Secret messages and codes are fun language activities for kids learning Spanish

As teachers and parents, we want kids to read and write as much Spanish as possible. Like all teachers, I try to find fun, interesting ways to engage kids with text. Kids love writing and reading secret messages, so secret messages in Spanish are a great language activity.

Below are a few ways of sending secret messages that you can use with Spanish learners. Whether kids are doing the reading, the writing, or both, they have fun with this activity. These secret messages are easy enough to do with kids of any age.

Tips for Using Secret Messages with Spanish Learners

  1. Have kids write their complete message first. This makes the activity easier and they engage with the text twice. Once, when they compose the message and again when they hide it.
  1. Teach kids vocabulary related to secret messages.  If they are writing in invisible ink, for example, teach: la tinta invisible, el jugo de limón, el pincel, el cotonete (Q-tip), etc.

If they are using codes teach: el mensaje secreto, el código secreto, cifrar (codificar), descifrar (descodificar), la clave, etc.

  1. If you are using a secret code, have kids work in pairs to write, encode and decode messages. This way, one child says the letter and the other tells her the number or letter in code. This is great practice with numbers and letters.
  1. Be sure to write secret messages for kids to read too.

Here are some fun ways to create secret messages with kids.

Secret Messages with Invisible Ink

There are several ways to hide a message on white paper using tinta invisible.

Lemon juice – Squeeze half a lemon and add a few drops of water to the juice. Stir. Use a paintbrush or a cotton swab to write your message on white paper. Let it dry.

To read the message, hold the paper close to a light bulb or iron it (with the help of an adult). The heat will reveal the letters.

Baking soda – Mix ¼ cup baking soda and ¼ cup water. Use a cotton swab or paint brush to write the message on white paper. Let it dry.

To read the message, dip a cotton swab or paintbrush in grape juice or any dark juice and brush over the paper. Wait for the message to appear.

White crayon – Use a white crayon to write the message on white paper.

To read the message, use watercolor paints. Paint over the area with the message and you will be able to read it.

Secret Messages with Codes

Kids love códigos secretos! These examples are substitutions codes, and they are a fun way to get in extra practice with letters and numbers.

Cypher wheels – These wheels are great because they create many different codes.  To decode, the person needs an identical wheel and the key letter (The letter to align with A).

The blog Aprender es un Juego has a printable secret code wheel.  There are also instructions on how to use the wheel.

Grids – You can make grids for substitution codes. These codes substitute a letter with another letter, a number or a symbol. Caesar’s code, named after Julius Caesar, is a substitution code. He used this code in his private correspondence. In Caesar’s code each letter in the text is replaced by a letter a fixed number of positions down the alphabet.

Download example substitution codes for making secret messages.

Secret Messages in a Paper Star

This is a pretty way write hidden, secret messages to someone. The folded paper star takes a little practice, but my students in Mexico can make them in just a few minutes.

You can see a tutorial in Spanish in the video below. This is a good video to share with Spanish learners. They will not understand every word, but they will definitely get the main idea and see how to make the star.

Message on a Banana

This last secret message activity is one that you can do to make a message for kids to read. It is simple, but makes them smile every time! Use the tip of a knife to scratch a message into the skin of a banana. It is invisible at first, but shows up as the lines turn dark.

Kids can write secret messages on a banana to practice Spanish.

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