I love this How to make a paper boat as part of your Columbus Day activities for kids fun. Telling the story of Columbus is much more fun with a paper boat to sail.   Kids Activities Blog loves finding easy activities for kids like this one that use things you already have at home to sneak in a little Columbus Day learning. And who doesn’t want to make a paper boat?

How to make a paper boat - Kids Activities Blog - white paper folded boat floating on blue water with shadow
Let’s fold a paper boat!

Columbus Day Craft for Kids

Anyone else grow up learning this little ditty to teach us about Columbus Day…

In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…


I will certainly not ever forget the year Christopher Columbus sailed to America.  I hope it’s a Final Jeopardy question the day I’m on it!

Text: Make a paper boat - Kids Activities Blog - image of finished folded paper boat craft for kids with a toothpick sail
Let’s make a paper boat!

How to Make a Paper Boat

This Columbus Day, spend a few minutes in discussion with your kids on the importance of this holiday and make 3 mini paper boats to celebrate his crossing the Atlantic on his fleet of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

This is a very easy, beginner origami craft that younger kids can do as well.

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Supplies Needed to Fold a Paper Boat

  • 5×7 inch piece of paper – regular weight printer paper or scrapbook paper works best
  • (Optional) Toothpick to make a boat flag
  • (Optional) Scissors

How to Fold a Paper Boat (Easy Paper Boat Instructions with Photos)

Step 1

Start with a 5×7 sheet of paper and fold it in half and press down on the middle crease.

Step 1 & Step 2 - how to fold a boat
This is how folding a paper boat starts…

Step 2

Now fold it in half again to make another crease.  Unfold.

Step 3 & Step 4 - how to fold a boat
Next, fold down the corners

Step 3

Fold the top 2 corners in to meet in the middle at the crease and form a triangle.

Step 4

Fold the small front flap up on the front and the back flap up on the back.

Step 5 & Step 6 & Step 7 - how to fold a boat
Do you see the middle of your paper boat forming?

Step 5

Take the two bottoms of the triangle and push them in together, forming a diamond.

Step 6

Fold the front bottom corner up to the top corner and again on the other side.  You have created another triangle with an open bottom.

Step 7 & Step 8 - how to fold a boat
Your paper boat is almost complete!

Step 7

Push the two sides of the triangle in towards one another, just as you did in Step 4, creating a diamond again.

Step 8

Holding the diamond facing you, pull both the right and left top layers out to form the hulls of the boat.

There you go! Now you can make a paper boat.

I can’t think of a more fun way to celebrate Columbus Day!

Columbus Day in the USA

Here in America, we celebrate Columbus Day, the day the famed explorer, Christopher Columbus reached the Americas on October 12, 1492.  Though he was not the first explorer to have discovered the New World, his voyages led to the lasting connection of Europe to the Americas.  He has an enormous impact on the historical development of the modern Western World.  Therefore, we celebrate this day each year, ensuring our children remember his name, if not the silly rhyme.

What To Do With a Paper Boat

A paper boat folded with regular paper is great to use in LAND play. It can be floated on the water, but will not hold up well if it sinks or tips. It is fun to create a fleet of paper boats for play or decoration.

If you want to float your paper boat more aggressively, try using a Waterproof printer paper for folding. In our experience, this will give you some one time play fun in the water, but the paper isn’t strong enough to hold up after one sailing episode.

Paper Boat FAQ

What does a paper boat symbolize?

Paper boats have been known to symbolize several ideas:

1. Because of their similarity to a small life boat and its fragility over time, a paper boat has been used to symbolize life.

2. Paper boats are a symbol of childhood freedom. A paper boat image may be included in a tattoo design as a reminder of the art of childhood with the simplicity of the folded shape.

3. The paper boat image became a symbol of Greece when it was used in the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Athens 2004.

4. Paper boats have been known to remind people of family togetherness, peace, harmony and kindness.

Will a paper boat float on water?

A paper boat will float on water…for a little bit. As long as it is upright and the paper is not too wet, it will float. Try it in a sink or bathtub. The floating can be interrupted by the boat tipping to one side and taking on water or allowing the bottom of the boat to become too waterlogged.

How do you water proof a paper boat?

There are several ways you can water proof your paper boat:

1. Start with waterproof paper.

2. Drip hot candle wax on the areas of the finished folded paper boat that you want water-proofed.

3. Spray your finished paper boat with a waterproofer water repellent like a boot spray.

4. Before you fold your boat, slip your paper into a clear sheet protector cut to size and follow the folding instructions. You may need a little tape to reinforce a fold since the paper is now bulkier.

5. Before you fold your paper boat, laminate the paper you are using and then follow the folding instructions.

6. This isn’t a long term waterproofing solution, but coloring what will be the bottom portion of the boat before folding with wax crayons with a thick, colorful layer can hold off the water for a bit!

More Kids Activities from Kids Activities Blog

Celebrating holidays like Columbus Day with kids activities is what we do.   Here are some of our favorites similar to How to Make a Paper Boatwe even have paper airplanes!

Did your kids have fun folding a paper boat?

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  4. Hi! This looks like so much fun! I would love to do this with my classroom at church. I do have a question though – does it have to be 5 x 7 paper or could 6 x 6 work? I’ve never done origami before. I looked online and I’m finding more options to purchase the size 6 x 6. Please let me know. Thank you! This is a great idea!

    1. I would simply try it with a square piece of paper to see if the 6×6 would work. You could always have them tear off one edge.