How to Write Your Own Secret Code

Have you ever written a secret message in code?  If not, this is a great place to start.  Codes are a fun way to send messages to your friends in a way that ensures that the wrong person won’t read it.  But did you know that in real life, secret code writing, or cryptography, has given both rise and fall to nations for thousands of years?

The first examples we have of cryptography (the art of writing messages in code) dates back to 1500 BCE.  The Greeks used a clever form of cryptography to send a message to the Spartan General Lysander to warn him that the Persians were mounting another attack.  Thanks to this clever warning, Lysander readied his troops and held off the invading Persians.

Encoded messages have been used by by armies, kings, queens, emperors, treasure hunters, bandits, and normal people with a secret that they don’t want to be revealed.  Did you know that one of the most commonly used ciphers of all time was created by Julius Caesar and is known as a Caesar Cipher?  Julius Caesar was the emperor of Rome from the years 100 BCE to 44 BCE.  He was known as a great leader, an exceptional public speaker, and brilliant military strategist.  His military conquests of neighboring nations turned the Roman Republic into the powerful Roman Empire.  Caesar’s cipher gave the Romans a military advantage that their enemies lacked.  In today’s age of computer systems, Caesars code may seem simple, but it is a great way to get your code-writing skills up to speed.

How to Write a Secret Code

Step 1. Write the standard alphabet in a line on your paper.

To create your own Caesar Cipher:

  • Write down the alphabet in a line on your paper.  This is known as the Standard Alphabet.
  • Select a number that will be used as your key.  (We chose the number 7 in our example.)
  • Starting with the letter A in your Standard Alphabet line, count 7 letters.  (In our example, the 7th letter is the letter G.)

    How to Write a Secret Code for Kids

    Step 2. Choose your Key. Our Key is 7. Count over 7 letters from the letter A, and begin your Substitution Alphabet below the 7th letter.

  • Now write the letter A directly beneath the letter G.  This will be known as your Substitution Alphabet line.
  • Continue writing the remaining letters of the alphabet until you get to the end of the Standard Alphabet.  (In our example, the letter is written directly underneath the letter Z.)
  • Now go back to the beginning of the alphabet and write the next letter in your Substitution Alphabet directly under the letter A in the Standard alphabet.  Continue filling out the rest of the alphabet.
  • Now you are ready to begin encrypting your message!
How to Write a Secret Code for Kids

Step 3. Finish filling in your Substitution Alphabet and you can now use your secret code!

To encrypt your message, simply locate the real letters of your word on the Standard Alphabet line and substitute the letter directly below it from your Substitution Alphabet Line.  Continue working through your message substituting the real letters with the letters from your cipher.

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A Sweet Home Science Experiment for Kids – Rock Candy

Old fashioned rock candy is as fun to make as it to eat.  In doing this experiment, you’ll experience first hand the properties of saturated and unsaturated solutions and the effect that heat has on both.  While there may be more exciting at home science experiments for kids, this one is definitely the sweetest.

Rock Candy Science Experiment for kids

Create your own Rock Candy in this simple science experiment for kids.

For this kids science experiment you will need:

  • a clean wooden skewer
  • a clothespin
  • 1 cup of  water
  • approximately 3 cups of sugar
  • a tall narrow glass jar
  • An adult to help you because this experiment uses extremely hot liquids.
  • Food coloring (optional)

What to do:

  1. Pour the water into the pan and bring it to a boil.
  2. Add ½ c. of sugar and stir it until it dissolves.
  3. Keep adding more sugar, ¼ c. at a time until no more sugar will dissolve.  Stir continuously.  This requires time and patience because as you add more and more sugar, it will take longer for it to dissolve.  This is also where most mistakes are made.   People lose patience and quit stirring too early.  If you don’t create a completely saturated sugar/water solution, your rock candy will not form.
  4. Once you are sure that no more sugar will dissolve into the water, remove the pot from the heat.  If you would like to stir food color in to your solution, do so now.
  5. Allow the solution to cool for at least 25 minutes.
  6. While the mixture is cooling, dip the skewer into the solution and roll it in sugar.  This will give the crystals a head start so they will grow faster.
  7. Have an adult pour the sugar solution into a clean glass.
  8. Clip the skewer into the clothespin and lay the clothespin across the top of the jar so that the skewer hangs down into the liquid but does not touch the bottom.
  9. Carefully move your jar to a place where your jar will not be disturbed.  Your crystals will grow in 3 to 7 days.

How does the science behind this work?  Well, when you heated the water and added the sugar, you created a completely saturated solution.  The water could only dissolve that much sugar because it was so hot.  Therefore, when the solution cooled, the sugar was released from the water and solid sugar crystals formed creating Rock Candy.

Want to try some other SWEET science experiments?  The Soda Geyser Car uses Mentos candy and a 2 liter bottle of soda to create a rocket car.  The Great Geysers Science Kit uses similar candy and the principles of chemical reactions to create some amazing geysers.  Check out JM Cremp’s Science Department for these and other great at home science experiments for kids.

The above photo”Rock Candy Sticks” by Evan-Amos is licensed under CC 3.0.

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Winter Scavenger Hunt for Kids

Winter Scavenger Hunt for Kids

Grab your list and get outside! See if you can find a rabbit such as this snowshoe hare. (Photo courtesy of

Winter is a great time to get outside and explore.  Although the world around you may look dormant and asleep, there is still a lot going on.  Download, print, and take your list outside to see how what you can find.  You’ll be surprised at what’s out there!

_______ 1 squirrel

_______ 1 tree with brown leaves

_______ 1 bird’s nest

_______ 1 pinecone

_______ 1 seed pod

_______ 1 pine needle branch

_______ 1 group of berries

_______ 1 acorn

_______ 1 icicle

_______ Any rabbit or squirrel tracks

_______ A deer

_______ A chickadee

_______ 1 shovel

_______ A snowball

Winter Scavenger Hunt for Kids

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Christmas Break Fun and Games

Christmas break is finally here.  Screen shot 2013-12-24 at 10.06.24 AMWhen all the presents are unwrapped, the cookies are eaten, and the stockings are emptied – what are you going to do?  Don’t worry, we’ve got some great ideas to keep the kids outside and  the parents enjoying Christmas break.

Sled Hill Obstacle Course -
Take an empty milk jug or soda bottle and fill it with water.  Add a few drops of food coloring.  You will use this to mark “obstacles” on your sled hill.  When you get to the sled hill, pour some of your colored water in the shape of X’s on the hill in various spots.  Whoever can make it down the hill without hitting one of the obstacles is the winner.

Sled Hill Capture the Flag -
Place a flag on the hill.  Whoever captures the flag on the way down is the winner!

Snow Fort Battle  -
Divide into two teams.  Each team will need their own flag.  To start you need to build a snow shelter and a amass a pile of small snow balls.  Put your flag in the middle of your fort.  The goal of the game is to capture the other team’s flag and return it to your team’s fort.

JM Cremp’s has lots of fun toys and gear to complete your outdoor winter adventures.  Our zipfy sleds will get you to the bottom of the hill in record time.   Our snowshoes are perfect for winter treks into the woods with the family.  And for the downhill skiing family, our Kids Beginner Skis & Poles will give the youngest of toddlers the feel of downhill skiing.

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Letters to Santa

“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with cheer, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”

Screen shot 2013-12-13 at 12.00.58 PMThis well known Christmas poem shares the popular American Christmas tradition of a jolly, white bearded man bringing presents to good children on Christmas Eve. This tradition is shared throughout many cultures, whether it’s Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas or Kris Kringle, kids all over the world look forward to this night time visit.

Christmas is a time to be thankful for what we have and to remember and cherish those that we know and love. So this Christmas season, remember to be kind and helpful to others, use good manners, and listen to your parents. Santa and his elves are sure to notice and will land on your roof top this Christmas Eve.  Although presents and stocking stuffers are exciting (and JM Cremps carries some of the best presents and gifts around), the best gift of all will be the smiles on the faces of those whom your kindness touches.

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Remembering Pearl Harbor

Seventy-two years ago on the morning of December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the American Naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Intending to prevent the United States from increasing their influence in the Pacific, the Japanese struck with 353 fighters, bombers and torpedo planes. The loss of American equipment and lives was devastating.

Pearl Harbor MemorialThe attack on Pearl Harbor sent shock waves through America. With the death toll reaching 2,403 and many more wounded, President Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed the country’s collective feeling of outrage when he proclaimed it to be, “a date which will live in infamy”.  The day after the attack, the United States declared war on Japan and so marked the entry of the U.S. into World War II.

The attack on Pearl Harbor is quickly receding into history, but it’s importance in the history of America will never fade. With only a handful of Pearl Harbor veterans still with us today, it is up to future generations to keep the story of their courage and sacrifice alive. Today, let’s pause and remember that tragic morning and honor those who fought and defended our  American values and freedoms in the years that followed.
Pearl Harbor Attack
JM Cremps recommends the book, Pearl Harbor Attack, by Edwin P. Hoyt, as a great way to teach your kids about the impact the Pearl Harbor attack had on America and how it changed us as a nation forever.  And as always, we thank and honor all our veterans who have bravely, and selflessly, served our country.  Our hats go off to you….

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Good Books for Boys AND Families!

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  - Dr. Suess

To My Sons, Lessons for the Wild Adventure Called Life

To My Sons, Lessons for the Wild Adventure Called Life is a great father-son read.

Dr. Seuss says it the best, the more kids read the better off they will be.  But raising a child who loves to read is quite a challenge in this modern day electronic world.  With options like playing the most recent gaming system and watching TV, books are getting left on the shelf to collect dust.

Here at JM Cremp’s, we know how important reading is for kids of all ages, and we have a great way to encourage reading at home – Family Reading Time.  It’s simple to implement and the rewards are worth the effort. For 30 minutes every day turn off all electronics, gather everyone in the family room and just read.  This quiet reading time is a great way to chill out after a long day at school or to wind-down in the evening before bedtime. Either way, we guarantee before long the kids will be looking forward to family reading time and the closeness it brings to your family.

JM Cremp’s has a huge selection of good books for boys, and families alike.

Mud, Sweat, and Tears by Bear Grylls
From his childhood home on a remote British island to the summit of Mount Everest, Bear tells of his adventure-filled life and the valuable life lessons he has learned. His personal faith and love of family shines through as he overcomes many obstacles. Recommended Ages: 18+

To My Sons by Bear Grylls
This illustrated book is a collection of spiritual and practical wisdom that renowned adventurer Bear Grylls wanted to share with his sons.  It describes the risks, tumbles, and victories of a well-lived life and is ideal bedtime reading for fathers and sons. Recommended Ages: 4+

True Stories of Heroes by Paul Dowswell
A great collection of stories about heroic men and women whose extraordinary courage saved the lives of others.  Your whole family will be inspired by the examples of heroism and bravery by everyday folks in extraordinary situations.  Recommended Ages:  Teenagers+

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