Ninjago Legos and six lessons learned as a result of following our kids’ interests

Ninjago is a fascinating Lego series (to kids…and their dads) that has been made more enthralling by the dvd series released with it, chronicling the adventures of the young ninja.  There is enough intrigue and danger to make it more exciting for “big kids” than your average “little kid” show, but it is not too scary for my sensitive almost 6 year old.  We have been immersed in Ninjago since last summer and some unexpected learning opportunities have arisen as a result.  Here are six lessons we learned by following our kids’ interest in Ninjago Legos:

1)  A Lesson on Pagodas

Reading Pagoda

Reading Pagoda

The fictional city of Ninjago is set in what appears to be an Asian village.  The Ninja Training School looks like a pagoda and caught the attention of our boys.  Coincidentally, we have a pagoda right here in Pennsylvania!  A short drive from our house, in Reading, PA,  a pagoda has stood seven stories high since 1908.  This was a perfect time to visit.  The Reading Pagoda is open a few hours a week for tours.   We pulled up to it after dark and my oldest exclaimed, “Ninja school!”  Just the reaction we were looking for!

Reading Pagoda ninja

Ninja moves at the Pagoda

After the trip to the pagoda, we spent some time talking about pagodas in general.  We looked at pictures and even learned a little bit about Buddhism.

Building a Lego pagoda

Building a Lego pagoda

We tried to build our own pagodas with Legos and painted pictures of pagodas.

Painting a pagoda

Drawing and painting a pagoda

2)  A Lesson on Chinese Writing

The scrolls in Ninjago are written in what looks like Chinese characters.  Whenever my oldest son sees this type of writing, he talks about Ninjago.  I decided to explore this and we looked up words in Chinese online.  The kids loved trying to paint the characters.  They learned that there are many languages and many ways of writing.

Painting Chinese characters

Painting Chinese characters

DSC034353)  Reading is fun!

We have two early readers in our house.  My 8 year old (who has Down syndrome) and 5 year old are at about the same reading level right now.  They are just discovering the magic of reading.  We recently started reading chapter books to them and my 5 year old excitedly said, “It’s like there is a movie in my head!”  The first chapter books we read were Ninjago stories.  We also have a few Ninjago graphic novels.  My 5 year old can sound out some of the words in these and I happened upon this scene the other morning…two boys discovering that reading is a way to explore the things you love and go on exciting adventures in your mind.

Ninjago comics

Reading Ninjago comics together

4)  Play Skills Can be Taught

My oldest son struggles with play skills.  His communication skills are delayed, he has sensory issues and there are also cognitive deficits.  He rarely engages in true imaginative play.  He is more of an observer.  Ninjago has changed that.  He is a visual learner and loves watching movies.  The connection between the dvd and the Legos has led him from observation to action.  I have watched him using the Lego figures to act out scenes similar to those on the dvd.  The dvds have given him a script to follow, making the difficult skill of play a little easier for him.

Ninjago Legos

Playing Legos

5)  Museums are cool

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Lego throne

Our interest in Legos also took us to the Reading Museum to check out the visiting Lego exhibit.  There were lots of Lego activities, several play areas, a jousting and dress up section and some intricate Lego constructions.  My kids’ favorite part was a boulder launching simulator.  They had the opportunity to virtually construct a Lego wall and then catapult a boulder toward its image on screen to test its strength. This exhibit runs until May 5, 2013.

20130224_141059The museum is small and the perfect size for our 8, 5 and 3 year old to get a taste of what a museum is all about.  We spent about two hours checking out natural history, medieval garb, paintings, mummies and lots of other educational exhibits.  There was even a Jelly Belly exhibit showing famous paintings recreated with the colorful candy.  It was an excellent way to expose the kids to art and to wet their appetite for the fun and learning we can have at larger museums.

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A little more Buddha

A little more Buddha

"Ninja writing"

“Ninja writing”

"Ninja swords"

“Ninja swords”

The museum also has a planetarium and an arboretum.  We skipped these on our first visit but plan to return and check them out.

6)  Legos Make Great Math Manipulatives

My 5 year old was required to make a “Hundred Day Project” for school.  He was to count 100 of something and bring it into school to show his understanding of the concept.  Using his interest in Legos, we decided to create a number line with minifigures.  All three kids got involved and had a blast counting.

Lego number line

Lego number line

Lego number line

Counting Legos

Your child’s interests are a powerful indicator of what he is ready to learn.  Be observant.  Follow his lead.  Look for opportunities to expand what he is already passionate about.  Legos led us to lessons on world languages, architecture, math and reading.  Begin where your child’s passion begins.  From there, you can go anywhere. 

6 thoughts on “Ninjago Legos and six lessons learned as a result of following our kids’ interests

  1. Justin

    You know . . . one of the toughest things for us so far is finding creative things to do, or even to find the time, but we are getting better at it! Some great lessons in here – we will surely use them as our kids love Lego as well!

    Thanks, Rose!

  2. Meredith

    So cool! I have heard the exhibit at the Reading Museum is neat, and I think it’s so great that you are giving/creating all these experiences for your kids!

  3. Yoga-N-Action

    This was an inspiration to the Samurai-theme lesson I’m planning for the San Antonio Museum of Art’s Playdates!! Etching characters into paper, finding all the pagodas on the silk screen, building pagodas with blocks! Thank you. Love the incidental learning to be found from this interest.

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