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Write spy messages with these amazing secret codes for kids. Here are six of our favorite ciphers to try with your junior spies in training!– They are super fun and very covert. Children love to write coded messages. Great addition to Spy Week activities
I loved secret codes when I was a kid. My friend and I worked out elaborate codes and sent notes back and forth. It was thrilling to send and receive a coded message that we could understand. I felt very covert!
Do you live with wannabe secret agents, who need to send important top secret messages to each other? Would you like to have a special method of communication between you and your kids?
I have 4 secret codes for you to try out.
Secret codes are great way to encourage writing and they also build your children’s abstract thinking skills.
And as a bonus it’s great way to build that parent/child relationship. YES!
New In The Store
“Secret Codes For Kids” introduces 5 fun ciphers. Each code has an instruction sheet and a fun activity page for practice. Includes 2 pages of tips and links for parents.
6 secret codes that will impress your kids
1. Book cipher.
This code uses a book as the key. The sender and recipient both have a copy of exactly the same book. The sender writes down the location codes to help the recipients find specific words.
How to code with a book cipher
The message is transmitted in groups of 3 figures. For example (11,4,2). These letters are the coordinates that point to a specific word in the book. For example, (11,4,2) means that you open the book and
- Turn to page 11
- Count down the page until you reach the 4th line from the top
- Then count the 2nd word in that line.
As you continue to find word after word, you can string together whole sentences!
Choosing the key
If this secret code is to work you must have two IDENTICAL copies of the same book. If you have a different version of the same title, the words and lines may be on different pages! You’ll also need a book that holds all the words that you need for your messages.
Tip: You will need a book that has a wide variety of words. Why not use two identical copies of a pocket dictionary.
A fun read for kids that love to solve puzzles. Adventure, ciphers and hidden treasure. This book has it all.
Emily and James are two middle schoolers trying to balance life, school work and mysteries. It may sound a bit implausible, but kids love this book. Besides who doesn’t love decrypting secret messages?
2. Pig Pen Cipher
Pigpen is a simple substitution cipher. The 26 letters of the alphabet are placed in two grids or “pigpens.” Each letter is represented by the part of the “pigpen” that surrounds it.
It is thought to be a very old code that was used in ancient times. It is perhaps most known as being the cipher of choice for the Freemasons. A secret society that used it to keep their records private. History also tells us that it was used by Union prisoners.
If you want to try the Pigpen cipher, download my free pigpen grid from the library. It is in with the family activity printables
For even more fun upgrade to my Secret Codes Activity kit. It includes some information about Pigpen and a fun activity page to help your kids practice using it. In addition, I tell you where to download a pigpen font and point you to a website that encrypts any message into pigpen.
Three D.I.Y. Decoders
Some codes require a top-secret decoder to send and receive secret messages. No one will be able to break your messages unless they have the decoder.
3. Secret Decoder Wheel
“Attention all secret agents! Your secret decoder wheel has arrived and your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to send and receive secret messages to your friends without anyone being the wiser.” Jamey at Dabbles and Babbles
If you don’t want to make a decoder try this one. It has two metal discs and is small enough to fit in the palm of a child’s hand.
Suitable for children aged 6 and up.
4. A simple code maker and breaker
Crayola has a very simple code maker and decoder that you can try. This might be easier for younger learners to use.
5. Paper Plate Decoder
Have you ever seen kids trying invisible ink? I love watching their face light up when the words suddenly appear! It’s just like magic! Although invisible ink isn’t a secret code it is still fun to use! All you need is lemon juice and paper. Why not give it a try today? Here are the instructions.
6. Zig Zag Cypher
I was intrigued by this zig zag cypher. It is very easy to use. All you need is a zig zag line.
Some ideas for using secret codes
- Try leaving secret code notes for for your kids in unexpected places –Write them on sticky notes and leave them on a drinking glass, water bottle, under a pillow, in a book, or on a swing.
- Use them to announce surprises, unexpected fun trips, or ice cream runs.
- If you have a bit more time you could set up a scavenger hunt. Write the clues in your code of choice. Have the last clue lead to a cool summer treat, a book full of puzzles and codes like The Maze of Bones, or a secret agent movie.
- Use a secret code in a special notebook with your child. Write coded notes of encouragement, telling jokes, or asking/answering questions!
Do you think your kids might like a chance to show off their secret agent skills? Would you like to have a special way of communicating that only you and your kids understand?
Ready To Have Fun With Your Kids?
Sign up and you’ll receive an email each day (for a week). each one contains a simple activity that you can enjoy with your kids.
A Brief History of Cryptology
Cryptology is considered a science. Basically, it is the study of data storage and communication in a secure or secret form.
The art of concealing information has been around for thousands of years. The oldest cipher was found carved into the walls of an Egyptian tomb and dates to about 1900 BCE. Archeologists also found some clay tablets from Mesopotamia with an encrypted recipe for a pottery glaze.
The Greek write Polybius invented the famous Polybius square. While Julius Caesar is credited with the creation of the Caesar shift. This is a system of shifting alphabet letters.
By the Middle Ages most of European rulers started using codes or ciphers in one form or another. Ciphers were more popular for military communications, because of the risk that codebooks could be captured or stolen.
The inventions of telegraph and radio pushed forward the development of cryptography. The increased volume of traffic was vulnerable to interception and had to be protected.
The great wars advanced the science forward. All information about military engagements was encrypted. Keeping the information secure was vital. Breaking the other side’s code would give you a strategic advantage. There is no doubt that cryptology changed the course of the war many times over.
Naturally, the rise of computers has created a demand for more sophisticated forms of encryption.
Looking for more information? Britannica offers an in depth look at the fascinating history of cryptology.
What is the Difference Between a Code and a Cipher?
We talked about codes and ciphers in this post. Are wondering what the difference is? In a nutshell, a code concerns the words, while a cipher is focused the individual letters.
A code is something that changes words or phrases into something else. For example, the phrase, ‘We are going for coffee” could be code for “I need to talk to you immediately.” You often see examples of these kinds of codes being used in movies. The scenes when the president and/or family are being moved by the FBI involve codes. Obviously, both parties must learn theses substitutions to be able to use and understand them. Sometimes they are even written into a code book.
A cipher on the other hand, is a way of writing a secret message by changing or rearranging the letters in a message. So, the pigpen is a cipher because it changes the letters into symbols. These letters correspond to the position on a grid. Both the sender and the receiver must understand the system to decrypt the cipher.
We don’t use a codebook with a cipher. Instead, we follow a series of instructions (also known as algorithm). It often involves the use of a shared key. An example of this is the decoder wheel. The key directs both parties how to line up the wheels. This shared key is required for two parties to code (encrypt) and decode (decrypt) messages.
Having said all of this, the terms codes and ciphers are often used interchangeably. You will notice that this post is titled, “6 Secret Codes Your Kids Will Enjoy.” However, all the codes listed are actually ciphers. I used the word code, because more people are familiar with the term code and would understand what it meant.
Why not give a secret codes a try?
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