Do you ever pretend to be a spy? It can be a lot of fun to sneak around the backyard, gathering intelligence (information that is useful) on foreign beings, such as squirrels and the neighbor’s dog!

Being a real spy is not easy, though. It takes a lot of courage to travel to faraway and exotic places, putting yourself in unknown and potentially-dangerous situations.

Spies need to be smart. For spies to gather valuable intelligence, they have to be intelligent, too! Spies often speak several languages and must be able to memorize lots of information important to the completion of a successful mission.

Spies also must be creative and able to adapt to situations that change quickly. When faced with a unique problem, spies must make good decisions under pressure. Part of being prepared for anything includes making sure you have the right gadgets with you on every mission.

While television shows and movies about spies may make it seem like spies have gadgets that can do just about anything, not all of what you see on television or the movie screen is realistic. Spies can and do use a wide variety of gadgets to make their lives easier, though. Let’s take a look at some of the real-life gadgets that spies use.

A lot of spy work involves surveillance. Surveillance is a fancy word that just means watching or closely observing a person or a group of people. To avoid being seen themselves, spies often use fancy gadgets to help them with their surveillance.

For example, to keep an eye on someone from a distance, a spy might use binoculars. Spies might also use high-tech cameras hidden in all sorts of different objects, from pens and buttons to key fobs and ties!

Surveillance doesn’t have to be done in person, though. In fact, it doesn’t even have to involve seeing. Sometimes spies just listen. A sneaky spy might slip a bug into a telephone to eavesdrop on someone’s conversations. An even sneakier spy might use an audio monitoring device hidden in an electric power strip!

Modern spies have to tackle all sorts of sophisticated technology at times. To find information in a computer or to crack a password, for example, a spy might have to use a keylogger, which secretly stores all keystrokes entered on a keyboard.

If a spy needs to keep track of someone on the move, a GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking device might come in handy. Spies who use GPS trackers can place one on a vehicle and follow its movements with a computer from anywhere in the world.

There are many other types of spy gadgets out there — and probably many we don’t even know about! From document scanners to night vision goggles, many of these devices have other legitimate uses beyond spying.

When used by spies, though, their use may technically be illegal in many areas. Of course, spies often work outside the bounds of the law, but remember to always obey the law when you’re just pretending to be a spy!


53 Join the Discussion

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  1. I used to enjoy your wonders, but now I haven’t been reading them as much. I believe it’s because of being a kid, I don’t have a long attention span, so I got bored while reading the articles. I think you should either set these topics toward older kids, or make the articles easier to understand. Not complaining, just my opinion.

    • Hello, Jamie! Thanks so much for letting us know what you think about the Wonders of the Day! We REALLY appreciate your comment! We hope that Wonder Friends of all ages can relate to different parts of each Wonder, from the video to the written content and activity links! We encourage you to keep visiting Wonderopolis with us to learn new things each day! :-)

  2. When I grow up I either want to be a spy or the president of the USA. For a sixth grader, I am very ambitious. GO, WONDEROPOLIS!!!!!!!

    • We say, “Goooooo, Sophie!” You ARE ambitious and we think that’s AWESOME! You can be anything you want to be..follow your dreams! Your friends in Wonderopolis believe in you! :-)

  3. Dear Wonderopolis,
    This is a cool wonder! Yes, spies really do use gadgets such as binoculars, video cameras, voice recorders, etc. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about penguins or snowflakes.
    Paige ;)

    • Hi, Paige! Thanks for leaving us ANOTHER awesome comment…you are GREAT at leaving comments! We appreciate your enthusiasm for Wonderopolis, as well as your dedication to guessing “penguins or snowflakes” as the idea for each next day’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  4. Hi, wonderopolis. I never knew spies could really use cameras hidden in pens. I thought that was made up, and that they used electric power strips!!!! I guess I learned something new. WONDEROPOLIS ROCKS!!!

    • Thanks so much for saying Wonderopolis ROCKS, Sara! We love it when our Wonder Friends tell us how excited they are to visit the Wonders of the Day and learn new things! We really enjoy learning new things, too! :-)

    • That’s a cool way to think about spies, Maxini! We’re proud of you for WONDERing even more about this Wonder of the Day® after you were done exploring it! Extra WONDERing makes us even smarter! :-)

  5. I wonder if being a kid is more fun nowadays? Spy gadget technology from the old James Bond movies seems to be available for kids these days.

    Now, if only we could get lightsaber technology moving along at the same speed.

    • We’re glad you liked this Wonder of the Day®, Wonder Friend DD! Thanks for letting us know what you thought about it! :-)

    • That’s a SUPER question, thisismyname! There are LOTS of places to find spy gadgets. There is even a special International Spy Museum in Washington DC that has displays of really cool ones! We think it would be really awesome to make our own spy gadgets with the links inside this Wonder of the Day® (in the “Try it out!” section), don’t you? :-)

    • We’re not sure about that, thisismyname. Maybe you could ask a parent or other grown-up you know to help you search for a place that sells spy gadgets in Williams Lake? We hope you have FUN searching and that you find some REALLY COOL secret spy gadgets! :-)

    • They sure are, Wonder Friend gr8ness! We Wonder if seat belts can be used for other purposes, too? Would you find a seat belt in a spy’s tool kit? :)

  6. This site is awesome! My son’s birthday is on Saturday … a spy party! He will be 4, and is into everything spy. I introduced him to Inspector Gadget, of course… but I cannot wait to read this to him! We will be making spy gear at his party, thanks to this site! It will be fun to look around at what else there is to wonder about on here. :-) Thank you!

    • HOORAY for visiting Wonderopolis, Mama Mia! And the happiest of (4th) birthdays to your son, too! :)

      We are thrilled that you’ve been inspired by Wonderopolis- the party will be spy-tastic, indeed! We look forward to seeing you both soon, enjoy your day celebrating your son tomorrow! :)

  7. I like how you keep all of the things from the James Bond movies. You show us some of the gadgets from the warehouse. But do they actually work though because you never show us if they really work.

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Lane! We are glad you’re WONDERing about all those gadgets and if they can be used in the movies, or in real life, too! We can create awesome gadgets using our imaginations, but sometimes they only “work” in the movies! :)

  8. I thought that it was awesome and is there any proof that there is spy’s
    in the world today? If not then that is not fun at all.

    • Super question, Amaria! There are spies all over the World. We think you are AWESOME for visiting Wonderopolis and leaving us a comment today! :)

    • We LOVE that you are continuing to WONDER about spies, Daivionne! We think you might want to check a book out at your local library to learn more about about what they do. Happy WONDERing! :)

    • We think spies are COOL too, Daivionne! We WONDER if you like playing spies with your friends? Thanks for joining us to WONDER again today! :)

    • Hey, Sian Pi! We think there are spies all over the World, not just in the UK. We’re so GLAD you spent time WONDERing about spies with us today! :)

  9. Being a spy sounds Incredible. Do you need to know how to do backflips and stuff? And to wonderopolis’s opinion, What do you think is the difference between detectives and spies?

    • We think all the extra WONDERing you have done about spies is FABULOUS, Lawrence! We don’t think you have to know how to do backflips and other gymnastic moves in order to be a spy. We think detectives investigate all sorts of things and spies collect secret information. Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do spies really use gadgets?
  • What does surveillance mean?
  • Can you make your own spy gadgets at home?

Wonder Gallery

man with bincular_shutterstock_57929878Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to recruit one or more friends or family members to help you explore one or more of the following activities:

  • Do you have any spy gadgets around the house? Do a search and find out! As you learned in today’s Wonder of the Day, many modern spy gadgets have regular, legitimate uses beyond spying. What types of things do you have around the house that could be used for spying? How about a camera? Or a GPS device? What about a tape recorder or a document scanner? Have fun searching your house for items that could be used as a spy gadget.
  • Do you like spy movies? Take some time today to watch a spy flick with your friends or family members. You might find a spy show on television. You could also rent one from a local store or your local library. For example, the Spy Kids series of movies features kids acting as spies! Do you think you could ever be a spy? Why or why not?
  • Ready to make your own homemade spy gadgets at home? Here are some fun and easy projects you can make with things around the house. Get crafty and then get spying — you never know what those squirrels in the backyard might be up to!

Still Wondering

Visit Smithsonian’s History Explorer to watch First Person Account: Eugenia Phillips, a video in which Eugenia Phillips, a Southern spy, tells of her encounter with Union troops trying to incriminate her.


Test Your Knowledge

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