Codes and Ciphers

Can't view this video?  It's on Youtube: http://youtu.be/8_eqojHm2J4

Books to Share

The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base
The Secret Birthday Message by Eric Carle
The Secret Code by Dana Meachen Rau
The Secret Message by Mina Javaherbin

Books to Show or Booktalk

Adam Sharp #6: Code Word Kangaroo by George Edward Stanley
Bones and the Math Test Mystery by David A. Adler
Color Codes (What Animals Wear) by Lynn M. Stone
Horrible Harry Cracks the Code by Suzy Kline
Lu and Clancy's Secret Languages by Louise Dickson
Wild Fibonacci by Joy N. Hulme

Bulletin Board

Secret Message

Purchase a black light pen (also called a UV light pen) and black light from an office supply store or through Amazon. Use it to write secret messages on black paper on the bulletin board. These might be suggested books, inspirational slogans, or advertisements for programs. Add cut paper letters inviting the children to find the secret messages. Have a black light available at the desk for decoding the messages.

Nametag

Combination Lock

Use the pattern provided here to create combination lock nametags. If desired put a brad through the center and add a black circle for the dial so that it spins.

A graphic of a pattern outline of the face of a combination lock to cut out and use as a nametag

Refreshments 

Secret Code Cookies

Make sugar cookies. Decorate with white icing. Add dots and dashes with chocolate icing to create Morse Code cookies.  See an example here.

Incentives

Puzzle Balls

Purchase puzzle balls and other simple puzzle games from Oriental Trading Company to give as incentives.

Fingerplays

Ten Little Codes (Adapted by Jeanette Larson. Sing to "Ten Little Indians.")

One little, two little, three little codes   (raise fingers while singing)
Four little, five little, six little codes   (raise fingers while singing)
Seven little, eight little, nine little codes   (raise fingers while singing)
Ten little secrets solved!   (open both hands and look surprised)

Songs

Solve the Code (Adapted by Jeanette Larson. Sing to "Mary Had a Little Lamb.")

I want to solve the code,
Solve the code, solve the code.
I want to solve the code.
Who will show me how?

Crafts

Secret Code Backpack Chain

See one example here.

Materials
  • Beading cord or heavy string
  • Assorted lettered beads
  • Assorted other beads, similar in size
  • Lanyard hooks or key rings
  • Pencils
  • Scrap paper
  • Scissors
Directions

In advance, tie a length of beading cord to the lanyard hooks or key rings. Write out the child's name or another word on the paper. Use a substitution code like the one provided here or find other substitution codes in library books. Have the child pick out the appropriate letter beads and string them on the beading cord. Add some plain pony beads in between letters and on the ends to fill up the cord. Tie off the end and cut off excess cord.

Original

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

Substitution

Z

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Original

K

L

M

N

O

P

Q

R

S

T

Substitution

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

Q

R

S

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Original

U

V

W

X

Y

Z

 

 

 

 

Substitution

T

U

V

W

X

Y

 

 

 

 

Mystery Boxes

Watch a video about this craft here: http://youtu.be/8_eqojHm2J4

Materials
  • Small cardboard boxes with lids
  • Construction paper
  • Markers
  • Stickers
  • Embellishments and bits of fabric or rickrack
  • Craft glue
  • Various small objects (shells, buttons, feathers, rocks)
Directions

In advance, cut a hole in the top of each box, just large enough for a child's hand to go through. Distribute materials to cover the box with construction paper and decorate them. Let each child select a couple of items to put in their box. After the boxes are completed, the child can ask another child to reach in and guess what is in the box, using only their sense of touch.

Treasure Map

Use the template and instructions at Family Fun and let the children create their own treasure map. Provide crayons and markers, small round gold and silver stickers, glitter, and other embellishments to decorate the map.

Games and Activities

Hangman

Play this popular word game as a group. Select simple words that preschoolers will know. Draw the hangman platform on a large sheet of poster paper, chalk board, or white board. Let the children guess letters until they can solve the puzzle. Words for animals, body parts, and familiar foods work best with younger children. While most hangman games allow for six guesses (head, torso, arms, legs, with younger children add facial features or hands and feet to give a few more tries).

Secret Writing

Use lemon juice and milk to demonstrate secret writing for the children. Use a toothpick or stylus dipped into the liquid and write a message such as "Reading is Cool!" on a piece of paper. Heat the paper carefully over a lamp to reveal the secret message. Since the children can't safely do this activity themselves, either allow them to use the lemon juice or milk to "draw" a small picture that an adult them reveals using the light.  Or, use scratch art paper as an alternative for the children to play with, revealing colors under their drawing.

Pig Latin

Teach the children how to speak Pig Latin. This secret language is easy to learn. Transfer the first consonant to the end of the word, adding “ay" For example, “dog” becomes “og-day”; “cat” becomes “at-cay. ” For words that begin with a vowel, just add -hay to the end of the word. For example, “it” becomes “it-hay”; “arm” becomes “arm-hay”.

Resources

"The Radio Message Mystery" on Busytown Mysteries: You and Me Solve a Mystery (723 minutes)

Optical Illusions - Check out the amazing illusions and tricks our eyes see at this NIEHS site.

Page last modified: February 15, 2012