Easy Way to Make Secret Codes, for Kids

Spy kids must be able to secretly exchange messages... An easy way to create secret codes for kids is this build-your-own cipher wheel.

One of the main tasks of spies is to exchange messages, while at the same time keeping the contents a secret from anyone who may intercept it. The activity of making a message unreadable for others is called "encrypting". If you want to make the message readable once again, you have to do "decrypting" the message.

For both "encrypting" and "decrypting" you use the same code. This code is called a "cipher".

On this page, you find the instructions for making a tool that helps you create your own secret code for kids!

This tool is called the "Cipher Wheel", and it will help you do the ceasar cipher.



Cipher Wheel Assembly Instructions

If you want to exchange messages with others, create one cipher wheel for each:

  1. Print the two wheels you find below, on thick paper (or paste it on thin carton).
  2. Cut out both wheels. Make sure you don't cut off the black triangle on the smaller one!
  3. With a sharp point, make a small hole in the middle of both wheels.
  4. Join the two wheels together (small one on top of the big one) with a split pin or cotter pin.
  5. You're ready to create your own secret codes for kids!

(Usage instruction below)

Ceasar Cipher WHeel

Cipher Wheel Usage Instructions

Secret Codes for Kids: Message Encryption

Here's how you can use the cipher wheel to encrypt a message in such a way that only a friend with the same cipher (wheel) can read it:

  1. First, write down your message. Only use letters from the alfabet. No numbers (write them out), and no punctuations.
    ex. JOHN IS IN LOVE WITH QUINTY

  2. The cipher wheel contains only 24 characters. For a "J" put in a "Y", and for a "Q" put in an "O".
    ex. YOHN IS IN LOVE WITH OUINTY

  3. Select a single character from the alfabet (except "J" and "Q") and write down that character as the first letter of your encrypted message.
    ex. YOHN IS IN LOVE WITH OUINTY
    H (for this example, I've chosen "H").

  4. Rotate the upper wheel until the black triangle points to the character you have just selected. This character is called the "Key", you'll need both the cipher and the key to be able to decrypt the message.

    IMPORTANT: Make sure the triangle keeps pointing to the key character during the encryption of the message!

  5. Now, for each letter of your message, find that character on the outer wheel, and write down the letter that is exactly beneeth it on the inner wheel. When finished, you'll have your encrypted message!
    ex. YOHN IS IN LOVE WITH OUINTY
    HVDAC LW LC FDKP SLRA DHLCRV

  6. Don't forget to destroy the original message!

Secret Codes for Kids: Message Decryption

Once your friend has received your (encrypted) message, s/he must follow this procedure to make it readable again:

  1. Look at the first character of the secret message. This is your key. Rotate the upper wheel of your cipher until the black triangle points to that character. Scratch that first character, as it's not part of the message.

    IMPORTANT:
    Make sure the triangle keeps pointing to the key character during the decryption of the message!

  2. for each letter of your message, find that character on the inner wheel, and write down the letter that is exactly above it on the outer wheel.
    ex. VDAC LW LC FDKP SLRA DHLCRV
    YOHN IS IN LOVE WITH OUINTY

  3. Check the Y's and O's, if the message makes more sense with a J or a Q instead.
    ex. JOHN IS IN LOVE WITH QUINTY

  4. Don't forget to destroy the message after you've read it!

Have fun creating your own secret codes for kids! And remember: TOP SECRET!

Mister E.





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