From Sherlock Holmes to Batman, kids enjoy the adventures of great detectives -- and having their own adventures as well. Activities for young investigators not only let children experience the thrill of solving mysteries, they can also help kids practice their observation, develop their memories and even learn a little hands-on science.
Detectives need sharp eyes and clear memories. To test these, assemble a group of small objects such as watches, pens, tools, books, statuettes or whatever else you can find. Cover the group with a cloth or box and have the players sit watching it. Remove the box for a short period -- 30 seconds should be plenty of time -- then cover it again. Have the children write down a list of all the items they saw, together with short descriptions. The winner is the child whose list is the most complete and accurate.
Fingerprinting is both an important part of forensic science and an easy activity for children. Use talcum powder or ground-up pencil lead to dust for fingerprints with a makeup brush. These powders will adhere to the oils in a fingerprint; a drinking glass is a good surface for printing. You can then transfer the print to an index card using clear tape. Stage a crime scene and have a child leave a fingerprint; challenge the other children to use their fingerprinting skills to find the culprit. Teach children to identify the basic elements of fingerprints, such as the whorl, loop and arch.
Help your young detectives master the art of interrogation with a simple guessing game. Assign each player an identity, whether that of a real person or a fictional character. Have the other players question them about their identity using a series of yes-or-no questions. The suspects being interrogated are not allowed to lie to the detectives. If the detective exceeds a set number of questions (usually 20), the suspect wins.
Crime Scene Clues
Set up a mock crime scene for your young detectives to investigate. For added authenticity, screen the area off with crime scene tape. Scatter clues such as footprints, dropped objects or small puzzles around the crime scene. Have your young detectives search the scene and collect the clues in envelopes. Once they've gathered all the evidence, spread the clues out on a table and have the children create a story which connects all of them into a reconstruction of the scene. You can have a "correct" answer if you think the kids are up to the challenge, or just allow the clues to act as a springboard for the children's creativity.
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