When I was a young kid, maybe age 7 or 8, I was fascinated with codes and code breaking. My dad would create simple substitution ciphers (A=R, B=L, etc.) and then write short messages for me consisting of three to four sentences. I would take the paper, do a quick frequency count (15 Qs? That’s got to be E) and then get to work. I was pretty good at it, too. I loved “Spy vs Spy” in Mad magazine, and even though I wasn’t allowed to watch James Bond movies, I still managed to sneak one in at a friend’s house occasionally. The life of a spy seemed a pretty good one — but it wasn’t the women or the cars that fascinated me: it was the gadgets and tools. Little did I know that I was growing up to be more of a Q than a 007!
Jump ahead 30+ years and my own son has taken an interest in subterfuge and skullduggery. Okay, maybe those aren’t the best choices of words, but you get my meaning. Kids dig spies and all the fun stuff that goes along with it. And if you’ve got a little spy sneaking around, snapping photos, putting on disguises (consisting of your clothes most of the time), and hunting down secret messages, then you’re going to want to check out Mission Unboxable.
Mission Unboxable consists of 12 Secret Missions that you can have sent to your home for your little 007. It’s a subscription service, with 3, 6, and 12 month packages available. (You can also go a la carte for some of the missions.) With most of the package options, your child will receive Mission 1 in a black plastic case that is amazingly cute and very sturdy. Mission 1 comes tucked in a small manilla envelope with TOP SECRET stamped on the outside and the mission number printed in black on white tape, stuck across the envelope. Like I said… it’s very cute and my oldest son’s eyes lit up when we popped the latches on the case and looked inside.
Each mission envelope comes with a greeting letter that is meant to be read to your child. Depending on the complexity of the mission, it might be a single page or two or more pages of instruction. The mission is explained on Mission Unboxable letterhead, and each mission will self-destruct in five seconds… a small Spy vs Spy-style bomb appears at the end of each message Thankfully, no real smoke or fire. (Also tucked inside most of the envelopes will be some activity sheets to provide more parent/child time — these can be word searches or other items. Mission 1, for example, comes with a large word search and a Wanted poster where you or your child can draw or tape a photo.
Mission 1 (Master of Disguise) is as you’d probably guess all about disguises. Tucked in the envelope was a set of dark sunglasses and three fake mustaches of varying size. The mission is to create a disguise, and the instruction letter provides suggestions for hats, jackets, padding, wigs, and more. My son really enjoyed this first Mission because we spent about 15-20 minutes trying out different disguises. He finally settled on one that he was certain would fool his mother. I had to agree that if I saw him across a crowded room, I would never have known it was him.
Mission 2 (Operation Incognito) involves creating an ID Badge and coming up with your Agent Code Name. Small slips of paper allow your child to mix and match two words (or more), and my son chose ICE NINJA (don’t tell anyone). I printed a small picture of him and we taped it inside the name badge for him to wear.
Mission 3 (Whodunit) had us planting fingerprints (mine) on a few items and gave him practice in lifting them by applying a little cocoa powder (comes with the mission envelope) and then using the provided roll of tape to lift the print. It wasn’t always a perfect lift, but he got the idea. We spent the remainder of the time transferring my fingerprints to the small Suspect Fingerprint Card and his to the Secret Agent Fingerprint Card.
Over the next few days we flew through the missions (unfortunately, your little 007 will have to wait a month for each new mission, but anticipation is a good thing). Mission 4 (Code Breaker) was all about codes (my favorite) and I absolutely LOVED that my son took a shine to it as well. He learned to write hidden messages (invisible ink AND red/blue color filters) as well as coded messages — I had to help him a bit with the substitution cipher idea, but by the time we were done (about 35 minutes later) he had the concept down. Still needs practice, though.
Mission 5 (Inventor’s Challenge) came with a small notebook and a pair of glasses with two pens hidden inside! This mission was all about documenting ideas for secret gadgets. We took turns drawing in the book and sketching out our crazy spy ideas. Keep in mind that as we were working through all these missions, he was wearing his ID badge, wearing a fake moustache, and trying to act like a spy. (I was having more fun than him just trying to keep a straight face.)
Mission 6 (The Getaway Car) tasked him with creating a spy car that used a balloon for propulsion. The mission came with a substantial package of craft supplies that included straws, balloons, popsicle sticks, foam sheets, a roll of masking tape, and some cups. The mission instructions encouraged us to use the notebook from Mission 5 to brainstorm an idea. We weren’t able to build an actual working car, but we did have fun trying! (Still, the kit also included a little racer with a balloon so he didn’t finish the mission unhappy — a nice touch!)
Mission 7 (Spy Games) has your young spy designing a spy game. A separate sheet is for documenting the rules to your game, and the supplies include a die, four player tokens, a spinner, and two dozen blank cards. Also included are a package of markers and a large folded blank gameboard. My son is still working on the game and doesn’t want my help… he’s acting all sneaky, so I think this is a good thing. I’m hoping he’ll reveal his game to me this week so we can play.
Finally, Mission 8 (Birds of a Feather)… bird watching. Yes, bird watching. Tucked inside the envelope is a small white notebook and a collapsible set of “binoculars” that actually work pretty well! This mission is about observation. A bag of Cheerios is included to attract some birds to a particular location so you can use the binoculars to take notes on their color and habits. My son was more interested in using the binocs to spy on me from his “hidden” locations around the house. Even though we have yet to finish the bird watching, he’s had a blast with the binoculars.
I’ve still got five more missions to try out, and I can’t wait… I mean, my son can’t wait. Okay, yes… I’m enjoying this as much as him, maybe more. Each of the missions has given me 15 minutes to 30+ minutes of fun time with my oldest son, and neither of us has been overly concerned with completing every mission successfully. Over a five day period, we tackled eight missions and enjoyed every minute of it. And, with the missions done, my son has a nice collection of notebooks, markers, and craft supplies left over. Oh, and the sunglasses, mustache, ID badge, and binoculars. And he’s already looking forward to the next four missions. And yes… so am I.
Mission Unboxable is currently sold through Etsy. Mission 9 is titled Bounce Academy, Mission 10 Brain Bootcamp, Mission 11 Target Practice, Mission 12 Let’s Fly, and Mission 13 Grand Finale.
Note: I’d like to thank Lisa for providing the case and eight missions for my son and me to tackle. We had a great time!