Japan and Ninjas

My eight year old has been dying to learn about Ninjas.  I tried to steer him towards Ninjago Legos without success.  Then, I tried Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles only to be told that they weren’t real ninjas.  I kept putting him off and putting him off until we got a new black puppy.  He promptly named it Ninja, and I realized that I was going to have to find something to help him with his Ninja interest.  My only problem was that Ninjas were not exactly age appropriate materials, so I broadened our search to include Ancient Japan and Japanese culture, and I came up with some stuff that made him very happy.

This list as ongoing as of June 2013 because we are still in the middle of this study.

Book Resources

Japan: Over 40 Activities to Experience Japan – Past and Present (Kaleidoscope Kids) by Debbi Michiko Florence.  This was a great general reference book with definitons and various topics about Japan to get you started exploring.  I would read a little at a time to the kids, and as we encountered activities, we would decide whether or not we wanted to do them.

Ninja: The Shadow Warrior by Joel Levy.  This covers Ninja history, weapons and equipment, training and famous Ninja personalities.  It was a little above the level of my 8 year old, so we did some hands-on activities and notebooking to help bring it down to his level of understanding.

Magic Tree House #37: Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne.  This Magic Tree House book is set in Edo (ancient Tokyo) and is about the poet Bashi.  We also enjoyed it for the descriptions of Japan and of Samurai.

Video Resources

Mythbusters Walking on Water.  This was a great Mythbusters examination of some of the popular Ninja myths.  The title of the episode comes from the myth that ninjas had found a way to walk on water.  After watching this, we did some fun science exploring non-newtonian substances and reading Bartholomew and the Oobleck.

Mythbusters Ninjas 2.  Here we learned that Ninjas purported to be able to Shoot darts from underwater.  That’s led to some great imaginative play.

Projects and Craft Ideas

Peg Doll Ninjas–A favorite new toy we made for my eight year old.

Toliet Paper Roll Ninjas–These Ninjas and their character profiles were an inspiration for our own Ninjas and many stories.

Daruma Masks–These are a Japanese New Year tradition, and we made our own using paper mache.

Tissue Paper Windsock–These carp banners are a way that the Japanese celebrate children’s day, and we attempted to make our very own out of tissue paper and pipe cleaners.

Ninja Weapon Almanac–This is a set of labeled drawings that Firecracker made about Ninja weapons as described in our main Ninja book.

Zen Gardens–This was inspired by some reading from Story of the World: Volume 1, chapter 30.  We read about Siddhartha who became Buddha and remembered some reading in one of our Japan books about Buddhist temples and zen gardens.  We had to make our own, and it made great sensory play for the toddlers as well as educational (and sensory play) for the bigger kids.


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