Hiding behind the reclining chair, notebook in hand, my daughter peered out. “Shhhh!” I heard her whisper to her brother. Playing spies has become a new favorite for them.
Kids of all ages love to pretend play. That’s why play kitchens, plastic tool sets, and cardboard box castles are always big hits with little ones.
For older kids who are into pretending to be spies, here are a few simple kids spy activities to take that play beyond just hiding behind that living room chair.
Lots of kids enjoy playing spies. Reading about George Washington’s spy ring while we studied the Revolutionary War kicked our interest into high gear. We couldn’t wait to try out a few secret spy activities of our own.
Simple Secret Code Activity
George Washington’s spies wrote their messages in secret code to keep the British from knowing their plans. (They would have used a homemade quill, which you can also try.)
Your kids can have fun sending messages in their own secret codes. To create your own code, write the letters of the alphabet down a piece of paper. Then pick a letter to start at. Write the number 1 next to that letter and continue numbering the letters 1-26. Make 2 copies of your new code, being careful that they are numbered the same.
The numbers will represent the letters of the alphabet. Use the numbers to write your own secret message, separating each number with a comma to make it easier to decode. Leave plenty of space between words.
Give your message to a friend. They will need the second copy of the code in order to decipher the secret message.
Once your kids have the hang of writing messages in code they can try writing them in invisible ink. (We were surprised to discover that invisible ink was actually used by Washington’s spies during the Revolutionary War.)
DIY Invisible Ink
- Cotton Swab/Paintbrush
- White Paper
- Candle and Lemon Juice or Milk
- Baking Soda and Grape Juice
There are lots of ways to make your own invisible ink at home.
My favorite way to make invisible ink is with lemon juice. Simply pour a little lemon juice into a small bowl. Dip a cotton swab into the liquid and write your message on plain white paper. (As an alternative you can also use milk.)
Let the paper dry completely, approximately 1 hour.
To make the message reappear, carefully hold it over the flame of a lit candle. Be sure to keep it several inches away from the flame to keep the paper from catching on fire or scorching. We found that slowly moving the paper in small circles worked best.
You can also try putting the paper in a 350 degree oven for 2-3 minutes. Keep an eye on the paper so it doesn’t catch fire! This may be best if working with young children.
The easiest way for younger children is to make invisible ink with baking soda and water. Simply mix baking soda and water to make a paste. You don’t want it too thick or your message will be very noticeable as you write it.
Use a cotton swab to write your message on white paper.
Let the paper dry completely.
There are 2 ways to read this invisible ink. The safest and easiest way for young kids involves grape juice.
Have your child use a paint brush to lightly brush grape juice over the page. The letters (or in my son’s case — picture) will appear darker than the rest of the page.
The other way to make the message appear is the same way that works for the lemon juice ink.
Holding our secret messages above the candle’s flame and watching the invisible ink appear helped bring a big of history to life. It was fun to imagine being part of George Washington’s secret spy ring.
These simple kids spy activities are perfect for pretend play or as part of a Revolutionary War unit.
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