Cryptograms for Kids Archive

Cool Spy Gadgets for Kids to Make: Decoder Wheel

Posted April 20, 2016 By Puzzle Mom
Secret Decoder

Updated April 20, 2016 – I’ve been racking my brain trying to find a fun way to introduce cryptograms for kids.  Then I remembered why I got interested in cryptograms in the first place.  I wanted to be a Super-Spy when I grew up, of course!  And part of being a Super Spy is being able to read secret messages, just like cryptograms.  So I thought, why not combine the two and make decoder wheel a part of solving our cryptograms?  And of course, a secret decoder is one of the must-have cool spy gadgets for kids who are SERIOUS about being Super Spies themselves.



Introducing the Kids Puzzles Online Secret Decoder!


So, for Kids Puzzles Online’s beginner cryptograms for kids, we are introducing the concept of the Decoder Wheel.  The decoder wheel is based on the famous Caesar Cipher, named after Julius Caesar who used such a wheel to send secret messages to his many spies throughout the Roman Empire.  But here at Kids Puzzles Online,  we will also be using it as a tool to teach kids how to solve cryptograms by 1) starting to get the kids used to deciphering codes of course, and 2) by using simple recurring words and letter combinations in our puzzles (such as the, and, is, in, in the, is the, str, ie, etc.), we expose them to common word formats, sentence structure and grammatical patterns which will help to develop their skills in deciphering cryptograms – and all this without making it a long drawn out English lesson!  WHEW!


But even better, a Decoder Wheel is so easy to make and a fun activity to do with your child.  So, spend a nice afternoon to make decoder wheel, and then reward them with the fun puzzles they can solve using the wheel.


Plus, if your kids are into the spy thing like mine are, why not have them also custom-make decoder wheel to give to their BFF (or spy team), so they can write secret notes to each other.  Click Here for the Kids Puzzles Online Secret Decoder or enter your email below so I can send you a blank customizable template.


[contact-form-7 id=”689″ title=”Free Decoder Template”]



How to Make a Decoder Wheel


You will need:

  • Print out of the Decoder Wheel Template  on cardstock is best.  If not, you can glue on cardstock or leave as is)
  • Scissors
  • String (wool or thick string is best) – long enough so you can easily tie a knot (7”-10”)
  • Needle (with hole big enough to fit the string you are using)
  • 2 buttons (or beads)

Putting it together:


  1. Cut out the outside and inside wheels from the template.  (Note: if you are gluing to cardstock, do it first and wait for glue to dry before cutting)
  2. Thread needle and string.
  3. First sew in the back button.
  4. Then, going from the back of the outside wheel, poke the needle through the center (where the dot is).
  5. Next, from the back of the inside wheel, poke the needle through the center (where the dot is)
  6. Then sew in the front button.
  7. Now you go backwards.  If you have a button, poke the needle through the other hole first, then continue onto the next step.  Otherwise, if you have a bead, just skip this step.
  8. With the needle, poke back into the front hole of the inside wheel.  Then the front hole of the outside wheel.
  9. You’ll now end up with your needle and thread at the back of your wheel.
  10. Finally, poke it through the other button hole (if using a button), or simple tie a firm knot.  The front and back beads/buttons will stop the string from going through.

And that’s it!

You should now be able to spin the top wheel

and start solving cryptograms for kids.


Check out some other cool spy gear and activities for kids:



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