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  • 5 Tips for Talking to Kids

    (Without Talking Down to Them) For Ninja trainers and coaches, dedicated to embedding the discipline, focused energy, and skill of a Ninja into students, the ability to properly communicate with children is vital. When talking and communication are done right throughout a lesson, students learn more, have more fun, and benefit from a more structured environment. With proper communication, everyone benefits and experiences an easier time as we work together to teach new skills and have fun. Read on below to discover several important guidelines to stick to when seeking to foster better communication with students, and experience the results for yourself! 5 Tips for Talking to Kids - 1. Speak to Students in a Mature Way For students training to be a Ninja, it’s important to acknowledge their self-felt status as a “big kid.” Students are eager to rise to the occasion as they learn new skills, and might be less willing to listen if they feel that they’re being spoken to as “babies.” Speak to them as you might to adults; slowly and clearly, with patience for questions, and you might find a more receptive class. 2. Make Eye Contact For many children, the feeling of personal attention is just as important as a mature tone of speech when addressing them. Maintaining eye contact while talking, and making it with as many students as possible, communicates a sense of “Yes, I’m talking to you too.” That connection to students can work wonders in a personal sense of connection and accountability as you seek to stay on task. 3. Stay Mindful As many successes as you have, when communicating with children there will inevitably be setbacks. There will be days when it’s more difficult to communicate, and it can be easy for frustration to begin creeping up during this time. Remember to stay mindful of the fact that difficulty happens less often than good behavior, and keep a calm demeanor as you attempt to keep things under control. 4. Help Students Set Their Own Limits The core of our program centers around allowing students to progress at their own pace and find their limits. Don’t be afraid to support a student if they want to try something you might feel is slightly out of their grasp. While keeping safety as a priority, allowing students to press themselves is part of the beauty of NinjaZone. As a guide, cheerleader, and chaperone, you’ll be part of an experience they’ll never forget! 5. Be Firm When Necessary As fun as training may be, limits are also necessary to ensure that each student has a safe, fun experience. When talking about and laying down boundaries, expectations, and discipline to ensure that everyone gets along, you will have to be firm and uncompromising in what you allow and what you don’t. By clearly communicating your expectations and sticking to them, students will accept your leadership without feeling babied. When you’re leading, you’re the teacher and head communicator rolled into one. By following the 5 Tips for Talking to Kids when interacting with students, you’re more likely to have a fun, safe and harmonious group of students.

  • Fall Family Fun! {free download}

    It's Fall y'all and there is no better time to get together as a family and check off some classic Fall activities than right now! Check out this year's NinjaZone Fall Bucket List - Download the PDF -

  • 5 Ways to End Negativity in Your Staff Culture

    Having employees is hard work. During stressful, busy, or chaotic times staff morale can hit a low point. When morale is down, negativity creeps into a workplace making the environment toxic. As business owners, directors, coaches, and leaders we need to work on changing the energy around us when it starts to go downhill. I am NOT perfect. Despite my many years in a leadership role, I still have to keep working on these strategies. Believe me when I tell you that awareness will lead to change. Here are 5 ways to lose that negative energy! 1. Pause. When you’re confronted with a negative situation, it’s our tendency to react quickly and hopefully squash it quickly. Take a deep breath, and let it be okay to say – “I need to put some thought into this.” Show your concern without judgment. Even a good “hmmmm….” works. Then take some time to empathize and think through it. 2. Ask questions, rather than making statements, and remove yourself from the cycle. I read an awesome management book called “The Coaching Habit” by Michael Bungay Stanier. I highly recommend it. In the book, they give seven stellar questions when meeting with an employee or co-worker. So often we find ourselves in “solve it” mode that we insert our opinions into the situation in an effort to help. Rather than assess, ask questions like, “Why is this a challenge for you?” or “How can I help?” When people realize that you’re not going to solve all of their problems, they’ll get the hint quickly. 3. Accept criticism as an opportunity, and try your best not to make excuses. Look at every mistake or critique as an opportunity to be better tomorrow. And don’t beat yourself up! Mistakes are part of growth, and the more you make the better you get. Someone cares about you, your team/staff, or your club enough to help you out.  Or, even if you don’t agree, they have a reason to believe what they believe. What vibe are you giving off that warrants the criticism? When people see that your intentions are true, they forgive, and will even support you further.  As a leader, if you kindly accept criticism, so will the people that look up to you. 4. Appreciate Daily – as much as you can. This is another one that I’ve had to seriously work on. I always thought that if I handed out too many compliments people would stop working. Soooo not the case. Think about it…How do you feel when you’re criticized? How do YOU feel when you’re praised? People (just like kids) want to do more of what they’re praised for. I certainly don’t mean to be fake, but if you make it a habit to appreciate what people do right, you’ll be amazed at how receptive they, your staff and coworkers, are to make changes when you need them to. 5. Make gossip a fireable offense. Sound crazy? I heard this from Dave Ramsey at a conference. “You are every problem and every solution in your business,” he said. It hit me like a ton of bricks. What? Do you mean I don’t just have to deal with the gossip and negativity? This single statement means we as owners, managers, and leaders have the ability to choose. We choose the hire, we choose the expectations, we choose what to manage, and we choose what to make a priority. A LOT of responsibility? Yes. But with responsibility comes freedom. You’re in charge and you have the choice to choose. Dave Ramsay, and now all of my companies use his definition of gossip. “Gossip is negative talk without a proposed solution.” And you can get fired for it. We haven’t had to do it, nor do I hope it ever comes to that, but since simply discussing this with the staff, the changes have been amazing. What do you do to change negative energy? What makes your staff culture great? Let me know in the comments.

  • 8 Tips for Back to School

    School is starting up soon! There’s a long list of things you need to get ready. From all the supply shopping to your child’s first-day jitters it can be hard to keep track of everything you need to be prepared! Here are 8 tips to help get you ready for the back-to-school season. 1. Re-adjust your kids’ sleep schedule two weeks before school starts. This will help them to get back into the swing of things. The two weeks will help cause their sleep schedule to readjust in time for the school year. 2. Find a program or activity that your kid can do after school. Extracurriculars are a great way to keep your child involved. They also have another opportunity to make new friends! 3. Let your kids play a part in picking out supplies and clothes. Having them help pick out their pencils, binders, or clothes can make the back-to-school season more enjoyable! Need a cool backpack?? Check this one out! 4. Have your kid set some goals for the year. Setting goals will help keep your kids motivated going into the school year. For some helpful information on goal setting check out this excellent blog post here! 5. Have backup transportation. Nothing is worse than scrambling to find your kid a ride if the car breaks down, or they miss the bus. Make sure you have a backup plan so your kids are on time for some serious learning! 6. Set your clocks forward 10 minutes. It has worked time and time again! Tricking yourself into thinking that you are running late but you end up being on time! 7. Do something fun before the school year starts. This will help to ease the stress and get a last 00-rah in! 8. Get pumped! Get excited! The school year is starting! Your Ninja is ready to tackle another awesome year!

  • The NinjaZone Ninja Creed

    THE NINJA CREED An important staple of the NinjaZone curriculum is the Ninja Creed. Not only will your child be challenged physically in class, but they will also be challenged to practice what it means to embrace their best self. The Ninja Creed encourages responsibility, respect, manners, kindness, personal growth, impulse restraint, health in both mind and body, conflict resolution, and much more. The Creed is discussed at the beginning and end of each class, and ninjas are encouraged to take the lessons they learn in class and apply them to everyday life at home, school, and with friends.

  • Teach Your Child About Kindness {Free Printable Calendar}

    It’s a great time for self-reflection, introspection, and goal setting with the new year coming up… unfortunately it also tends to be one of the busiest months of the year for many families! Instead of getting caught up in the hustle and bustle, choose instead to slow down and focus on something I like to call “intentional kindness”. In general, as parents, we strive to fill our children up with the right character traits to move them through life as successful, happy, engaged citizens. Sometimes it’s important to make the act of showing kindness to others a priority and with this calendar, you can! Print off this kindness calendar and make a goal to check off 5, 10, 15 (or all!) of the kind activities during the month. If you enjoy doing this with your children, consider incorporating it into your New Year’s goals as well! We’d love to hear feedback from you — which activities did your children enjoy the most? What activities would you suggest that we missed? #ninjasgiveback

  • #NinjasGiveBack: Kindness During Holidays

    “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” With Thanksgiving upon us and the end of the year in sight, there’s no better time to remind our ninjas of the importance of kindness. Not only that, but every NinjaZone participant agrees to live and operate by the Ninja Creed, which places importance on qualities like respecting and honoring parents, using proper manners, taking self-responsibility, helping others grow to the next level, using ninja powers for good, and beyond. Just as we do every year, we encourage Ninja Parents to get their children involved in the #NinjasGiveBack initiative. Here are some things your family can do to get involved in your household: Donate books to a local library Be sure to check with your library first to see what their drop-off and donation regulations are. Collect soda can tabs for Ronald McDonald House Charities For more information, go to rmhc.org. Donate blankets, newspapers, cleaning supplies, old towels, hand sanitizer, or food to an animal shelter Check with the shelter first – their greatest needs can differ from day-to-day! Organize a neighborhood clean-up initiative Have everyone bring their own trash bags, and don’t forget the masks and gloves! Distribute leaf bags or help neighbors rake fallen leaves Many older citizens need help blowing leaves, raking, bagging, and general yard clean up before winter strikes! Buy gift cards from local businesses or restaurants and give them to those in need Local restaurants and shops need our support now more than ever, and if you pay the purchase forward to someone in need, it’s the gift that keeps on giving! Volunteer to virtually read books to seniors in a local nursing home Many residents in nursing homes are not able to accept in-person visitors right now, and a surprise book reading or other fun interaction with your family would certainly create a bright spot in their day! Deliver doorstep meals to new parents and other homebound individuals Be sure to check for potential allergies ahead of time, and to set up a time for the drop-off that is both socially distant and well-timed for perishable foods. Donate birthday party decorations to youth shelters or children’s hospitals Every kid deserves to have a magical birthday. Think outside the box, and help these kids have a birthday they won’t soon forget! Share your ninjas giving back by using our #ninjasgiveback on any social media platform! We are so excited to see these ninjas throw themselves into acts of kindness and goodness and appreciate the example parents provide these amazing kids we get to help shape and mold.

  • Ninja Nutrition: Pizza Bagels!

    Ninja Nik’s favorite pastime? Being a Ninja. His second favorite? Eating. Here are some delicious recipes that Nik came up with himself, and are a great opportunity for kids to join adults in the kitchen! Have the kids pull a stool up to the counter if they need it, and enjoy a Ninja Nutrition Party! Just try not to eat it all as you go…Nik’s stealthy sneaky-food-grabbing Ninja moves keep mom on her toes! Hii-yah! Nik’s BBQ Chicken Pizza Bagels 4 100% whole wheat bagels (Or Thomas’ Bagel Thins are amazing too!) 1 cup BBQ of your choice ½ cup pizza or spaghetti sauce 2 cups reduced fat mozzarella cheese Grated parmesan cheese to taste Handful of cilantro (optional) 2 cups shredded chicken (Nik here—My mom got a rotisserie chicken from the store, and she let me get my hands all messy when we shredded it!) ½ cup diced red onion Preheat oven to 375° degrees. Lay out bagels or bagel thins with cut side up on a cookie sheet. Once preheated, toast the bagels for 3 minutes. While the bagels are toasting, shred the chicken and then toss it in the BBQ sauce. Spread a THIN layer of pizza sauce on the bagels (too much makes them soggy and goopy). Top with mozzarella cheese and sprinkle on parmesan cheese, if desired. Sprinkle onions on top of the cheese, then add the chicken tossed in the BBQ sauce. Bake until cheese is melted and chicken is heated through. Serve immediately, and top with finely chopped cilantro, if desired. Ninjas, EAT!

  • Why Become a Ninja Coach?

    Coaching children can be a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. Many are inspired by working in an environment that cultivates effort over talent and encouragement for gaining life skills, not just trick skills. Ninja is the perfect combination of merging passion with a paycheck. The passion of working with children at their level and on their own time is held by many coaches. The sport of ninja is authentic, natural, messy, and real - and we like it that way! Considering checking out a coaching gig? Maybe these reasons will persuade you even more - 1. Ninja Coaches are the coolest, period. No one is cooler in the eyes of a child than their coach. Their mentor who knows the in’s and out’s of sport, who encourages them when they feel down, who makes practice fun, and who is genuinely excited to see them every session. Mix that with being a Ninja… well… you just won the “coolest person they know” award. 2. Ninja is limitless. The sport of Ninja is still not clearly defined - and that’s a good thing! It’s a sport that blurs the line between the techniques of gymnastics and the tricking skills of parkour. It encourages creativity in combinations and obstacle course racing. Ninja blends martial arts with endurance and speed. There is no one way to do it, and that creates limitless possibilities. 3. Coaches encourage kids to be their best selves. The opportunity presents itself to impact kids in the best way possible. To help mold & shape them to be amazing human beings, which benefits all! 4. Coaches continue to grow themselves. Every student you teach makes an imprint on who you are as a coach and a person. Personal growth is just an added bonus in the pursuit of coaching kids to be their best, there is no way around it! 5. Fun work environment. Working in a children’s facility is always going to be fun (if it isn’t, they aren’t doing it right). Having access to the equipment and facilities add to creating an atmosphere of play for the kids and the coaches! Many gyms allow their coaches to learn new skills by utilizing the equipment and practice space too! 6. Alternative job opportunities. Desk job not for you? Coaching keeps the creative juices flowing in a non-oppressive environment. The hours are not usually 9-5pm, and nights are often required. However, flexibility is more readily available than your typical corporate job - and a LOT more fun. 7. Becoming someone’s hero. Coaching kids on a weekly basis automatically makes you a person who is caring and kind. Those attributes stand out to your students and you become their hero pretty quickly. While that may feel like a big responsibility (well, it is...), it’s the easiest thing to uphold with consistency and responsibility. Being a coach is no easy task, but it’s by far - the most rewarding. Mix your passion with your day job, and find a ninja coaching job near you! For more information on becoming a Ninja Coach, join our Facebook Group

  • Ninja Training at Home

    As much as your kids would love to live in the ninja gym, at some point you have to go home. So when the ninja energy runs high in the living room, bring the ninja gym to them with the same type of games, activities, and obstacle courses they do during their training. You don’t have to have a warped wall or rope swings to exercise like a ninja – there are many fun activities you can do with just what you have around the house. DIY Obstacle Courses One of the easiest ways to get your ninja moving is to create an obstacle course like the ones they run at NinjaZone. You don’t even have to have a huge space to do obstacle courses, though a big backyard is fantastic for when the weather is nice! It’s not just the running of the obstacle course that makes this fun – the planning and building of the course can be a great family time activity that shows ninjas how much can be accomplished by working together. Outdoor Obstacle Courses Outdoor obstacles can incorporate existing things like monkey bars to swing across, swings to jump over and through, and slides to use as your ninja’s own “warped wall”. Cones are an inexpensive way to mark off areas of your course. Pool noodles are great for jumping over during a run or they can be incorporated as a javelin to throw in your course. During warm seasons, include water balloon tosses and a small kiddie pool to run through. Add extra giggles by running a sprinkler over your obstacle course, just be careful when including water on things like monkey bars. Indoor Obstacle Courses For cold weather obstacle courses that have to be run indoors, you can easily use a hallway or a family room to build a more contained obstacle course. Use things like couch cushions and pillows as hurdles to jump over, balloons as obstacles that hang down from the ceiling, and painters tape makes a great balance beam and can also be used on walls without damaging anything. For extra fun, add the elements of the classic game “the floor is lava” and watch your little ninjas get creative! Focus on Footwork Training for older ninjas can look a little different than it is for the younger crowd with more of a focus on footwork and being light on their feet. Some tools that may be of use when it comes to older ninjas are things like agility ladders, hurdles, training rings, and cones. All of these can really help improve an older ninja’s footwork. Some of these things can also be used for younger siblings, but the best start to good footwork is hopscotch. Step Out of the Ninja Box The crossover happens between all types of sports and is extremely beneficial to the athlete. It’s funny to picture football players learning ballet, but it makes them lighter on their feet. Ninjas can easily cross-train too! Not only does trying other activities and workouts help your child be a better ninja, but it can prevent injuries caused by overuse. Some cross-training exercises that we think are great for ninjas to practice are: Yoga and pilates for balance Meditation for focus Soccer for faster feet and agility Playing catch for better grip strength and reaction time Regular exercise like jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, and running with a parent because it sets an example that physical activity is important at all ages. Become the Student After teaching your ninja some crossover exercises that will help increase their ninja training level, have them teach you what they know. You might be surprised at how hard their workout can be. These can be exercises they’ve learned at ninja training, from physical education at their school, or help them create new exercise activities together and get moving. Setting the example that fitness can be fun while also teaching that it is important can be a key lifelong lesson for them. It doesn’t take a fully equipped ninja gym for your little ninjas to train like masters. There are so many fun ways to train at home. All you need is a little imagination and creativity. Anything around you can be a great way to get a ninja workout. Written By Robert Helfst

  • 4 Tips to Flexible Parenting

    Every parent has had one of those days. The days when you feel like all you say is, “no.” While setting boundaries is a healthy part of parenting, we all question if our boundary walls are too high sometimes. It can be hard to remember that our little ninjas really are still little. Flexible parenting is based on respect between ninjas and their parents and unconditional love. While flexibility is the basis of this parenting style, clear limits, rules, and consequences are always set and known by both parents and kids. Flexible parenting has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression in kids. Some other benefits of this parenting style include an increase in communication, self-esteem, imagination, and overall positivity in children. So, how do you go about shifting your parenting style to allow more flexibility? Accepting Failure is Step 1 to Being Flexible The first step in flexible parenting is to let the little things go. Failures happen to all of us and letting ninjas know that it’s okay builds a more confident kid because they know they can get back up and try again. Turning little failures into learning moments and showing them that even their parents can fail at things can give them the greatest boost to not give up when things get challenging. Failures can happen in everyday life, in school, with friendships, and within youth sports. The number one thing your ninja will need when this happens is to know that you’re there to support them. Instead of the lecture that you used to turn to when a mistake was made, talk it through and help your ninja find their way to the solution that fits their situation best. Embrace the Unknown Because this a newer idea in parenting, it can seem impossible to know what’s right and wrong. This method goes against so much of how many of our parents ran their households and it’s hard to unlearn a parenting style that you were raised with. Embrace the unknown that comes with a flexible parenting style and take it as it comes. Trial and error is a large part of the process, and it is actually beneficial for your ninja to see you navigate a new situation. By showing them that making a mistake is not the end of the world no matter who does it and that persevering is always better than giving up you are setting the best example and expectation for them. Find the Balance Between Flexibility and Consistency It’s well known that kids do well with routines. Routines are comfortable, dependable, and ninjas always know what to expect. But too much routine can lead it to stress, anxiety, and inflexibility that can easily turn to meltdowns and tantrums. The balance between consistency and flexibility is different for each family and it takes practice to know what will work best for yours. From big flexibility that deals with completely arranging schedules around practice schedules and big events to small flexibilities that mean a quick errand unexpected errand, a ninja’s ability to go with the flow without total meltdowns can help them throughout the rest of their life. Things like bedtime routines, morning routines before school, and homework routines are still extremely beneficial, but keeping schedules more flexible outside of those can give ninjas a little more freedom during the day. Know Where the Line is Really Drawn There are ups and downs with every parenting style. Some of the downsides to flexible parenting can be defiance, disrespect, and underdeveloped coping skills. These can all easily be combated by setting and keeping boundaries that are right for your family. Make sure your ninjas always know where the line is drawn and that you are consistent in letting them know when it is crossed. Flexible parenting does not mean getting away with everything they want to, there are still consequences when misbehaviors happen. It’s more about finding a way to do it rather than doing whatever you want. As long as there are still rules and expectations, ninjas know what to expect and should easily be able to follow that while going with the flow. There are many parenting styles to choose from when raising little ninjas that it can feel overwhelming – there is really no answer to what the right one is. Each family unit is different and needs different pieces from each of the different styles. Don’t be afraid to try new things in your parenting. Step outside the box and go with the flow more. It may surprise you how much it can benefit your ninjas and your family unit as a whole. Written by Robert Helfst

  • Competition is More Than Winning

    By: Robert Helfst Competition is everywhere. From sporting events to academia to competing for promotions in the workplace, it’s all around us. So if we are faced with competition every day we know our ninjas are faced with it too. How do we raise competitive kids without making winning their only objective? Why is Competition Good for Children? Many things come from healthy competition, but one of the most important ones is innovation. If we didn’t ourselves and each other to be better we’d stay stagnant at the same point forever. Our ninjas are no different. By creating a competitive drive in our kids we improve their futures. Not only is competition important in sports, but in academia too. Your child’s drive for success will be apparent both on the court or field and in the classroom. And while the lessons can be tough, losing is even more important than winning in competition. We never want to see our ninjas lose, but it is important for developing their grit and showing them not to give up even when they don’t succeed. Building a Ninja’s Competitive Spirit There are many ways to build a ninja’s competitive spirit. The easiest way is to build some competition into your ninja’s life is by getting them active in competitive sports. There are so many different sports to choose from too! So there’s something for everyone. Some of the most readily available competitive sports are: Ninja Competitions Baseball Softball Soccer Basketball Football Swimming Teams Tennis Golf Volleyball Martial arts Outside of organized sports, competition can be built at home. It can be anything from competing while playing games together to who can complete the most chores in a time period (really a huge win for you). Competition doesn’t have to come with prizes – most of the time the glory of winning is enough. Another lesson that can strengthen a competitive spirit in a good way is by challenging a ninja to be competitive with themselves. Competing with themselves in things like academics, kindness, and challenging themselves in sports can create a better self-image by showing them how much they are really capable of. The Balance Between Competition and Fun Fun and competition really go hand in hand and really are the same thing most of the time. But, there are times when competition isn’t fun. It can seem more like pressure, aggression, and challenges that just can’t be completed. So how do we keep competition fun? It all starts with you. Teaching a healthy competitive spirit starts with the example that you set for your ninja. By being encouraging instead of yelling, teaching good sportsmanship not only to their teams but to opposing teams, and by not using things like trash-talking and intimidation. Hard work doesn’t mean not having fun, and to get kids to stay active in team sports they have to enjoy the time spent on that activity. If you are the type of parent who volunteers for coaching opportunities it is your job and responsibility to show your athletes how to be competitive and respectful while still having fun. Take cues from your team. While hitting every shot is important on the court, so is having a laugh with your team in order to build more of a family feel. Finding the balance between competition and fun can mean giving your athletes more agency in how practices are run, including them in playmaking and line-ups, and listening to their opinions on what they think the strengths of the team are. Drawbacks of Competition While we try to keep competition fun no matter what, sometimes it’s really not. While helping our ninjas gain a competitive spirit, we also have to teach them that not everything is a competition. There can be other drawbacks too. Competition against themselves can so quickly turn into unhealthy self-judgment and feeling inadequate. When it comes to feelings like these, it is important to remind your ninja of their strengths and that not everyone succeeds at the same things. Parents set the greatest example of a healthy competitive spirit. Instead of yelling on the sidelines and overdoing the competitiveness that you show your athlete, pat them on the back and tell them the things that they’ve done well. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if it was a win or a loss, it just matters that they have had fun. Everyone ends up with a competitive streak in some way. It’s up to you to create a healthy relationship between your ninja and competition. The right guidance and insight from you can help serve your children for the rest of their lives. #NinjaGames

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