Originally published on Savvy Auntie.
Do you have a troop of budding young sleuths and spies on your hands, Auntie? When your nieces and nephews visit your home, do they always insist on playing some sort of detective game? Are their favorite television shows and books all mysteries? Do they like coming up with fun riddles, solving puzzles, and cracking codes? Playing such games and engaging in these types of activities with your nieces and nephews can be a fun way of helping them exercise their problem-solving and critical thinking skills, while further deepening the bonds you share.
The next time your little secret agents check in, try out this top secret assignment!
The Mission: Retrieve the Microchip
The microchip (actually an SD card to be loaded onto a computer for viewing later) will contain a puzzle or a code that must be solved or broken in order to obtain key information to locating the prize (e.g., a healthy snack or a movie to be watched after the game). There are no losers in this game, only talented spies on a mission!
(Hints: 5=E, 9=I, 23=W)
    [!]
Answer: We are watching Spy Kids!
Of course, you can create a simpler version by writing the puzzle or code down on a piece of paper and taping it to a small object like a calculator.
Hide the microchip somewhere in the house, in a safe place that your nieces and nephews will never suspect. Remember to specify the game’s boundaries, making sure the children understand that any place beyond your backyard or your front yard is off limits.
For this game, Auntie, you will serve as the Main Overseer – the one to assign the secret mission and provide the reward at the end. It will ultimately be up to you to decide whether or not you should lend your assistance to your nieces and nephews. Your main task will be to ensure that the children play it fair and safe.
Form two spy organizations (2-5 person teams). Your nieces and nephews can form their own teams, or everyone can draw lots. Allow your nieces and nephews to name the teams, and let them give each other special code names. Have the Leader delegate special agent tasks and appoint the member positions like the Informant or the Operator. You can create special agent contracts for the members of each team, and have everyone sign. Be clear about the consequences for betraying information to rival spies should they be caught in the act, such as a five minute sit-out from the game.
Designate a location for the base of operations. Your newly appointed special agents should enjoy finding the proper place for the spy headquarters. This is where gear will be stored when not in use and where private team meetings will be held. Make sure that the chosen base is safe and that your nieces and nephews have easy access – a bedroom, a den or home office, or a tree house in the backyard may serve as a great spy hideout.
Gather or create your spy gear!
Pretend ID cards: You can have your nieces and nephews create their own pretend ID cards with just some markers and construction paper.
Backpacks: These will be used for storing gear while on the mission.
Notebooks: These will come in handy for taking notes during the mission.
Tape recorders or cell phones with voice-recording capabilities: These can be used to record secret conversations between members of the rival team – for your particularly stealthy agents!
Toy binoculars: One set of binoculars should suffice for each team.
Walkie Talkies or Bluetooth earpieces: These will be used to communicate with members during missions; those on assignments can receive instructions from members stationed at the base. Plus they’ll make your little spy nephew feel like the real thing.
Disguises: You can provide old costumes and accessories (e.g., fake mustaches, wigs, and sunglasses) for your nieces and nephews to use if they feel the need to go undercover!
Distribute the clues! Provide each team with a set of clues as to the whereabouts of the hidden microchip. Make sure to give the teams different sets that are vague enough to give them a bit of a challenge – you can even provide clues in the form of mini-puzzles like word searches or riddles. Consider hiding more clues and hints around the house for your nieces and nephews to find, as they work their way through the original set.
Three people live in a house but are never caught in the same room together for longer than five minutes. Jamie prefers to stay in the living room in the afternoons and his bedroom in the evenings. Max likes to spend time in the kitchen in the mornings and the living room in the evenings. Alex hardly ever gets out of bed. If Alex is fast asleep and Max is eating breakfast, where’s Jamie?
(Answer: Living room – This is where one clue will be hidden.)
Give your nieces and nephews a chance to get creative with their spy instincts. They can either attempt to locate the microchip with only the three clues that they’ve been given, or they can put their spy skills to the test and attempt to obtain more valuable information from the rival team! Sometimes, one more clue is all it takes to pin-point the exact location of the target; and your nieces and nephews are sure to find that out as they get more involved with the game.
Once the microchip has been successfully recovered, both teams are allowed to cooperate in order to solve the final puzzle or code – a great way to bring everyone back together at the end of the game!
Your mission thereafter, Auntie, will be to convince your nieces and nephews to return home and wait to receive their next assignments on their upcoming visit!