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Phonetic alphabet hunt

Practise talking like a pilot by using the phonetic alphabet to create clues.

You will need

  • Pens or pencils
  • A4 paper
  • Items to hide
Phonetic alphabet
PDF – 111.1KB


  1. The person leading the activity should ask everyone if they’ve heard of the phonetic alphabet and, if not, they should introduce it to the group.
  1. Everyone should get into pairs. The person leading the activity should give each pair an item to hide, a ‘Phonetic alphabet’ sheet, a piece of paper, and a pencil.
  1. Each pair should hide their item somewhere in or around the meeting space. They should write down the hiding place, so they don’t forget it.
  1. The pairs should sit together and write clues or directions to find the location of their item using the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. Helpers can support with correct spellings or words.
  1. The person leading the activity should pair up each pair with another to exchange clues.
  2. The first pair should say their clue out loud to the other pair. As soon as the pair thinks they’ve decoded the clue, they should go and find the item.
  1. Once the first pair have found the item, they should say their clue to the second pair. They should decode the clue and find the item.


This activity helped everyone to practise their phonetic alphabet by creating and deciphering clues. Now, everyone should understand why pilots use the phonetic alphabet; being on an aircraft can be really noisy, so the phonetic alphabet helps people communicate more clearly. For example, letters like S and F can sound similar on their own but not when they’re part of different words. This is how the phonetic alphabet helps pilots make sure they understand messages correctly.

Can anyone think of other times the phonetic alphabet might be useful? It can help people correctly spell a name or address over the phone, so the emergency services often use it. Everyone should try remembering to use it if they ever have to call the emergency services.


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Make it accessible

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.