I Spy Rules

Updated March 16, 2017

“I Spy” is a classic guessing game played between at least two people. The game helps children build vocabulary and improves their understanding of adjectives. Minimal set-up is required; technically, the game can be played without any specific objects. It does help, however, to use magazine pictures or to organise an array of objects for the children playing the game. Commercial “I Spy” books and games are available at most bookstores.

Choose the Spy

Each player should get at least one chance to be the spy. Use an arbitrary way to pick the first spy; you could, for example, draw names from a hat, flip coins or play rock/paper/scissors. Once you choose the spy, instruct the rest of the players to sit quietly while the spy selects an object.

Choose the Object

The spy must look around the room and pick something that is readily visible to all players. The object can be anything; it is up to the spy to choose. Once chosen, the spy must declare “I spy, with my little eye, something [adjective or alphabetical letter].” For example, if the spy chooses a beach ball, the spy would say “I spy, with my little eye, something round” or “I spy, with my little eye, something that begins with ‘B.’”

Take Turns Guessing

After the spy declares that he or she has found an object, the other players take turns making guesses. Players continue to guess until someone correctly guesses the object. If the players are stumped, the spy may offer more clues. Whoever guesses the spy’s object becomes the spy for the next round. However, to ensure everyone gets a turn, make sure no players start to monopolise the game. Play the game until each player has a turn being the spy and/or up to a certain time limit.

Use a Word Graveyard for Advanced Play

To make the game interesting, insist on using a “word graveyard.” Place common words (such as simple colours, shapes and “plain” adjectives) into the graveyard. Instruct the spy that the graveyard words are “dead” and therefore cannot be used to describe the object. Do not allow players to use the first letter of the word after choosing an object. This will force players to use their imaginations when describing an object.

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About the Author

Based in Traverse City, Mich., George Lawrence has been writing professionally since 2009. His work primarily appears on various websites. An avid outdoorsman, Lawrence holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both criminal justice and English from Michigan State University, as well as a Juris Doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he graduated with honors.