I was inspired to have a Ninjago event because it was a word I heard over and over again on the lips of our 6-12 year old patrons. This was my sweet spot of ages this summer, so it was in the back of my mind. Then I read Sara‘s amazing and inspiring blog about how her library hosted a Ninjago event and used it as my template and motivation. I couldn’t have planned my event without her guide, so you’ll see lots of her ideas, some modified and some not, here. SHE IS A GODDESS. For real – her school age programs have been a huge inspiration and motivation for me. I can’t thank Sara enough. Everyone follow and adore her!
15 minutes of intro & story
When everyone arrived, they got a name tag for their favorite ninja. Far and away favorite was Lloyd. (Yes, the bad-ass ninja is named Lloyd. Please contain your snickers of disbelief, children love Lloyd. He becomes the Ultimate Spinjitzu Master, how could you not love him?!) We had to do some extra into here because several children were just there – they had no idea what Ninjago even was. This did actually turn out to be a little problem, because the NINJAGO SUPERFANS felt almost insulted by this – so we had to do some peacemaking. A good strategy was encouraging the SUPERFANS to tell the others what was cool about Ninjago. However, it also meant staff had to be UP on the Ninjago world. Make sure you know what you’re talking about – read the Wikis, watch some videos, but don’t try to fake it – there’s dense mythology happening here and kids WILL call you on it.
We read from The Golden Weapons, one of the books in the Ninjago series. (Even if you’re not planning an event, your library should be stocked up on Ninjago titles. There are graphic novels too! They’ll circ!) This was out of any kind of order, but it fit the theme because there was lava in it (which would be featured in an activity station) and an appearance of the character Nya AKA Samurai X, the only girl who gets to participate in all the Ninjago fun. I thought this was important because, well, I was dressed up as Nya.
(more about this costume in an upcoming post about costumes and makeups for programs!)
Now The Golden Weapons is not going to win the Newbery but it set the scene and got the kids all hyped up and immersed in the Ninjago-verse. (And, of course, it let them know we have Ninjago books.) After this, they were ready for the fun and games.
30 minutes of crafts and activities
Stolen right from Sara, we had four Ninjago stations, each one named after a Ninja.
There was Kai’s training course, which was a great physical activity. They went through here several times. We have a cool hallway in our programming area, so we created it straight down there. The course had taped down hula hoops to jump across, a masking tape hopscotch-ish like board, and a straight line to walk. There was red duct tape on every side and in some of the squares and they had to avoid it … since it was lava, of course.
There was Zane’s targeting station with color-coded buckets for each Ninja. While looking for activities for this event I also made great use of anything pinned at Pinterest with “Ninjago party.” However lots of these were obstacle courses in outside settings and way more complicated than we could do. Also, lots of this Ninjago stuff is right on the edge of Japanese stereotype, so I DEFINITELY wanted to avoid that. But I got this station and the villain knockdown ideas from Pinterest parties, so it was worth looking up.
Here, the kids took turns throwing Ninja stars into the bucket. They loved this – loved throwing the stars and loved that each bucket had a Ninja character and was color-coded. They also loved that the throwing stars matched Zane’s weapons. We also had a take-home tutorial for anyone who wanted to try to make the stars – we were going to possibly have them as a craft station, but once my co-worker Melissa tried making one we realized it was FAR too complicated for the kids. (which is why we’ve learned to ALWAYS try the craft beforehand and maybe even have a child volunteer try it for us!
There was Jay’s gadget station, which was basically just building with our Legos. Of course this was a hit, kids would have stayed at this station the whole time. This station was also staffed by one of my student workers who loves Legos and building, so it was easy for him to engage with the kids about what they were making and why. Lots of ninja stars here. Sara’s guidelines of making a gadget with the fewest number of blocks was genius because it made sure there were plenty of Legos for everyone.
There was Cole’s Villain Knockdown. Last year we ended up with several hundred of these small boxes and, in true librarian hoarder style, we saved them. Since then we’ve used them for a few things but they are BEST for the knockdown stations. We had one like this with Stormtroopers/Clonetroopers at our Star Wars Day. Here, I printed out some Ninjago villains (again: learn who is who!) and had volunteers tape them to boxes, a few of which we weighed down, and we set them up for the kids to knock down with beanbags. They LOVE LOVE LOVE the knockdown. (as they did last year.) They cheer for each other, target specific villains, and really celebrate when they knock them down. Even the kids that knew very little about Ninjago loved knocking down the targets. I think we could do this at every event and they’d line up for it.
This was plenty to keep everyone busy for thirty minutes, so much that most kids only got on. We made sure everyone got at least one chance to try everything but they would have kept up, over and over, at everything.
15 minutes of snack and wrap-up
This was easy enough: cookies, grapes, generic Chex Mix, and lemonade. This was the last event we used the buffet line at and that’s when we had REAL back-up. It was straight-up cups from here on out. All together, the food cost about $15. The grapes kick the price up, but you’ve gotta have some fresh fruit.
There was really no other costs associated with the event: we re-purposed and used what we already had for everything else. Because of that, I thought it was worth spending a little more money for the take-home. I had seen lots of projects on Pinterest involving cut-outs of the Ninjago eyes. People used them on favor bags and balloons and no wonder – they’re a great, easily recognizable icon. I decided to use them as our take-homes but balloons and bags weren’t going to work, so I bought a box of 100 folders. This cost about $15 at Office Depot, but there were no whites or blacks, so I bought a few of those individually. (Of course we didn’t use them all, but used more during Minecraft and will craft some into lapbooks for our early literacy storytime. ) This way kids could get a folder matching their favorite Ninja (but since they all loved Lloyd and all the girls wanted to be Nya, I could have saved money and only bought red and green!) and then paste a set of Ninjago eyes on them. It took only a few minutes to do the pasting (I had volunteers cut out the eyes ahead of time) but the kids really liked this. Probably because it ended up looking cool and was impossible to mess up. I have to admit, it looked even better than I’d imagined – the folders really made the eyes pop and they looked downright … ninja-ish.
(I just spent a few dollars to buy a sheet of eyes from an Etsy store, there’s tons of them, but you could create your own sheet of them)
(we couldn’t have the program without our superstar student workers! More about them in an upcoming post about student workers.)
Mistakes Made, Lessons Learned
- One mistake we made was I numbered each of the villains and made a sheet for the kids to identify them. Why was this a mistake? The non-SUPERFANS couldn’t have cared less (which was fine) but the SUPERFANS were into this. It started some really great conversations as they raced to fill out their sheets. They were intent and focused. Awesome! Except then that held up the entire knockdown station as they spread out in front of it filling out their sheets and discussing it in-depth. I should have separated out these two activities and had another station that was just puzzles and trivia. SUPERFANS love stuff like that.
- This event was also walking a delicate line between the SUPERFANS and “my parents saw this on the calender and thought it would be a fun way to kill an hour!” It’s a line you walk often in these events. The best solution we’ve found is to know enough about the material to engage everyone and to let the SUPERFANS cluster together and amuse each other while you stand in awe at their vast knowledge, encouraging them to carry on even longer conversations. Not everyone has to be a superfan BUT we do keep focused, discussion-wise and enthusiasm-wise, on the theme or else what’s the point? If you hate Ninjago but just want to play the games, well, here’s some info about our other events, maybe one of those fits your interests more.
- Using numbers on the back of the Ninjago cut-out eyes we were going to do a door prize drawing to give away a bunch of discount Ninjago stuff I found on discount. But we had too many eyes and then too many kids – it sort of descended into chaos. We ended up saving the prizes for an end-of-summer giveaway. We definitely came down on the side of deciding door prizes are not the way to go for an event this size.
That’s how we did Ninjago. Overall, it was a great hit and some really excellent school-age outreach. There were some very passionate boys cross-eyed with delight, always a happy sight. This event, held in July, tied in well with the fact that we’d started a Lego Club in June – they were great active, creative programs.
Overall attendance for the program was 35 kids and about 8-9 adults. As well as our awesome desk staff, we needed two regular staff members (me and my partner in crime and creativity and right-hand woman Melissa) and our two student workers (pictured above) Jared and Dillon to host the event properly.
Are your patrons feeling NINJAGO? Have you had Ninjago event at your library or another Lego event? What was your experience with it? Are there any questions about our event I didn’t answer that you want more info about? Let’s talk about it all! (Comment here or talk with me on Twitter)
Tomorrow: FANCY NANCY!