May 30, 2021

A Summer Challenge With The Grandkids - I Can't Wait

Our three grandkids are now out of school for a few months. While the family has some trips and other activities planned, I know their mom and dad would appreciate something to keep them occupied and excited during the time when they are stuck inside by the temperatures. After all, you can only jump in the pool so many times before a new activity is needed.

Problem solved by Gran and Grandad. First, here is the backstory. These three reading machines introduced me to a series of young adult books based on the hobby of book scavenging. The young heroine and heroes discover a real aptitude for solving puzzles and riddles, even ancient ciphers and learning about documents written with invisible ink.

A famous fiction author and local bookstore owner befriend them and soon these three kids are scouring the city for clues that lead them to locations of hidden books and finding buried treasure after following long-forgotten historical clues. Think of it as geocaching for books.

Well, this is right up my alley! Gran and I are hiding some books the kids have identified as ones they would love to own and read. Each book will be discovered only after following clues, figuring out the secret code to read where to go next, and then finding the prize.

At the moment I am discovering dozens of different ciphers and ways of hiding a message behind codes and letter substitutions, all of them geared towards the grandkid's age level. I am learning about the Ogham, Pigpen, and Atbash ciphers, the Ceasar shift code, and letter substitution puzzles. There are hundreds of websites that explain these and many other ways to making a simple message become a brain-teasing exercise in decoding. 

Betty and I scouted out nearby hiding places a few weeks ago. Now  I am busy writing clues in code! Their mom will join us as we let the grandkids direct our route to find what is not in obvious sight.

I emailed the author of the books to let her know of our plans, using her novels as the genesis of the activity. Within hours, she responded with excitement and obvious joy that her efforts were spurring such an inventive way of taking her fictional ideas and making them come alive. She has offered to send personalized Book Scavenger bookmarks and other materials to hide along with the books to make it all extra special. They arrived just in time!

So, later this week the kids will become book detectives, solving ciphers, following clues, and being rewarded with a book they want to read and own. Each week a different grandchild will be in charge of decoding and sleuthing.

I can't think of a better way to spend part of their summer break.


20 comments:

  1. Your post makes we wish I had some grandkids to do this with. I grew up on Nancy Drew mysteries and as a teenager I learned about codes and ciphers, used one to write in my diary to keep my brother and mother from reading it. I'm still fascinated by ancient codes and I still have my decorder ring gotten from sending in cereal box tops. You're going to give your grandkids a lot of fun this summer!

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    1. I was a Hardy Boys reader when you and Nancy Drew were friends. Frankly, I have never been all that interested in ciphers and codes until I read about the Enigma machine during WWII, and then this series of children's books.

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  2. Who's luckier, the grandparents or the grandkids?

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    1. Good question! From my perspective, the grandparents are the big winners. This is a fun way to keep our minds active and have the kiddos deeply involved in solving problems.

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    2. I've never forgotten a comment made by one of our kids' best teachers in elementary school. She said she could always tell which of her students spent time with their grandparents. Both of our kids enjoyed a wonderful relationship with my mom. Apparently, the positive influence was noticeable in some way.

      This activity sounds like tons of fun for everyone - including your daughter! I'll bet it becomes a highlight of the summer. Enjoy every minute!

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  3. Yep, I wish I had me some grandkids! Sounds like a real adventure for all of you!!! How exciting the author is getting involved.ALso, love the new photo of you and Betty in the boat!!

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    1. Betty pointed out how great it is these kids have favorite books they want to own and read. There is an Xbox in their home, but books have always been in first place. I am not sure I have ever seen my middle grandchild without a book in her hand, except when she's in the pool! Encouraging a new generation of readers is immensely satisfying.

      That photo is from our European river cruise of a few years ago.....pre-Covid.

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  4. Great idea! Our grands are probably too young for this, but it might work for our 4-year-old by the next time we see him. Have fun!

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    1. Our grandkids will probably be too old for something like this in another year or two. But, you are just beginning!

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  5. What a great idea! It reminds me of 70 years or so ago and rainy days. Our mother would set up “treasure hunts” similar to what you are describing with a prize at the end. They weren’t as elaborate as yours, but each clue would lead to another clue to the final prize. There were clues like “Look in something that drips” that would lead you to the next clue written on a piece of paper which was stuffed into the faucet in the tub. We loved that game!

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    1. Same idea, but most clues point to places that aren't in the house, like the library, or a nearby park.

      Their mom has offered to drive because she is as excited as her kids in following the clues after they have been decoded.

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  6. This is a fantastic idea! My kids are a bit older (teens), but my parents do amazing things with them. So far, planned for this summer: stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, & lots & lots of mountain biking.

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    1. Isn't it great that we can gather again and be back in nature. You kids will have a special time making memories with their grandparents.

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  7. This is fantastic!pre retirement for many years I ran kids summer programming and did birthday parties and such with a large recreation program. This would have fit right in.

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    1. You are right. In a big enough park and with various teams, figuring out codes and hidden clues would be a tremendous experience.

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  8. I thought I would add a partial list of ciphers and codes we are using including: Caesar Variable Shift, Atbash, Alphanumeric, Alpha shift, Ogham, Morse Code, Phonetic language, pigpen, and a binary code.

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  9. Thanks for sharing Bob. I think back to my mom getting me started with reading first the Bobsy Twins books and then the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift series. It stared a life long interest in reading that I shared witn my daughter. Maybe grandkids some day.

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    1. Remember the "Reading is fundamental" phrase? True when I first heard it and still true today.

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  10. How old are your grandchildren? I am going to check out those codes!

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    1. Our grandkids are (soon to be) 11, 13, and (soon to be) 15.

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