Spies and Detectives

If your kids are inquisitive or have a keen sense of observation or even a fondness for mysteries, then this will be a fun Theme Day for the little sleuths in your family. 

Print out the Family Theme Day Planner and decide which activities you’d like to do and in what order.



The “Mission Impossible” Theme is the perfect tune to start off this Theme Day.

Two other Spy songs are Paul McCartney’s “Spies Like Us” or “Secret Agent Man,” by Johnny Rivers.




You can find many free colouring pages online by using your favourite search engine and typing in “Detective Coloring Page” or print out my “I Spy” Colouring Page.



Write out one or more of the following questions in your Family Theme Day Scrapbook or on a piece of paper to glue in your scrapbook:  What is the difference between a spy and a detective?  Would you make a good spy or detective? Why?  What are the qualities of a good detective?


 Choose the level of your child:

¨     Toddler – discuss the answer(s) out loud first and have your child draw a picture of the answer

¨     Preschooler/Kindergartener – discuss the answer(s) out loud first and write the answer down for him/her leaving one word for him/her to write out himself/herself with your help. You could also encourage him/her to draw a picture as well.

¨     Early Grade School – have your child either write out the answer himself/herself (encourage phonetic spelling) without your help, or offer to help with spelling each word out loud one word at a time.

¨     Grade School – have your child write a sentence or two on his/her own and then read over and discuss the response.  (You decide whether to correct the spelling or not)

¨     Older Child – have your child write a longer response (paragraph).

¨     As A Challenge – instead of a question ask your older child to write a story or a poem about a spy or detective.


Print out a Spies and Detectives Word Search:

Easy Spy Word Search or Moderate Spy Word Search or Difficult Spies and Detectives Word Search.

Check here for the answer keys:

 Easy Spy Word Search Key or  Moderate Spy Word Search Key or Difficult Spies and Detectives Word Search Key.



Raid your child’s bookshelves to find any books on or about spies or detectives.


Go to the library with your child to find some books about spies or detectives.


Go to the library on your own to find books about spies and detectives from both fiction and nonfiction to have already on hand for your theme day.  Many libraries allow you to go online and search for titles based on subject.  Reserve them if you can to save time.


Here are some fun picture books:


· 006 and a Half, by Kes Gray Nick Sharratt, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2007 – Daisy doesn’t want to be a little girl anymore, she wants to be a spy but she finds it frustrating when no one else seems to understand her secret spy language until Agent 0035 and a Half appears.


· Ace Lacewing: Bug Detective, by David Biedrzycki, Charlesbridge, 2008 – This story has abug detective on the case of the missing Queenie Bee.  The illustrations and with its fun little details make this a creative twist on a regular detective story.


· Agent A to Agent Z, by Andy Rash, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2004 – In this unique alphabet book Agent A is assigned to find the Agent who is not doing something that starts with his letter.


· The Amazing Ghost Detectives, by Daniel  San Souci, Tricycle Press, 2006 – The Clubhouse kids have a mystery to solve when they discover that their clubhouse has been broken into and all the clues point to a ghost!  Or do they?


· Detective Small in the Amazing Banana Caper, by Wong Herbert Yee, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007 – This rhyming story has Detective Small tracking down an obvious suspect but then discovering the culprit is really someone else.


· Dot and Jabber and the Big Bug Mystery, by Ellen Stoll Walsh, Harcourt Inc., 2003 – In this story two mice detectives try to solve the mystery of the disappearing insects.  Search for the missing bugs on each page of the cut-out collage illustrations!


Read some of these nonfiction/learning titles if you can find them:


· Famous Spies, by Honor Head, Smart Apple Media, 2010 – This focuses on the history of spying (looking at Mongol spies, escaped slave Harriet Tubman, master of disguise Sydney Reilly etc.) but without much detail making it a good early reader book with a sweeping overview of the subject.  (Other books in this series include: Wartime Spies, How Spies Work, Spy Technology, Codes and Code breaking and Secret Services.)


· The Real Spy’s Guide to Becoming a Spy, by Peter Earnest with Suzanne Harper (in association with the International Spy Museum), Abrams Books For Young Readers, 2009 – A larger book full of much spy info like “why spy?”, “What do spies do?”, and “How do you become a spy?” etc..


· Science on the Edge: Forensics, by Joanne Mattern, Blackbirch Press, 2004 – This book would appeal to older students who are interested in forensic science to solve crimes.


· Secrets, Lies, Gizmos and Spies: A History of Spies and Espionage, by Janet Wyman Coleman with the international spy museum, Abrams Books For Young Readers, 2006 – This is a bigger book full of a lot of information about the history of spies.


· Spies: The Undercover World of Secrets, Gadgets and Lies,  by David Owen (with a forward by Antonio J. Mendez, former CIA Agent), Firefly Books, 2004 – This is a better book for older siblings as it has small print and a lot of detail.


· Spy School, by Adrian Gilbert, QEB Publishing, 2008 – This is a good book for this Theme Day as it has bigger text and lots of photos and isn’t too big.


· Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing, by Paul B. Janecko and illustrated by Jenna LaReau, Candlewick Press, 2004 – There is a lot in this book but grade school puzzlers will love this book of different codes and how to write and break them.


Here are some other fun titles:



· The Master Detective Handbook, by Janice Eaton Kilby and illustrated by Jason Chin, Lark Books, 2006 – This is a unique book in that it is both a mystery story (what happened to the missing friend) and a handbook on how to be a detective with secret messages to decode and other projects to do as the case unfolds.


· Science detectives: How scientists Solved Six Real-life Mysteries, by the Editors of YES Mag, illustrated by Rose Cowles, Kid Can Press, This is a great book full of ilustratinos and photographs and of course details on how scientists have solved real mysteries.  It even includes projects that you can do yourself that relate to each mystery.


· Secret Agent Y.O.U, by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Dave Whamond, Maple Tree Press, 2006 – This is a fun book with quizzes, codes and activities to train little spies.





NOTE: We made two sets of stencils.  Small footprints to decorate the journal entries and larger ones for the game found below under “FOR FUN.”


Materials:  Pencil, construction paper (any type of hard paper like from a cereal box or the back of a notebook would work, too), craft knife (for parent use only), a cutting board, white paper (if you are making the footprints for the game), black or brown paint, a paint sponge or paint brushes, art smock or old clothes, newspaper or plastic to cover the table.


Step 1: Draw a simple foot print shape (a half circle for the heel and an elongated oval with a flat side for the base of the footprint).  You can make one large foot print or depending on the size of your paper two near each other in walking formation.

Step 2: (Adult step) Place the paper on a cutting board and carefully cut out the shapes using a craft knife.

Step 3:  If you are making the footprints for the game cut out some squares of white paper and lay the stencil over the paper.  Have your child apply paint to the inside of the stencil which will leave the imprinted shapes onto the paper using either a paint brush or a paint sponge (found at craft shops).

Step 4: Continue to decorate pieces of paper (for the game) or your Family Theme Day Scrapbook and then let the footprints dry.





Materials: White paper, non-toxic stamp pad, coloured pencil crayons or markers or pens.


Step 1: Help your child press his her finger onto an ink stamp pad and then press his/her finger to a sheet of white paper.

Step 2: Help your child wash his/her hands.

Step 3: Give your child the coloured pencils or makers  and let him/her decorate the fingerprints turning them into animals or people to create a scene.




Materials: Two empty cereal boxes of the same size, 2 rectangular mirrors (I found ours at a craft store), two pieces of cardboard, child safe scissors, packing tape. Wrapping paper or other coloured paper, glue or tape, (Optional) stickers.


Step 1: Cut the tops from both the cereal boxes then cut two strips of cardboard to fit inside the box.

Step 2: Decorate the outside of the boxes.  We covered ours in wrapping paper with tape and then used paint and paint sponges.  You could also use stickers.

Step 3: Lay a strip of cardboard at a 45 degree angle (you can use a compass from a geometry set to measure) inside the cereal box (on the right hand corner of on box and on the left hand corner of the other box).  Tape the cardboard in place.

Step 4: Tape a mirror to each strip of cardboard so that each box now has a mirror angled at 45 degrees.

Step 5: On the outside of the box approximately eye level with the mirror fastened inside the box, cut out a square spy hole.  Do this with the other box as well.

Step 6: Place the two cereal boxes on top of each other with the cut openings together.  Carefully slide one box into the other.

Step 7: Test the periscope before moving on to the last step.  Peer through the bottom eye hole (if it is on the right hand side of the box the other eye hole would be on the left hand side at the top).  If you cannot see anything then the mirrors/cardboard is not at a 45 degree angle.  Fix it if you need to.

Step 8: if you are able to see properly then tape the two cereal boxes together.

Step 9: Show your child how you can look through the periscope to see around a corner.




NOTE: My eldest said this was his favourite craft from this theme day proving easy activities can be fun!


Materials: Old newspapers that can be cut out, glue stick, white paper, access to a computer and printer.


Step 1: Cut out random pictures from a newspaper (you can save the article if you wish) and letters.

Step 2: Let your child choose which picture he/she wants to use and have your child make up a mystery behind the picture.

Step 3: Help your child come up with a title for the news article and search together for the letters to spell the title.

Step 4: Help your younger child (or let your older child do this on his/her own) to write out the news story on the computer.  Remember to answer who, what, when, where, why and how!

Step 5: Print out the story.

Step 6: Have your child glue the story title, the photo and the news article to the page.




Materials: A sheet of brown craft foam (you could use brown paper but the foam lasts longer), craft knife (for adult use), a pencil, cutting board, a lollipop.


Step 1: Help your child draw a moustache shape onto the brown foam.

Step 2: (Parent step) Using the craft knife and the cutting board carefully cut out the shape of the moustache.

Step 3: (Parent step) Using the craft knife and cutting board carefully cut a slit through the middle of the moustache.

Step 4: Insert a lollipop stick through the slit.

Step 5: When your child eats the lollipop it will look like he/she has a moustache.



NOTE: One way you can use food for the theme day is to focus food that changes like making butter from cream, or corn kernals that change into popcorn or making your own ice-cream.


Make your own butter:  Basically you need cream and a jar.  You leave the jar on the counter for 12 hours and then shake it slowly for 2 to 3 minutes.  You then strain the buttermilk and can use water to rinse the butter and shake again.  You can follow the directions on this you tube video for this food experiment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oropJD0CUxI Then you can serve your homemade butter with bread for a snack.

Popcorn is another example of food that changes and is also a great snack. 

Hard boiled secret messages – Using a white crayon on a hardboiled egg, write a secret message.  Put some food colouring and vinegar into a cup and then gently palce the egg into the dye.  When the egg is coloured the secret message will appear in white!


Serve some Pizza in Disguise, otherwise known as pizza pops!  Make your own using refrigerated pizza dough cut into rectangles.  Place a tablespoon or pizza, pasta or tomato sauce onto the middle of one half of the rectangle. Sprinkle some shredded mozzarella cheese and add a few pieces of chopped peppers or any other favourite pizza topping.  Fold the dough over to cover the toppings and press down on the edges with a fork to seal.  Use the fork to pierce some holes in the top of the pizza in disguise and cook according to dough directions.


Chicken Pot Spy : Make your favourite Chicken Pot Pie recipe (or find one online or in your favourite cookbook) and sell it to your kids by saying it is chicken in disguise!


For more food that changes make your own ice-cream: Place a cup of milk, 1 cup of whipping cream or half & half, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla into a 1 quart freezer bag. To ensure it is sealed fold some duct tape over the seal.  Place the bag of milk etc. into a large freezer bag (1 gallon) and pack the larger bag with ice and 1 cup of sea salt over the ice.  Now it’s time to shake the bag (you can cover it in a towel while doing this as the bag is cold!). Shake for about 10 minutes.  Wipe the inside bag to remove water and salt and open the bag to serve your homemade ice-cream. 




You can make a simple fingerprint dusting set with the following materials: talcum powder or baking soda (that is what we used), cocoa powder, make-up brush, clear tape, white and black paper.

To make collecting fingerprints easier we rubbed olive oil on our hands and then picked up drinking glasses.  We then dusted either baking soda (onto the darker surface—purple glass) or cocoa powder (onto the lighter surface—yellow glass) to find the fingerprints.  We then gently pressed clear tape over the fingerprints and finally taped the fingerprints to either white paper (for the cocoa powder) or black paper (for the baking soda).

To look at fingerprint types check here:  http://www.odec.ca/projects/2004/fren4j0/public_html/fingerprint_patterns.htm


What can you deduce by examining a room in your house.  What was eaten for breakfast?  What did someone read the night before?  Where might people have gone by examining their dirty laundry?



Print out my Spy Code Worksheet and together as a family decipher the secret message.  You could also encourage your older child to make his/her own secret code.  Check these websites for some code ideas:

http://www.youthonline.ca/spykids/ - This one offers many different codes.

http://www.topspysecrets.com/secret-codes-for-kids.html - This one is very user friendly and has a cipher wheel you can make yourself.

http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/secret/secret.html - This page is more of an essay but it does offer a cipher ring.


Older kids might be interested in learning about Morse Code.  Check here for info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morse_code


For some detective fun for kids try this site which has your child searching for historical clues : http://pbskids.org/historydetectives/

For some information on espionage check here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spying

For a real life mystery read up on the Kryptos sculpture at the CIA building in Virginia which has encrypted messages on it . Of the four messages only three have been solved.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kryptos

There are a number of historical spies you can research online as well.  Try to find some information on the following people:  Chevalier d’Eon,  James Rivington, Robert Townsend (spy),




Print out my Secret Agent ID Worksheet and help your child fill in the blanks (Agent Number, Agency Name, Spy Name, Special skills, Special gadgets, plus a self-portrait and a fingerprint).   When your child has finished filling in all the spots cut it out and glue onto both sides of an index card.


If you have a costume box pull it out and have your children come up with their own special disguise. For a simple (and yummy) disguise make the Lollipop Disguise Craft from above.



Use your footprint cards from the CRAFTS above.  Make a path of footprints or hide them around the house.  Have the footprints lead to a simple prise!


Test your observation skills with the most obvious spy game: “I Spy with my little eye.”


 This works best with a large group.  Sit in a circle and have one person start by whispering a secret (silly) message into the next person’s ear (no repeating).  Whatever the next person heard he/she will pass it onto someone sitting beside him/her and so on until it reaches the last person who will announce what he/she thinks the secret message was!


Fill a tray with small object and let your child stare at it memorizing the objects for 1 minute only.  Cover the tray with a cloth and then see how many objects your child can remember. NOTE: This makes a great party game as well.


Perhaps the oldest of games, hide and seek is a fun “Spy” game that can be played inside or outside your house.


Each player takes turns hiding an object.  The other player seeks the object with the only clues being the words: “You’re cold” (for being far away from the object), “You’re hot” (for being very close to the object) and  “You’re getting warmer”  (for getting closer to the object). Etc..


If you child has some spy gear toys or a magnifying glass this Theme Day is the perfect time to take them out and play together.

Play the board game Clue or Clue Jr. for some detective fun.


Q:  If a skeleton were a detective what would his name be?

A:  Sherlock Bones.


Q: What would get have if Santa were a detective?

A: Santa Clues





Search through your child’s DVD/ video collection (or visit your local library before hand or the Video Store) to find your child’s favourite shows with spies or detectives in them.


For young children try these titles:


· Backyardigans: Secret Mission OR International Super Spy , Nick Jr.

· Veggie Tales: Sheerluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler, Big Idea, 2005

· Blue’s Room: Shape Detectives, Viacom International Inc., 2007

· Any episode of Blues Clues would work for this Theme Day, too, as Blue searches for clues.

· The Disney movie The Great Mouse Detective


Older kids might enjoy these titles:


· Any of the Spy Kids movies

· Any episode or movie featuring Scooby Doo and the Mystery Inc. Gang.



Spy Walk: Give each child a pencil and print out my Spy Walk Checklists and cut out one of the lists.  As you go for a walk as a family each child is responsible for finding the things on the list and checking them off trying to conceal the notebook while doing so.   List of targets: a flag, an address with the number 9 in it, someone wearing a hat, someone with a moustache, a dog, a cat, someone in a dress, something purple, a fire hydrant, a blue car, a motorcycle....


We played “Pin the magnifying glass on the detective” at my son’s Spy Themed Birthday Party!


Footprint Stencils

Fingerprint Art

Cereal Box Periscope

Newspaper Craft

Secret Message Eggs

Disguise Lollipop

Dusting for Fingerprints

Secret Agent ID Cards

Follow the Footprints Game