Scholastic Parents

Scholastic Parents is your online source for the latest information and advice on learning and development, family life, and school success.

I SPY Activities

I SPY is more than just books, software, puzzles, and games. Try these activities at home or school to continue the learning fun!

I spy . . . dozens of ways to expand the fun and learning!
I spy . . . dozens of ways to expand the fun and learning!

I SPY the Alphabet

Pages 8-9 of I SPY School Days vividly illustrate the letters of the alphabet: "A" is for alphabet, and is painted with letters; "B" is for balloons (that are blue), and is covered with them. Children strengthen language skills by identifying initial sounds of words with the letters of the alphabet. Here are some fun alphabet activities that can be done at school or at home.

Alphabet Collage
On sheets of cardboard or construction paper, draw freehand or use stencils to create large letters. Cut out the letters, being careful to make them wide enough to accommodate collage materials. Cut out more than one of the letters that are used frequently when spelling (ex. vowels, l, r, t.) Provide a variety of collage supplies and glue for children to decorate the cardboard letters. Instruct them to choose materials, colors, or objects that can be associated with the letter they are decorating. For instance, "P" might be painted purple, then decorated with pictures of "people" and "polka dots." After all of the letters are decorated, have the children spell out their names or other words. They may also enjoy unscrambling groups of letters to spell words.

Alphabet Book*
Another variation of the alphabet collage is to create an alphabet book. Write each upper and lower case letter on a separate piece of white paper. Then have children go through old magazines to find pictures that begin with that letter. Let them cut them out and glue them to the paper. Three hole punch the pages and put them in a binder to make a book that they can go through over and over, adding more images along the way.

*Activity adapted from

I SPY a Puppet Show

In the new I SPY Junior: Puppet Playhouse CD-ROM, original stories come to life with enchanting handmade puppets, props, and sets. On the computer, children play I SPY riddles, as well as create their own puppets and puppet show stage sets.

Kids can continue the fun away from the computer by acting out their favorite stories with paper bag puppets. Transform paper lunch bags into imaginative characters by using materials such as buttons, fabric scraps, yarn, construction paper, and markers or crayons. Encourage creativity and thinking skills by asking your child questions: What kind of hair does the character have? Does this character look happy? Sad? Angry? How can we show that on our puppet? Turn a cardboard box or shoebox into a puppet theater. Invite other family members or friends to be the audience and enjoy the show!

Taking I SPY on the Road

I SPY riddles help children become more familiar with letter and word recognition. A great way to reinforce this skill is to play I SPY the alphabet in the car. Whether you are taking a long journey or a short ride, this will keep children entertained while they learn. Use the letters of the alphabet to search for objects during your trip. Start with the letter A: I spy an airplane in the sky. I spy a bank on Smith Street. I spy a cat on the sidewalk. Take turns finding objects in alphabetical order. See how long it takes to get all the way to Z. Start from A again and try to find the letters of the alphabet in street signs or on license plates too.

I SPY Holiday Cookie Rhymes

Holidays are always filled with delicious treats. Recreate the I SPY Christmas cookie riddle on pages 18-19 with paper holiday cookies of your own. Trace festive cookie cutters on construction paper, and cut out the shapes. This activity can be done all year long using shapes that represent other holidays like Valentine's Day and Halloween. Or use objects that relate to the four seasons. Decorate the cookie shapes with materials such as paint, glue, and glitter. After they dry, paste them on a paper plate. Then ask the child to write rhyming I SPY riddles to go with their special cookie creations.

Exercising Language Skills by Describing an I SPY Scene

A good way for children (especially budding young writers) to practice their language skills and put their vocabulary into action is by describing a scene that includes a lot of detail and activity. What could be better than using one of Walter Wick's photographs! For some great scenes with people, action, and interesting objects, open up the latest I SPY book, I SPY Treasure Hunt. Pages 10–11 feature a town square filled with people taking pictures, in-line skating, riding bikes, and walking on the sidewalk. Make sure your children focus on the details, and use lots of new vocabulary words to describe what they see.

Of course, a great story might come out of these descriptions as well! I SPY photos are great story starters. As you page through I SPY Treasure Hunt, you will notice that the pictures and riddle rhymes tell a story about a search for buried treasure. Similarly, the pages of I SPY Spooky Night describe a visit to a creepy old house, complete with secret doors, missing keys, and a tricky skeleton! Walter Wick has told these stories using pictures. Now have your kids tell the stories in words.

The Wood Block City Perspective

In the I SPY School Days book and the I SPY CD-ROM, you can find a city constructed of wood blocks, pencils, and other items. Not only is it a lot of fun to create a similar city in your classroom or play area, but a three-dimensional "map" like this can be a very useful tool for developing a young child's sense of perspective. Build your city on a desk or small table, where children can easily move around and see it from different angles. Make sure to include lots of little items and details — people too! Then play I SPY! Children will have to move around to different sides of the city in order to find certain items. As a further challenge, pick a toy person, place it in the city, and have the children play I SPY from the toy person's perspective. What items can the toy see? What items can't it see? Where would the toy have to go to be able to see certain items?

To get lots of use out of your wood block city, have your children make maps of it on paper, including all the landmarks, the streets, people's houses, etc. Teach them how to give directions to a toy person trying to get from one part of the city to another.

Learning About Literature Through I SPY Fantasy

Many of the photos in I SPY Fantasy provide great settings for stories. They can also be a catalyst for a lesson on literature. Start with the photo on pages 10–11. Use this picture to discuss the difference between fantasy and reality-based stories. What are the fantastic elements in this picture? (Hint: do frogs really play golf?) What elements would you really find in the woods?

Next, turn to pages 20–21. Ask your children what is going on in this picture. Then discuss setting: where is this taking place, and when? Have your children point out the objects in the photo that don't quite fit with their description of the setting. Does the surfer girl fit? What about the bulldozer? Why or why not? (It will be interesting to see how your children CAN make the items fit, using their imagination!)

There are at least two stories going on in the photo on pages 32–33: a story within a story. First, there is the story of the child who built this diorama in his/her room. (Is it a school project? Is the child a budding artist?) Within that story, there is the story in the diorama itself: Who is on that train? Where are they going? What about the people on the cliffs? Can your children find other examples of a "story within a story" in other I SPY pictures, or in their favorite books?

Finally, you can establish the distinction between nonfiction and fiction by asking older children to write a story inspired by one of the pictures in the book, AND to write an essay about the book (what it made them think or feel; how it was done). Ask them to explain the difference between the two assignments. What did they do differently? Which one did they prefer?

How Many Is a Million?

Looking at pages from one of the I SPY books, or screens from the I SPY CD-ROM, children might think there are a million objects in the pictures. Are there a million? Have the children count the objects in a picture, then count the pictures in each book. How many I Spy books would it take to reach one million objects?

Take this idea further by asking children whether there are a million objects in your classroom or play area. Are there a million objects in the school/home? How many schools or houses would you need to find a million things? How many apples would you have to eat every day to eat a million in 10 years? Are there a million children in the school? How many schools would you need to bring together in order to get a million kids? This is a great way to exercise basic math skills, and introduce new ones!

For more ideas on how to teach "a million," see The Magic of a Million Activity Book, by David M. Schwartz and David J. Whitin, published by Scholastic Professional Books.

I Spy Outside!

No matter what time of year it is, get outside and enjoy the weather, by making your I SPY pictures outdoors, using themes such as nature or sports. Here are some ideas:

Nature I Spy

Take your kids on a hike in a park or forest. Make it their "mission" to find objects on a predetermined nature theme. (This is a good activity for an introductory botany or ecology unit.) They can gather objects, or just call out their riddles, using everything they see as their "picture."

Playground I Spy

When recess rolls around, use the blacktop, sporting equipment, and some chalk to make a picture riddle like the one in I SPY School Days (P. 22–23).

Beach I SPY

Make your own picture riddles like the scenes in the Nature area of the I SPY CD-ROM. Collect shells, seaweed, beach toys, driftwood, whatever you find around the beach. The sand is a perfect backdrop to a fun-in-the-sun picture riddle.

Aqua I SPY

Here's a fun one. Find things that float (and won't get ruined by water). Use a sink, bathtub, or kiddie pool as your "canvas." Here you will face some fun and interesting challenges as you try to get your picture just right. The results will be well worth it!

Street I Spy

For a lot of us, "going outside" means hitting the streets. If this is the case for your kids, use chalk, and objects like bottlecaps, coins, and rocks to make a great I SPY on your street or sidewalk.

Of course, to keep these wonderful creations forever, you will need to bring along a camera. Make sure there's a lot of light, and try to get the camera as far above the "picture" as you can. But the fun is really in the creating, so a camera isn't required. Whatever you do, enjoy the fun and fresh air!

I Spy... The Room!

Label everything in your classroom/playroom and play I SPY! This game is especially good for vocabulary building in young children and ESL students. First, have your children create eye-catching, easy-to-read labels for all the objects in the room. Children will enjoy labeling everything, even the floor, the ceiling, doors, windows, and chalk. Then give your kids a chance to roam around the room, picking objects to include in their I SPY riddle rhymes. As a special twist, ask children to draw the objects in the rhymes, instead of using the words. This will help build the relationship between words and pictures/objects in their minds. Finally, let the children exchange and solve each other's riddles.

I SPY logo is a trademark of Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick. All rights reserved.

Help | Privacy Policy




(Separate multiple email addresses with commas)

Check this box to send yourself a copy of the email.


Scholastic respects your privacy. We do not retain or distribute lists of email addresses.