper cutter would make short work of readying the rectangles.
Of course kattykong rolled, rather than folded, this last container, but I think it looks quite nice too!
Oh, and it's the pair of swans that you'll see frequently as an example of modular origami. Their long and gracefully curved necks are so well-suited to this interesting craft.