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
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!
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.
We tried to build our own pagodas with Legos and painted pictures of pagodas.
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.
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.
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.
5) Museums are cool
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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- Motherhood Unexpected