Paper Craft Engineering aka. Valentine’s Day Envelopes

guest post by Patty O’Brien Novak, children’s author, engineer, educational consultant/trainer and speaker.

With Sesame Street’s recent change in focus to add more engineering to their programming (yeah!), I want to share an engineering activity you can do at home with your preschooler (and older children, too.)  Envelope engineering was inspired by my dear daughter, who at the tender age of 3, turned her cherubic face up from her activity table and beamed excitedly, “Momma, look what I made!

To my surprise (and delight) she had engineered a manila-type envelope, the one we might use to send important documents we don’t want to fold.  My little “paper engineer” crafted an envelope simply using 2 pieces of construction paper and tape!

Fast forward four years and we find my daughter still creating envelopes, but with a significant increase in her styles and sizes “catalog.”  The instructions below are from one of the envelopes she made recently for her younger cousins 1st birthday party (she made cards, too.)  I slipped a college fund check into one of them and away we went – personalized and easy, peasy for me.

Try this one at home:

  1. Gather a few pieces of construction paper and tape.
  2. Ask your child how they would make an envelope using the construction paper and tape- or something that can hold a card or paper.

(Note: most older children will ask for other technology such as scissors or glue. Ask them to create their envelope using just the paper and tape to start. Their next 10 envelopes can involve scissors and glue!)

3. Let you child’s ideas flow – please do not say “that won’t work.”
They just may surprise you.  Another option – your child could draw some of their ideas.  If they simply are stumped, give them some ideas from the pictures in this post and see where they take the ideas.

4. And the crafting begins. Kids fold the paper and use tape to hold together.

5. When your child is finished creating an envelope, let put paper inside. Ask your child, “does this paper stay in the envelope without falling out?

6. If the paper falls out, ask your child, “what would you change to keep the paper in?” Let them try out their new idea(s) and prepare to be surprised!

How is envelope making an engineering project?

The engineering problem solving method contains the same main steps whether you’re making an envelope or sending rockets to outer space. These are:






Looking at the instructions numbered above, we see “Ideas” and “Plan/design” in steps 2 and 3 when children “plan” their envelope design through talking, drawing and working with the paper.  Then “Create” comes in step 4, “Test” in step 5 and “Modify” (or change) in step 6.  And there you have Envelope Engineering!

When we teach our children the basics of the engineering problem solving method, we’re giving them wings for life.

Think about your day – how often do you generate ideas, plan, create, test and modify during the day?


Bio: Patty O’Brien Novak is a children’s author, engineer, educational consultant/trainer and speaker.  Patty’s passion is creating awareness of the amazing impact engineers have on our everyday world.  Visit her at

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  1. says

    What a good idea. My kids are making some greeting cards to sell and I was going to just buy them some matching envelopes online from a site, but what fun to make them! I’ll have them give it a go!

  2. says

    I think that was brilliant. I mean, to engage engineering to a simple envelope making of children. It’s a great learning process for them as they can use it in the future. Thanks!

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