Origami (so what’s the China connection?)
Origami is the word for Japanese paper folding, but there is also a tradition of paper folding in China. Some historians believe that it started not longer after Ts'ai Lun invented paper in China in A.D. 105. Many say both paper and paper folding were introduced to Japan in the late 6th century by Buddhist monks. Unfortunately, there are no records of Chinese paper folding, and the oldest Japan records are from 1797 (in the 18th century). Separately paperfolding originated in Spain (Arabs brought the secret of paper to them in the 12th century).
Children can benefit from origami in many ways – the listening skills, sequencing, fine motor, attention, math skills (geometry, congruence, symmetry). I just saw a piece on the web about how it helps in using both sides of the brain. Whether you research it or not, Enjoy!
Look at these great origami dog sculptures, or this Grand Dragon (instructions are not available for it) - only if you will still be willing to try something simpler. Directions are available for the rest of the origami that is listed.
For a simple origami dog face you need only a square of paper and a pencil or something to draw the face. You can also make it "talk". (Or try a similar cat.) This dog's head uses a different approach.
If you are interested, learn more about Origami Basics.
To try this advanced dog you may also need to download the turkey instructions which is the base.
Dragons are generally harder to fold. My friend Lorna found some simple ones from Tammy Lee. One based on the fortune teller you probably learned in school and a basic dragon puppet. When you are ready, Marc Kirschenbaum’s Rearing Dragon (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6) is a high intermediate dragon. This Eastern Dragon [PDF file of instructions] is a also high intermediate.
For more see my Musical Mandarin Paperfolding entry.