Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Craft Tutorial: Birthday Card Secret Code Puzzle


We went to California Pizza Kitchen a few weeks ago and the girls were given a little activity book with crayons, as most family friendly restaurants provide. There was a secret code puzzle on one of the pages where you decode a secret message using a picture that equals a letter.


My girls have been kind of timid about writing. They love singing their ABC’s and they love recognizing letters. They love the bin at the craft store with foam letters and they pick out the letters of their names. But writing…that’s a different story for some reason. The puzzle, however, got them excited about writing! They still needed some assistance from me to write some of the letters, but I was thrilled that they were willing to try. So I thought I’ll definitely make more of these puzzles for home.

HappyBirthday1 HappyBirthday2

Feel free to right click and save the above graphics for your personal use.

I used Picnik (of course!) to make the puzzles. I have used Picnik for so many projects (click here to see them all). My Valentine Lollipop Covers has a more detailed tutorial on how to get started, but please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions on how to use Picnik to create graphics and I’ll do my best to answer them!

For this puzzle, I created a square Collage with a white background, then I used Stickers to make the shapes (Geometric, Basic Shapes, and Common Symbols). All the stickers I used are available in their free service, but if you subscribe to their paid service, you’ll have lots more shapes to choose from. Please click on the following screen shots below to zoom in.


I thought it would be cute to make a birthday card out of the puzzle for Dada’s upcoming birthday. There are nine individual letters in “Happy Birthday”, so I chose nine shapes and arranged them in columns on the collage. Then I used Text to write the equals sign and letter (which I ordered at random) for each symbol.



Then for the decoding area, I arranged the symbols in order. We now need lines drawn over the symbols to write the letters. As far as I know, there isn’t really a way to draw lines in Picnik. So I stopped here and opened the file in Paint, and drew in some lines there.


My girls were very excited to write the letters…this was the most they’ve ever written on their own, and even signed their names at the bottom. They even made comments while they wrote.

Sophie said “I have an H in my name too!” And a P, and an I, etc etc.


Sarah made similar comments, and even talked through how to write the letters…she said “You can make the I with just a stick, or you can add a button on top!”


I didn’t expect them to want to make the cards too. So I grabbed some ready-made A4 cards and traced around each section to give the girls a cutting line to follow. I would have taken a picture but between the whines of “I want to do it myself!” and the moans and groans of “I can’t doooooooo it” I just didn’t get a chance to. Then we used double-sided tape to adhere them to the card.

Here are their cards…they were even willing to sign their names at the bottom.


If you’re giving it to an adult as we are, you can have your kiddo fill it out first. Or…you could have your kiddo fill it out together with the adult. But if you’re giving the card to a kid who can write, you can give it to them blank so the little recipient can fill it in and be surprised by the message. Just confirm with their parents that they can write and they do enjoy it, otherwise it’s like giving them homework for their birthday and that wouldn’t be fun!

Here’s one I made for my friend’s soon-to-be five year old. I made the card by sewing some scraps of paper plus this graphic (which you can also right click and save for your personal use) to some thick cardstock, and on the inside I adhered the puzzle.


codecardfront codecardfront2 codecardinside

I plan to make a bunch of these with different messages just as worksheets to get them practicing their letters. As I make more, I’ll announce it on my Facebook page so make sure you like the page for updates.

Thanks for reading and hope you find this tutorial useful!

Linking: Petite Hermine :: Tip Junkie :: Sugar Bee-Crafts :: Rook No. 17 :: Tea Rose Home :: The Trendy Treehouse :: Sew Woodsy :: Somewhat Simple :: Momnivoire's Dilemma :: What Allie’s Making Now :: The Frugal Girls :: Tidy Mom :: WhipperBerry :: Creation Corner :: Craft Envy :: Along for the Ride :: Tatertots and Jello :: Lolly Jane Boutique :: Be Different...Act Normal :: Flamingo Toes :: Hazel and Honeysuckle :: Homemaker on a Dime :: Sassy Sites



  1. That's so cute! I might have to try that for my little guy's 5th birthday in December (if I can remember until then). :)

  2. You are so clever. What a great way for kids to learn letter sounds and practice their handwriting at the same time.

  3. What a fun idea! So perfect for the kiddos!! :)

  4. Steph, you are so cool. You always create the best crafts for your girls.

  5. steph this is SO adorable!! my kids would love it! tfs!

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  7. Great idea. I pinned this. It would be fun to make these for invites too!

  8. What a fun and creative idea for a birthday theme. My boys would flip over a spy themed party. Thanks for sharing!

  9. What a fun idea! My kids would think this was super fun to help create and they would also love to get one!

  10. Such an incredibly wonderful, creative idea. Love, love, love it! My girls, as well as their nieces and nephews would love the codes and the cards. I love that you did it in Picnik and that you shared a tutorial.

    Thank you so much for linking up to "A Little Birdie Told Me..."!



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