How to Make a Secret Spy Code

Updated May 22, 2018

Secret codes are methods of substituting figures for letters in a message so that only the intended recipient can understand the words. Children playing secret spy games need to have handy codes to send their important messages to their spy colleagues. Many children enjoy the puzzle aspect of figuring out codes, and the codes help to encourage logical thinking and spelling skills. Spy codes can be simple or elaborate, so you may teach them to a wide variety of age groups.

Write down the alphabet all in one line, making sure that the letters are large and spaced evenly on the paper.

Write the alphabet again in one line underneath the first line, but write it backwards. The A in the first line should have a Z underneath it, and so on for the entire alphabet. This is your code.

Write your message out on a separate piece of paper, writing in block letters and leaving a space underneath each line so that you can translate the code letters onto the page.

Begin with the top line in your code and the first letter of your message. Look at the first message letter in the top line. Go down to the second line and find the matching letter. Write this matching code letter underneath the first letter on your message page. Find the second letter in your message, go down to find the code letter that goes with it, and write the second code letter onto your message page. Do this with all letters in your message.

Copy your translated message onto a clean sheet of paper and pass it to the other spies in your network. Make sure that the other spy has the key to translate the coded message.

Draw a graph onto a piece of paper with four or five rows and columns. Create the grid with the same number of rows and columns. Make this grid smaller or larger, depending on the number of letters in your message.

Write your message into the spaces in the grid with one letter in each space. Begin at the top left, fill in the first row, then go on to the second row without leaving any spaces between letters. If there are spaces left at the end of your grid, fill them in with periods, question marks or exclamation marks.

Begin your coded message on a separate piece of paper by writing the number of rows and columns for the first symbol. This way your code partner knows how big of a grid to draw to translate the code.

Write the first letter in the top row as the second figure in the first coded word. Write the rest of the letters in the first column down as the rest of the figures in the first word. After you finish the column, leave a space as if this were the end of the word.

Write the letters or punctuation marks in each column as another word in the coded message. The finished coded message will all have the same number of figures except the first one, because of the number in the beginning.

Draw a tic-tac-toe board, then a large X. Draw another tic-tac-toe and then another X. Put a dot in each space in the second tic-tac-toe and second X. The dots should be near the lines that surround the space, to leave room for letters to be filled in.

Write the letters of the alphabet into the spaces in these four figures. Put the A in the upper left space in the first tic-tac-toe, all the way to the Z in the bottom space in the second X.

Look at each letter in each separate space. Every letter has a unique set of lines around it and dots either in it or not. The space with the letter A looks like a backwards capitol L. The space with the L in it looks like a <.

Write your coded message by drawing the figures that match each letter in the message. Only someone with the same drawn figures can figure out the meaning of the symbols in the message.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
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About the Author

Working in sunny Florida, Anne Baley has been writing professionally since 2009. Her home and lifestyle articles have been seen on Coldwell Banker and Gardening Know How. Baley has published a series of books teaching how to live a frugal life with style and panache.