Skip to main content

A cut above

Explore cultures from across the globe and design your own in this paper-cutting craft activity.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Craft materials (for example, tissue paper, pipe cleaners, stickers)
  • Pens or pencils
  • Scissors
  • Cutting mats
  • Craft knives
  • Mirrors (optional)
Examples of different styles of paper cutting.

Before you begin

  • Make sure you’ve risk assessed your meeting, and also have a COVID-19 safe risk assessment that’s been agreed by your line manager. You can check out more detailed guidance here
  • You could also try running this as on online session, check out the advice on using Zoom and other popular digital platforms and the guidance on being safe online.
  • Choose craft paper for the group to use. Bear in mind that thinner paper will be easier to cut and delicate, while thicker paper or card will be harder to cut but less flimsy.

Safety checklist

Use the Safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional coronavirus-related controls to think about may include: 

  • Set up a hand washing station that you can use throughout the session. Ask everyone to wash their hands before and after the craft.
  • Remind everyone to stay socially distanced during the activity.
  • Set up enough tables and chairs so that people can work a safe distance from each other.
  • Clean the equipment before and after you use it. Make sure you have enough that people don’t have to share.

Run the activity

  1. Everyone should split into small groups and find a space that’s a safe distance away from each other.  
  2. The person leading the activity should give each person some coloured craft paper and pens or pencils.
  1. Everyone should fold their paper in half once or twice.
  1. Everyone should sketch out a design on the folded paper. Have a look at the attached examples for inspiration.
  2. The person leading the activity should remind everyone that traditional paper-cuttings feature everything from geometric patterns to plants and animals. Everyone should be creative and try to think of something they might display at a celebration.
  1. When people think they’ve finished sketching their design they should use a mirror to see what their design will look like when cut and unfolded. They should hold the mirror along the fold-line and look at the reflection.
  1. The person leading the activity should give out scissors, craft knives, and cutting mats.
  2. Everyone should cut their designs. Those using knives should work on a secure, flat surface, cutting slowly and carefully with the cutting mat beneath their paper. Scissors can be used to cut at the edges. Make sure everyone takes their time and cuts with care.
  3. When they’ve finished, everyone should unfold the paper. They should see that the design has been replicated on the folded-over side.
  4. Everyone should stay distanced as they work together to collect up all the scrap pieces of paper that were cut out. These can be recycled in other art projects or used as fire-lighters.


Many different cultures from different corners of the world practice paper-cutting as an art form. During the activity, everyone should have seen examples of papel picado, which is thought to have originated with the Aztecs, while Chinese jinzh dates all the way back to the 6th century. What might have attracted people from all over the world to this activity? Remember: they had no way of sharing their work with one another – they all discovered paper-cutting on their own. In Jewish culture, paper-cutting has been used for religious decorations and marriage contracts since around the 14th century. What might other cultures use paper-cutting to make?


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Sharp objects

Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.


Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.