I have discovered that foam is an awesome replacement for what could potentially be a dangerous object. It's malleable, flexible, strong, lightweight, and unless you take it directly to the eye (which could happen with any toy), it's pretty darn safe. I like to use either thin pool noodles, which are readily available at most discount chains during the late spring and summer, or pipe insulation foam, which is found year round at the hardware store; it comes in a variety of thicknesses so you can choose the one that suits you best.
If your little ninja is anything like the ones I have known, the following activities will be right up his or her alley:
Easily done. You can set up a cool obstacle course with lots of barriers where the challenge is to get through as quietly as possible, like crawling under a series of ropes tied with bells, crossing over a teeter totter made from a piece of 12 x 8 wood balanced on an 18 inch section of 4 x 4, or climbing up a small step stool and jumping from the top, landing like a cat on the ground.
Set up a shooting range with lightweight play balls (the kind you see in most ball pits) balanced on top of cardboard tubes of varying heights (gift wrap tubes work great). All you need to do is take a 24 inch dowel, sink it into the lawn about six inches, then slide the gift wrapping tube over the dowel — it will stand perfectly. (You can use a bucket of sand to hold the tubes upright as well.)
Balance the ball on top of the tube, and fire away! You can use rubber bands or straw launchers. To make straw launchers, take two straws, one slightly thinner than the other in diameter. Pinch the end of the slightly larger straw closed and tape it with a tiny bit of tape to make a rocket. Trim the rocket so that it's about 3 inches shorter than the thinner straw. Slip the rocket onto the thinner straw and blow through the thinner straw. It's awesome! Just a reminder: no one ever steps onto the shooting range until all projectile rounds have been expended (and only when an adult says it's safe). No shooting at moving targets.
Uh oh. Here we get into a problem. Kids love weapons! Guns, knives, throwing stars… but how to make them safe? How to let kids use their imaginations to act out their favorite kung fu scenes without hurting one another? The answer, my friends, is foam!
Here are all the great weapons I have made out of foam, and how to make them yourself!
Just use a pool noodle! If you want you can duct tape a really cool grip pad in the center of the staff. *Please note: do not duct tape the actual "weapon" part of your foam creations; the duct tape will actually add strength and rigidity which negates the flexibility and safety of the foam.
I found these hard plastic pirate swords at The Dollar Tree. Using a hand saw, I simply cut off the offensive plastic blade about three inches up from the hilt. Luckily for me the blade was pretty thick, so all I had to do was apply hot glue all over the stub, let it cool about 20 seconds (hot glue and foam are not the best of friends; the hot glue, if applied directly to the foam will melt it) then slide a 24 inch piece of foam onto the stub and there you have it — one basically harmless (please note, nothing is ever entirely harmless) sword. *Special note: if you find that the sword hilt you've got is attached to more of a rapier-type blade, just bulk it out with duct tape.