The ability to communicate in a way that no one else can understand is something that kids always find fascinating, and this is why playing around with codes is a great way to entertain a child. However, codes are also a great introduction to many other things, including history, mathematics and the computer encryption that much of the modern world runs on. In this post, I provide a coded question that you can give to a child, along with enough information to allow them to decode it so that they can answer it (but only just enough information).
The best way to play this game is to give your child this information, and then challenge them to answer the question. Some kids will get the answer quickly, some will need a little help. That’s OK, but the critical thing is that you let them work it out for themselves by whatever means they can (and this can include looking things up on the internet to help them solve it!). If you child enjoys this game, then there are links provided at the end of this post which will help you find other similar activities.
So, here is the coded question, and all the information needed to decode it so you can answer it (you can download a PDF print out of this question from here):
J bn uif mbshftu bojnbm uibu ibt fwfs mjwfe. Xibu bn J?
Caesar Cipher Rot. Left 1
And that’s it. That’s all the information you need. If you wish, once your child has decoded the question and worked out the answer, they can recode it, and post it as a comment on this post, and I will tell them if it is right or not.
Hint: If your child (or you!) get stuck with working out this code, get them to search for the term ‘Caesar Cipher’ on your favourite search engine, or visit the Wikipedia page about Caesar Ciphers.
How Long Does It Take To Play? There is no set length of time that this game will take, and it will vary from child to child. However, I would recommend that if they have not made headway after five minutes, it is time to give them a hint, or at least a nudge in the right direction.
Ages: This code is suitable for children ages seven and older, if you are willing to help them, and about nine, if they are trying to solve it on their own.
Core Life Skills It Will Help Develop: Critical Thinking Core Life Skills: Problem-solving, How to find out information; Intrapersonal Core Life Skills: Persistence.
What Do You Need To Play It? There is no special equipment needed to play this game.
Preparation: To prepare for this game, download the PDF for the coded question from here and print it out. It will also be useful to have a pair of scissors handy to cut out the Caesar cipher decoder from the image provided. Finally, it will be beneficial to read up about Caesar ciphers in advance of playing this game so that you know how they work and are able to offer hints and nudges as required, and indeed to answer any questions raised (such as who is Caesar? Why did he invent this code? When did he do it? How does it work? and so on). You can find out more about Caesar ciphers here.
Variations: Once your child has decoded and answered the above question, and if they have enjoyed it, then you can use Caesar ciphers with different rotations (the Rot. 1 in the title of this game refers to a single position rotation) to encode additional questions. To develop more advanced versions of this code, you can use different rotations for each word in the question, or you can choose not to provide them with the hint as to which rotation you used to encode it (meaning that your child will have to work this out for themselves through a process of trial and error). Finally, if your child gets really into codes, then you can consider encoding questions using other more complex codes which you can find in the resources outlined below.
Useful Links For Additional Information On Codes And Coding
- Caesar cipher Wikipedia page: This page has lots of information about Caesar ciphers, including when they were invented, how they work, and why they are called Caesar ciphers.
- Codes from Activity Village: This is a UK-based website with a page featuring a variety of code-based puzzles for children to solve.
- Printable Cryptogram Puzzles from Puzzles-to-Print.com: This website provides additional code-based puzzles, although these are not necessarily aimed at kids and so they may prove much more challenging, which is good if your child is up for it.
- The CIA Kids’ Zone Codes Page: Yes, this is that CIA (the US Central Intelligence Agency), and who would have guessed they’d have a kids’ zone on their website? Well, they do, and they provide a series of code problems for kids to solve.
- The Secret World of Codes and Code-breaking: This page provides an introduction to codes and code-breaking which some children will find interesting (but don’t force them to read it if they don’t!).
- The History of Codes Wikipedia Article: This Wikipedia article also provides information about the history of codes and how they have developed over time.
About The Author: This post was written by Colin Drysdale, the creator of How To Raise A Happy Genius.