Does you child love to pretend to be a secret agent, spy or detective? Perhaps you are planning a playdate and want some spy party games? These spy activities for kids are just the ticket! Best of all, spy activities promote pretend play and are great for encouraging screen-free play time.
Learn how to write in secret code, practice your observation skills, learn how to sneak around and find out what’s going on, create a spy kit and more with these super fun secret agent activities and spy games. And of course, don’t forget the required reading with our awesome spy novels and how-to-be a spy book list.
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Write in Secret Code
In addition to learning how to write in and reveal invisible ink, every secret agent must know how to write in code and be a codebreaker!
Make a Sliding Decoder
We used this slide decoder for a compute and find secret message scavenger hunt.
Cut slots in a piece of heavy colored card stock, and cut a strip of white paper sized to the slots. The key is to make the strip longer than the colored paper and to cut the slots slightly larger than the strip, so it glides smoothly. Write the alphabet on the colored paper. Then write a number line on the other, with extra letters and numbers at each end, as shown in the photo below.
To create a code, simply line up letters and numbers as desired. Be sure to read how we used this code for some superhero math coding fun.
Make Your Own Symbols Code
Kids can use their imaginations to create their own substitution code. Simply write the alphabet on one side of the paper and then draw a symbol next to each letter to create the cipher.
The pigpen cipher is centuries old and lots of fun! Learn how to write coded messages in pigpen in our how-to post.
Use Code Cracking Books
The possibilities for writing in code are endless! Check out a few books from the library and your kids will be busy writing for hours. TIP: kids who are reluctant writers will be reluctant no more!
We love Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing by Paul B. Janeczko because it offers instructions for basic to complex codes and includes fascinating historical details.
Write in Invisible Ink
First and foremost, every spy needs to know how to write and send secret letters. One way is with invisible ink. Here are a few different formulations to try. But don’t forget the decoy message!
Lemon Juice Formula
Squeeze lemon juice into a cup. Dip a Q-tip into the juice and write a message on a piece of paper. Allow the juice to dry. Write a decoy message on the paper with a pen so no one knows you’ve written in invisible ink! Reveal your secret message by carefully holding the paper over a heat source like a light bulb, or iron the paper (us a low, no steam setting).
Baking Soda Formula
Mix equal parts baking soda and water. Dip a Q-tip into the mixture and write your secret message. Allow to dry. As with the lemon juice example, write a message in pen across the paper to distract from the invisible ink. To reveal the message, “paint” the paper with grape juice!
Invisible Ink with Milk or Vinegar
Use whole milk or white vinegar to write your message. As with the lemon juice formula, reveal your secret message by carefully holding the paper over a heat source.
Invisible Ink Pens
Invisible ink pens are so much fun. These pens include a small black light built into the end. After writing your message in invisible ink, click on the black light and reveal the message!
Practice Observation Skills
All good secret agents are constantly aware of their environment and the activity that surrounds them!
Keep a Journal
Any good spy knows how helpful keeping a written record can be. Practice writing down details by keeping a daily journal in a blank notebook just like Harriet the Spy! Or, get a horizontal flip notebook and head outdoors to document the goings-on around town.
Memory games of all kinds will benefit spies in training. There is always the classic memory tray game in which you place 10 items on a tray. Kids try to memorize items for 10 second, then close their eyes. While their eyes are closed someone removes 1-3 items. After opening their eyes, kids try to remember what is missing.
However, there are numerous ways to practice observation and memory skills. We have a slew of wonderful screen-free memory games for spies of all ages here.
Make Your Own Spy Equipment
No spy games or pretend play is complete without the right equipment for tracking down the bad guys and finding out what’s going on behind enemy lines.
DIY Spy Gadgets
Spies need equipment and that means super cool gadgets! Your spy-in-training will require all kinds of fun gadgets and the International Spy Museum has a great resource for making stuff!
Visit their online Gadget Lab and find instructions for the following:
- Blow Gun
- Book Safe
- Escape Map
- Decoder Wheel
- Rearview Glasses
- Signaling Device
- Spy Alarm
Think of how much fun they can have with all that cool stuff!
Put Together a Detective Kit
Finally, after learning how to write in code, practicing stealth observation and making all their gadgets, spies need to have a safe place to keep it all. Find an old briefcase and fill it with all the necessary equipment. Don’t forget your spy ID cards, magnifying glass, fingerprint kit and a few key disguise items like a hat, sunglasses and a fake mustache!