How to Make a Mask Using Tin Foil and Tape

A perfect mask can be made using surprisingly few products that can be found at home: tin foil and tape. Not only is this mask incredibly simple to make, but the tin foil enables it to perfectly fit your face. Once the mask is made, there are so many possible characters it can be adapted to.

How to Make a Mask With Tin Foil and Tape

Step 1: Overlap 3 sheets of aluminum foil in a stack.

How to Make a Mask With Tin Foil and Tape

Step 2: Push the stack of sheets onto your face. Push down as hard as you are comfortable pushing. Do it carefully, so the foil does not become punctured. (It might be useful to have a helper do this part.)

How to Make a Mask With Tin Foil and Tape

Step 3: Check you have the general outline of your face imprinted: nose, lips, corners of your eyes and cheekbones. Use a marker and trace around your eyes (it might be good to follow the bones around your eye socket) for where you want to place the eye holes in your mask. Also, trace around anything else you want cut out. (Breathing holes are useful for breathing!)you might also want to cut a hole for talking too.

How to Make a Mask With Tin Foil and Tape

Step 4: Carefully remove the foil from your face. Cut with sharp scissors around the edges of the mask. And note––once you cut it, you can’t really go back easily, so leave extra.

How to Make a Mask With Tin Foil and Tape

Step 5: Carefully cut out the eyes. Do this either by puncturing the foil with a toothpick and tearing the foil out, or snipping in the center of the area with the tip of scissors and folding the foil back.

How to Make a Mask With Tin Foil and Tape

Step 6: Cut holes or slots in the side of your mask. These are for the ribbons/cord/shoelaces to attach the mask to your face.

How to Make a Mask With Tin Foil and Tape

Step 7: Cut small sections of tape. While pressing the mask to your face to keep the features strong, gently place the tape onto your mask. When you feel the mask’s features are firm enough, place all the sections of tape, overlapping, across all visible places of foil, including the back (foil is itchy next to the skin).

How to Make a Mask With Tin Foil and Tape

Step 8: Tie the cord to the holes in the side of your mask. Leave enough length to both wrap around your head, and to tie in a nice knot or bow.

How to Make a Mask With Tin Foil and Tape

Step 9: Decorate using acrylic paints. Paint whatever you want, making sure to leave it to dry out of the way of people or pets. 

Paint completely black for the ideal Ninja disguise, or add colorful paints and sequins for a masquerade ball!  You can also add things like horns, a pointed nose, or antlers by simply making the form with tin foil, and covering with tape like what you did in the previous steps.  Become whatever character you’d like in a few easy steps!

The instructional portion of this article was provided by wikihow, a wiki building the world’s largest, highest quality how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How To Make A Mask Out of Tin Foil and Tape  Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

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Navajo Code Talkers – American Heroes that Turned the Tide of WWII

Navajo Code Talkers
Navajo Code Talkers on the island of Saipan in June, 1944.

During World War II, military commanders on both sides of the war used complicated machines, known as cipher machines, to send messages back and forth.  Although, the technology used to encrypt (write in code) these messages was state-of-the-art and complex, the codes were breakable by the enemy IF the enemy learned the key (the way to solve the code).  Eager to come up with a way of communicating that was even more difficult to break, military commanders turned to a trick Roman officers used in the first century BCE – they communicated in a language that the enemy didn’t know and couldn’t easily learn.

The Navajo language was so complex and difficult to master, and the people themselves were so isolated, that few outsiders ever mastered the language.  It was for these reasons that the Navajo language became the perfect method of unbreakable communication for the US Military during World War II.

Originally, the marines took on 29 Navajo recruits.  Those original recruits had to devise new words for military terms that were not part of their native language.  For example, a dive bomber was called a chicken hawk, a battleship was a whale, and a commanding officer was called a war chief.

Navajo code words for English letters.
Navajo code words for English letters. (courtesy of wikipedia.org)

Within the first two days of the battle of Iwo Jima, the Navajo transmitted over 800 messages without a single error.  The enemy was completely confused and the battle of Iwo Jima’s success can be attributed in part to the brave men of the Navajo nation who successfully transmitted important coded messages.  One american officer stated, “Were it not for the Navajo code talkers, the Marines never would have taken Iwo Jima.”

Eventually the Navajo Code Talkers numbered over 400, and their success attributed to the outcome of the war.  Countless movies, documentaries, and books have covered these amazing men and their stories.  You can learn more about these american heroes on the website www.navajocodetalkers.org.

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.

Dogfights, Secret Codes, and Other Inspiring War Stories

Kids have been playing army for as long as there have been armies! Sometimes, play is just play, but the next time your army kids are in full battle mode, why not use it as an excuse to teach them a little history? Even a sentence or two about a brave soldier trapped behind enemy lines could spark a curiosity that may lead to a long conversation about the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.  Imagine what would happen if you told them this:

“Did you know that pilots in World War I would often very briefly turn OFF their engines during a battle so that the engine would not stall when they turned quickly? When the pilot then restarted the engine in midair, it sounded like a dog barking. That’s why airplane battles are called dog fights!”

(Beware though. This kind of inspiration may lead to the next great air battle occurring in your living room.)

Secret Carrier Pigeon found with Coded WWII letter.
This secret coded WWII letter from Sgt. Stott to agent XO2 was found attached to a carrier pigeon’s skeleton in a chimney in England.

The next time your adventurous troop is battling it out, try this one on them:

“Hey guys, did you know that in 2012, in a chimney in England, an older couple found the skeleton of a World War II spy pigeon with a red cylinder still attached to its leg? When they opened up the cylinder, there was a secret, coded message inside.“

That kind of teaser could provide their imaginations with hours of fun and my lead to a lifetime of interest in history. Be prepared, however, because they may ask you to show them the coded letter.

JM Cremps has many resources to inspire your child’s imagination and encourage a love of learning. One of our favorite resources for World War I and World War II history is the Usborne Book, War Stories – True Stories from the First and Second World Wars. This 432-page book is full of photographs, drawings, maps and diagrams. The short stories cover enemy raids, traitorous spies, secret plots, epic battles, and heroic missions. It is recommended for kids ages 8 and up.

Army Kids WWII Books War Stories Usborne Books
War Stories, True Stores from the WWI and WWII, is full of inspiring stories and interesting facts.

Whether your kids decide to use the couch to launch the Invasion of Normandy or their favorite toy soldier set to stage an epic battle, the short stories nestled in the pages of this book will provide them with hours of inspired fun.

“Spy Games for Kids” – How to Break a Secret Code

For thousands of years Kings, Queens, Emperors, and their spies have been writing their important communications in code.  In the days before telephones, emails, and text messages, it was the only way of keeping important messages private.  Napoleon’s spies were excellent code writers AND code breakers.  George Washington sent messages to his many secret agents in code.  In 1586, Mary, Queen of Scots, was caught and punished for attempting to overthrow the English Queen, Elizabeth I, after her secret correspondence was intercepted and decoded by an English spy.  Julius Caesar, emperor of Rome, encrypted all of his important military messages with a code that is known to this day as a Caesar Code.

The coded letter and the cipher that brought down Mary, Queen of Scots in 1586
The encoded letter and the cipher that brought down Mary, Queen of Scots in 1586. (File courtesy of the National Archives – United Kingdom)

The process of writing a message in a code is called “encrypting”.  Decoding the message so that it is readable again is called “decrypting”.  In order for you to encrypt the message and for someone else to decrypt the message, you both need to use the same code.  That code is called a “cipher”.  There are many types of ciphers you can use, but we’ll start with a Caesar Cipher, which is a simple substitution cipher that uses the alphabet.

A substitution cipher means that we are substituting one letter for another.  It’s really quite simple.  Here’s how to do it!

Write down the letters A through M in a neat row.

Then, directly below the line of letters you just wrote, write the letters N through Z, making sure that you line up each letter below the one above.  For example, the N must be right underneath the A, the O under the B, the P under the C, and so on.

Your cipher will look like this:

Caesar Code - Cipher Code
Carefully write out your cipher.

Then, when you code a message, you will substitute the correct letter in your word for the letter above or below it in the code.  Using the code above, the word HELLO would be encoded to URYYB.  The word SPY would be encoded to FCL.

A Caesar Cipher is a simple substitution code
Use your Caesar Cipher to encode your messages.

Can you decode this word?  FRPEGT

Now comes the fun part!  It’s time to create your own message.  Simply write out your message on a piece of paper.  Using the code you made, substitute your letters for the code letters.  When you pass your coded message to the person who is supposed to read it, then you have to make sure you tell them how to write out the cipher so that they can decode your message.  But be careful – don’t let anyone else know the cipher!

Want a bigger challenge?  Then check out the CIA’s website for spy kids.  There are many great cipher or secret code challenges that will test your ability as a code breaker.  Our Spy Science Secret Message Kit has several ways for you to encode your messages.  From Secret x-ray paper, to morse code, and to invisible ink – you’ll have plenty of fun choices for your next secret message.

The book, Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writings starts with a simple substitution cipher and builds to more complex codes so that you can understand exactly how it’s done.  There are practice messages included so that you can practice your newly acquired skills.  Now that you know the basics, you can try your hand at creating your very own code.  You can use numbers, pictures, symbols, shapes, and letters.  Remember though, make sure to:  Xrrc lbhe pbqr n frperg!