When your kids think of ninjas, what do they envision? Black-clad, martial arts masters who scale buildings and balance atop rooftops with the prowess of a cat? Or maybe they think of sewer-dwelling mutant turtles that appreciate Renaissance artists, or colorful LEGO figures that throw shurikens of ice? It’s easy to incorporate real-life elements of feudal Japan when you play ninja for a day. Get ready to pretend while you learn about these medieval spies and assassins that preoccupy our imaginations!
Dress Like a Ninja
Let’s turn back the clock and head to feudal Japan, during the Sengoku Period in the 15th century. That’s where in the world you’d find ninjas. They were trained in espionage from a very young age and mastered a variety of skills, including the art of disguise. Although there aren’t many texts that describe what ninjas wore, it’s believed they dressed like farmers of the day, and only donned dark colored clothes at night (most likely blue, not black). It was important that the garments they wore didn’t restrict movement. Like modern-day spies, ninjas wanted to blend in with the scenery so they could go about their business undetected.
When you play ninja find clothes that are easy to move in, and think about how you can blend into your surroundings. How would you dress to go undetected among your friends? At school or a local store? Around your neighbourhood?
Train Like a Ninja
Now that you’ve got your outfit, it’s time to put your energies toward training. Ninjas trained in special camps and schools, where they kept their techniques secret. But you can bet they did lots of agility works, so they could climb, roll and leap with ease. Here’s how you can train like a ninja:
- Set up an obstacle course around your house or yard, and work to improve your course runs, getting faster every time. You can also try your ninja skills at a nearby playground, moving from one piece of equipment to the next with stealth and agility.
- Practice stealth by quieting your feet. Try your hand at shinobi-ashi, where you lower your body weight to the floor beginning with your toes. Uki-ashi is another skill to try. Can you lower your feet quietly to the ground starting from your tiptoes? You can also try inubashiri, walking on all fours as quietly as you can. This is useful when you’re navigating tight spaces as a spy.
- Create paper shurikens and use empty plastic bottles to set up a target course. How many can you hit?
Eat Like a Ninja
When ninjas lived in Japan, food staples included: rice, seafood, fruits and vegetables. You might be surprised to learn that people of that time period ate things you probably have in your fridge right now—peaches, plums, apples, raspberries and tangerines, to name a few. They also used plentiful soybeans in their meals by incorporating miso and tofu into their dishes. Both were easy to toss with rice and wild vegetables. Protein in feudal Japan came mainly from fish. This should come as no surprise since Japan is an archipelago, surrounded by water. If you’ve ever had salmon, trout, shellfish, squid or crab, you’ve eaten like a ninja without even knowing it! Try cooking something traditionally Japanese.
Talk Like a Ninja
While we’re guessing much of what ninjas did involved being quiet or having calculated conversations with targets, there are lots of Japanese words we’ll bet you recognize as everyday American terms. How many of these Japanese words have you heard or used before?
- Keep your ears peeled for news reports on tsunamis or typhoons.
- Ever been to a garden and spied koi in the pond?
- Have you ever called a wise person sensei or how about a head honcho?
- Maybe you’ve taken a nap on a futon…
- Anytime you play Monopoly there’s a chance someone will become a tycoon.
- Ever been told to find your Zen when the world is moving quickly?
Keep Your Imagination Engaged Through Play
Engaging in imaginative play—like pretending to be a ninja—is an important part of any child’s day. So after you’ve finished your ninja mission, keep the fun going with one of Whole Wide World Toys’ Village Playsets that let kids explore Ireland and China , alongside fellow travelers, Joe and Emma. Each comes with a detailed play mat, wooden puzzle pieces, story cards and a personal travel journal that expands imagination and understanding of our great big world.
You Might Also Like:
– 4 Fun Pirate Activities for Kids
– Plan an Adventurous Viking Kids Activity
– 7 Continents Dinner