Spy Activities for 8-10 Year Olds

Take advantage of these sleuthing activities to engage your young agent.

By Michelle Anthony, PhD



Spy Activities for 8-10 Year Olds

Knowing the process by which your child is growing gives you many options to help support and advance development. Use the below activities to ignite your child’s passion, nurture a weak area, or foster the advancement of a strength. 

Children this age are experimenting with increased independence, taking perspective, and applying newly developed problem solving skills. Take advantage of these sleuthing activities to engage your young agent:

Literacy, Writing, and Science

  • Secret Messages: Encourage your child to be like Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh and make their own invisible ink pens. Mix 1/4 c. baking soda with 1/4 c. water and use Q-tip or paintbrush to encode a secret message. When it is completely dry, paint grape juice concentrate across the page to reveal the message. The science secret: The acid in the grape juice reacts with the baking soda, changing its color. Add some inference skill building by making a mystery letter or riddle to solve, and giving your child clues to help decipher! Use this as a great hook to engage struggling readers: paint secret words, sight words, or fluency sentences! 
  • Time Release “Explosion:” Place 1 1/2 T of baking soda into the center of a 5x5 paper towel. Fold the sides into the middle so that the baking soda is “protected” in a time-release packet. Into a Ziplock, pour 1/2 c. vinegar and 1/4 c. warm water. Place the time release packet inside the ziplock without yet touching the vinegar as you zip it close (you need to be quick!). Shake and place, then stand back…watch the bag puff and pop! Ka-boom! 

Thinking, Problem Solving, and Code Cracking:

  • Read The Unbreakable Code by Sara Hoagland Hunter 
    • Talk about the irony of the Navajo using the language they had been forbidden to use in school to help the US government during WWII. 
    • For advanced children, read Joseph Bruchac’s Code Talkers about the same period.
  • Code Cracking Books: Get your child involved in code cracking while reading! Check out the many books in the 39 Clues series or The Mysterious Benedict’s Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, or The Name of this Book Is Secret series by Pseudonymous Bosch. There is a free app for readers of The Mysterious Benedict’s Society.
  • Online Code Breaker Programs
  • Braille: You can also read A Picture Book of Louis Braille by David A. Adler, John Wallner, and Alexandra Waller and have your child use Braille (dried raised glue or puffy paint on paper) to create secret codes.
    • Extend the activity by trying to decipher the Braille answers to riddles and jokes.
  • Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett is another great book to tie to codes, sleuthing, inference making, and deduction abilities. Invite your child to use her creativity and problem solving skills to tackle a real-life mystery. 
    • Take a look at these fun online activities related to the book itself:
    • Extend this experience with a trip to a local art museum. No museum handy? Take a virtual tour of a room with four Vermeer paintings or take a full virtual field trip to another art museum, such as the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
    • Engage the budding artist in your home: The National Gallery for America’s Young Artists’ experimental arts links allow your child to virtually draw, paint, design, and experiment with 3-D and color. Interactive art activities offer a collection of fun multi-media lessons in art history and technique. The online art galleries sections gives you links to explore online art.

Literacy & Creativity

  • Wanted Posters: Let your child’s creative side loose and create some wanted posters online. You can link to books they have read, topics of interest, or even family mug shots. 
  • Close-up Mysteries: Read Everyday Mysteries by Jerome Wexler and then send your detective to take photos of close up and full shot items around your house. Support the development of part-to-whole relationships, schema building, inference abilities, and creative thinking! Can they make their own version of the book to stump friends and family? Online mystery interactives to also develop inference and thinking skills: try The Commodity Mystery Game or Detective Science.
  • Backwards Message: Write a message backwards that must be read in a mirror. Post it so it will read in the bathroom mirror for your child: Encouraging words? Next step in a spy mission? Reminder to do chores?
  • I Spy: Have your child write a descriptive paragraph about an everyday object. Can you guess what it is from the words she chooses or how she describes it? 

Memory Skills and Literacy for Struggling Readers:

  • Photographic Memory: Read Cam Jansen Mysteries about the girl with the photographic memory. Place several items on a tray and allow your child to study them for a minute or two. Take a few away. Can she write down what was taken? If you make the items related, you can support your child in early exploration of theme. Have your child make trading cards of her favorite characters as well.
  • Nursery Rhyme Who Done It?: Have your child rewrite a nursery rhyme as a crime or mystery (e.g., Why the Dish ran away with the (stolen) spoon; Who really stole Bo Peep’s sheep). 
Technology Skills
Age 10
Age 9
Age 8
Elementary School
Codes, Messages, Signs