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How to Play “I Spy with My Little Eye”+ 72 Examples

Did you ever play the I spy with my little eye game as a child? This game is a favourite in homes and preschool classrooms, for good reason.

It’s a great game to play to boost a child’s concentration, teach them to listen carefully and stimulate their thinking skills.

You can also use it to practise colours, shapes and even build sound awareness.

The best thing about the game is that it requires zero prep and can be played in 5 minutes, while preparing dinner or even while driving in the car (car games are great for learning).

Read past the intro to find 72 I spy examples to get you started.

I spy my little eye - family playing the I Spy game together

What does I Spy Mean?

The phrase “I spy” basically stands for, “I see.” The sentence opener, “I spy with my little eye,” is especially engaging for children because of the rhyme.

Where Did I Spy with My Eye Come From?

The earliest mention found of the I Spy game was from Victorian England and appeared in The Manchester Times of 1889. At that time, play may have typically focused on the first letter of the objects’ names.

How Do You Play I Spy with My Little Eye?

What are the rules of I Spy? Indoors or outside, an adult often begins the game. As the person selecting an object, you are sometimes called “The Spy.”

You look around the area and focus on an object within view of the other players.

Once you have chosen your object, say, “I spy with my little eye…,” and then offer the first clue. Some “spies” make a circular “spyglass” or monocle with the fingers of one hand, for fun viewing, or with two hands to imitate binoculars.

I spy my little eye - little boy imitating a spyglass with his finger.

For young children, you may want to look in the direction of the object as a partial clue. For older preschoolers, be careful not to look right towards the article.

Once an object is chosen and a clue given, it should not be changed until after it has been guessed.

Your child guesses according to the clues you have given. You answer “yes” or “no,” as to whether their guess is correct. When more than one child is playing, they take turns guessing.

If you want, you can also let players ask “yes” or “no” questions, like, “Is it here in the living room?” or “Is it on my left?”

In addition, if players are having difficulty finding the answer, The Spy can offer clues like “hot” and “cold,” as to how close the players are coming to the correct answer.

The player who guesses correctly is the next one to give clues as The Spy for a different object.

72 I Spy with My Little Eye game ideas

Here are some fun I spy with my little eye game ideas. You can work on different kinds of skills, depending on which ones you think would be most beneficial for your child.

As a bonus, all these options can help your child practise listening skills.

I spy my little eye - child pretending to make glasses with fingers

I spy with my little eye…

Examples to Build Beginning Sound Awareness

  • something that begins with “s-s-s”
  • something that starts like “boo
  • something that begins with “t-t-t”

Examples to Build Ending Sound Awareness

  • something that ends like “top
  • something that ends with “g-g-g”
  • something with the same final sound as “sun

Examples to Practise Visual Perception

  • something red, bright, and shiny
  • something straight, checked, and flat
  • something round, large, and blue

Visual perception is an important skill for learning to read.

Examples to Develop Capital Letter Identification Skills

Older children can play I spy to learn to recognize consonants and vowels.

  • a capital letter “H”
  • the capital consonant “M”
  • the capital vowel “E”

Examples to Develop Lowercase Letter Identification Skills

  • a lowercase letter “b”
  • the lowercase consonant “f”
  • the lowercase vowel “a”

Here are more letter recognition games and activities.

Examples to Develop Number Identification Skills

  • the number 5
  • a number 9
  • the number 10

Here are some fun number recognition skills to help you build this skill.

Examples to Build Colour Identification Skills

  • something green
  • something pink and brown
  • something light purple

Examples to Practise Shape Identification Skills

  • something shaped like a rectangle
  • something with circles and diamonds
  • something triangular

Examples to Develop Awareness for Signs of the Seasons

  • something growing that shows our season is autumn
  • a tool that shows it is autumn
  • a decoration that shows our season is autumn

Examples to Build Memory (at least 3 characteristics)

  • something fuzzy, white, and heavy
  • something big, yellow, and electric
  • something wooden, tan, and rectangular

Here are some memory games to play as well.

I spy my little eye - mom and daughter playing the I Spy game

Examples to Practise Animal Identification

  • a brown goat
  • a polar bear
  • a baby deer or fawn

Examples to Develop Spatial/Position Awareness

  • something over/under the cabinet
  • something in front of/behind the sofa
  • something that is high/low

Examples to Build Plant Identification Skills

  • a yellow tulip
  • a dark pink rose
  • a tall pine tree

Examples to Practise Function Thinking Skills

  • something round and metal that is used for cooking
  • something flat and glass that we use to see how we look
  • something black and plastic that we use to communicate

Examples to Develop Sound Thinking Skills

  • something that says “beep”
  • something that makes a ringing noise
  • something that gurgles

Examples to Practise Fruit/Vegetable Identification

  • a long, yellow vegetable
  • a green, sweet fruit
  • a round, orange fruit
I spy my little eye - mom and daughter playing with fruit

Examples to Build Language Skills

  • something that looks “transparent”
  • something with the colours “crimson and lavender”
  • something that smells “fragrant”

Examples to Develop Touch/Texture Grouping Skills

  • something that feels bumpy
  • something that is smooth
  • something silky

Examples to Develop Smell Grouping Skills

  • something that smells stinky
  • something that would smell sweet
  • something that smells minty

Examples to Practise Word Identification

These I spy with my little eye ideas are also suitable for older children, or children who already recognize words in their environment.

  • the word “go”
  • the word “exit”
  • the word “stop”

Examples to Build Rhyming Skills

  • something that rhymes with “guzzle”
  • a thing that rhymes with “bright”
  • something that rhymes with “near”

Examples to Develop Measurement Skills

  • something that is about a centimetre long
  • something that is around a metre tall
  • something that holds about a litre

Examples to Practise Sorting

  • the fruit in the dish that is different from the rest
  • a button in the jar that is different
  • the toy in the tray that is different from the rest

Examples to Build Taste Differentiation Skills

  • a food that tastes salty
  • something that would taste sour
  • a food that tastes sweet

I hope you like these I spy with my little eye examples.

Playing the part of The Spy may be quite challenging for children in the beginning. They are certainly learning in either role.

You can come up with your own categories to play the I spy my little eye game with preschoolers, as well, depending on your child’s interests and on your surroundings.

Have fun!

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Wednesday 30th of June 2021

Great ideas! Thank you

Tanja Mcilroy

Thursday 1st of July 2021

You're welcome, Natalie! Enjoy

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