There's a kid, usually a preteen, who thinks something suspicious is going on. Those men talking in low voices, that guy who keeps sneaking away... what are they up to? Enter the Snooping Little Kid.
The Snooping Little Kid will hide where the bad guys are and try to listen in on their conversations, usually picking up just enough information to prove that something sinister is going on, even if the kid doesn't know exactly what. That often is what kickstarts the plot, or at least advances it into high gear.
Sometimes the Snooping Little Kid is spotted, or manages to make a noise that draws the attention of the bad guys. In that case, the kid will either make a narrow escape, or end up being captured and Bound and Gagged.
Common trope in adventure or mystery stories, or stories with such themes, especially when aimed at children. Happens in books as well as cartoons, TV shows, and movies.
If the kid does more investigative work than just eavesdropping, they're a Kid Detective. If they actually foil the bad guys' plot, they're a Kid Hero. You Meddling Kids can result once the bad guy is caught.
Do Not Try This at Home - tell a responsible adult or call the cops if you see something suspicious!
- Ayumi, Mitsuhiko, and Genta in Case Closed. They style themselves Kid Detectives, but aren't quite up to snuff without Conan or Haibara helping them. They do show potential though, when they try to beat Conan to solving a mystery. They still need help, but Hattori mostly dropped hints for them to work it out themselves. They also provide the occasional "Eureka!" Moment.
- It could be said that Conan himself is this, at least from the perspective of the other characters.
- Spridle and Chim-Chim from Speed Racer.
- In Maiden Rose, while everyone is in a fluster about the train about to invade the territory, cadet Yamamoto notices a suspicious guy and convinces his friends to follow him. They discover the man is a spy passing information to Eurote, and the boys' efforts end up revealing that there are in fact a lot of spies in their ranks adding to the chaos.
- Hayato Kawajiri from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure fits this trope to a tee. Near the end of part 4, he discovers his father has been replaced by Serial Killer Kira while spying on his parents and almost defeats Kira without having a Stand. It's implied that he has been doing this for qiute a while, which leads to some Fridge Horror.
- Suika in Dr. Stone. She often uses this skill to spy on people and gather information for Senku without being noticed.
- Anya in Spy X Family sometimes stumbles into a plot involving one or both of her parents, and has to be careful not to reveal her Psychic Powers or that she knows her parents are a spy and an assassin, as she subtly (or not so subtly) pushes them in the right direction.
- A curious example: There used to be a long series of Disney Comics rooted in their Little Hiawatha shorts, who were basically family sitcom adventures about a little Native American boy. Whenever there were enemy tribes, dishonest white traders or greedy settlers wanting to steal stuff off tribal lands about, Hiawatha (who is eight, tops) and his little sister Sunflower would be the only ones who would notice. Appearently Adults Are Useless regardless of your ethnicity.
- Sometimes they show up in Diabolik. Being very cunning, the titular Villain Protagonist is terrified by them. And with reasons, given that random kids nearly got him arrested on multiple occasions and got him to crash his car once.
- In An American Tail, Fievel was being a Snooping Little Kid when he snuck into the secret hideout of the cats and found out Warren T. Rat was really a cat in disguise. He ends up captured and locked in a bird cage.
- An American Tail: Fievel Goes West: The same thing happens in the sequel, when he overhears Cat R. Waul's evil plan to lure the New York mice out west so he can eat them. When discovered, they boot him off the train.
- In Little Women's The Film of the Book, Beth (Margaret O'Brien) and Amy (Elizabeth Taylor) fulfill the role in the Christmas party (which is a mix between the Christmas party of the book and the parties Meg attends when in the Moffat household). They overhear some Gossipy Hens speculating about their belief that Marmee wants Jo or Meg to go Gold Digger mode on Laurie, which causes both girls to almost shut down...
- Being adapted from the book, Harriet the Spy.
- The President's Analyst, stressed out and paranoid, flees his job, slipping out of Washington with a tourist couple he ingratiates himself with, posing as a Presidential staff member interviewing 'typical American families'. At their home he telephones his own analyst, still on edge, and their son listens in with his 'junior spy kit' wiretap. In the next scene Federal agents are at the door, implying the kid ratted him out.
- Max in Max Rules a spy kids family movie knockoff, in which a bunch of kids try to foil the plans of a baddie to steal a high tech fbi chip. Max and his friends are usually sneaking around trying to find clues, and in one instance, him and the kids are caught by the bad guy they're spying on and left duct taped inside a car.
- In Crooked House, the 12 year old Josephine spends all of her free time sneaking around the mansion, spying and eavesdropping on her family and writing everything down in her notebook. She even has a telescope in her treehouse that allows her to see into her step-grandmother's room. She is convinced that she knows everyone's dirty secrets, and two attempts on her life convince Charles that she knows the identity of the murderer.
- Alexander in Murder, She Said. Miss Marple harnesses his inquisitive nature by inveigling him into her investigation and using him as source of inside information on the Ackerthorpe family.
- A Game of Thrones:
- Subverted when Arya Stark witnesses a nefarious conversation between two mysterious figures. When she tries to tell this to her father, he disbelieves her of course. However Arya isn't able to do anything with the information as other (different!) plots reach their conclusion. Of course, she could've been a bit more credible if she didn't mention a hall of monsters and the wizard.
- Subverted earlier with her brother Bran, he overhears the queen and her brother's plan, and even sees them having sex. He gets spotted and thrown out the window he was perched on, putting him into a coma. An assassin almost kills him in his unconscious state too. The assassin, however, was sent as an act of mercy by a psychopath who, like most everyone else, thought the fall was an accident, and Bran wakes up he doesn't remember anything about what he saw anyway. He also has other worries, like having been crippled by said fall, and then manifesting Psychic Powers.
- Lyra from the His Dark Materials trilogy does this repeatedly.
- Happens all the time in Animorphs with the kids snooping on people while in some small morph.
- Subverted by Malicia in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, who is clearly familiar with the trope, but very bad at the actual sneaking around. People stop what they're doing to watch her sneak around.
- Children's book and later movie Harriet the Spy. She's not so much a spy as a snoop, and snoops for the sake of it.
- Harry, Ron and Hermione fit this pretty well in the first two or three Harry Potter books.
- The thirteen year old protagonist of the Trixie Belden series was not exactly 'little', but did often stick her nose into places that required an adult.
- In A Brother's Price, a couple princesses and some members of the Queens Justice briefly stay at the Whistler farm, and some of the girls promptly snoop through their belongings, much to the horror and outrage of Summer Whistler.
- One of the first things Zak Arrandar does in Galaxy of Fear is wonder why his new guardian has never told anyone his first name, and try to break into his cabin to find out. He finds said guardian shapeshifting into dangerous creatures for practice. Practice for what, Zak wonders.
Hoole's gaze was like a blaster bolt. "For eating annoying small boys."
- T*A*C*K: Toria tries to listen on two men at the local soda shop after they take a strange interest in a comic book her little sister has just bought.
- This happens in Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, as Michelle Day is strangled to death thanks to her eavesdropping.
- P.T. Wilkie of Welcome To Wonderland hid and listened in on other peoples' conversations quite a bit in "Home Sweet Motel". It's how he learns that Mr. Pompano and Arnold want to tear down the motel and build a bunch of condos on the land, and how he and Gloria learn that Johnny and Bob Jones are the Sneemer Brothers, and that they've returned to the Wonderland to find the diamonds Sheila hid after the diamond heist they pulled back in 1973.
- Happens a couple times in Warrior Cats.
- In Forest of Secrets, Fireheart's nosy nephew Cloudkit tracks Fireheart and Graystripe to the river when they sneak off to share prey with RiverClan, which gets them in trouble with the Clan deputy and leader upon their return.
- In The Darkest Hour, Sorrelkit knows that Darkstripe is supposed to have Brackenfur guarding him, and is curious to know what he's doing when he sneaks off on his own. He spots her and tricks her into eating poisonous berries so that she can't reveal that she saw him plotting with an enemy warrior; fortunately she survives.
- Ruthie from 7th Heaven often took to spying on the older members of her family, until she became a teenager.
- Every CBBC Sunday afternoon drama of the 1980s featured a young protagonist snooping around and stumbling on the Big Bad's plan.
- The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring Angels Revenge (a low-budget feature film knockoff of Charlie's Angels) spoofs this trope. In the scene with a meeting of the film's several female protagonists, the heroines are making plans to launch an assault on a drug cartel, when a young blonde girl character who hangs out with them (probably added for comic relief) bursts into the room, acting excited at the plan. In the film itself, the heroines think this is cute and amusing, but one of the audience members remarks, in a menacing voice imitative of more sinister characters, "Kill her!"
- In The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Caesar and Me", the nosy niece of the apartment landlord spies on her aunt's tenant, which leads to his arrest.
- There must be a million German TV shows and movies for kids that feature this trope. One example is Tom Turbo, in which some Snooping Little Kids, often with the same name as the kid actor who plays them, stop the villain and their criminal scheme. This even comes complete with many Bound and Gagged situations.
- Bronson Twist often takes on this role in Round the Twist, particularly in Season 2. The Twist kids as a whole get called this at least once by Mr. Gribble.
- Dawn in season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Game of Thrones: Bran Stark. He goes exploring during King Robert's visit to Winterfell, and stumbles upon the king's wife, Cersei, having sex with her twin brother Jaime. To keep the boy's silence, Jaime throws him from the window. Bran survives but is left crippled for life, and this act is what kicks off the plot.
- The video for Quebec metal band Exterio's song "Campanile" is about a group of snoopy kids using a mysterious map to search for something presumably hidden by the desperately-running-away man who dropped it. By disturbing the seemingly useless junk they find, they inadvertently unleash a Demons/Evil Dead-style Demonic Possession Zombie Apocalypse. Outch.
- There's a quest chain in Final Fantasy XI that involves the Star Onion Brigade, a gang of Snooping Little Kids who operate out of Port Windurst and fight for "Truth, justice, and the onion way!", which seems to mostly involve pestering local criminal mastermind Nanaa Mihgo.
- Antimony from Gunnerkrigg Court carries around a set of lock-picks (and knows how to use them) for this very purpose.
- She does quite a bit of snooping even without lock-picks, including, once, fooling a guard-bot into believing she was a robot using a headband with antennae and "I am a robot." It worked. Robots in Gunnerkrigg Court are notoriously gullible.
- Jack gone out exploring the Court "all the time". At least, until in Chapter 19 he demonstrated his discovery of an Ether Station to other students. Rather unfortunately for him, at the same time as Zimmy (who did have a good reason) found it too.
- Several episodes of DuckTales (1987) see Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby fulfilling this trope. Notable examples include "Sir Gyro de Gearloose," "Hotel Strangeduck," "Duckman of Aquatraz," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mcduck" and "The Billionaire Beagle Boys Club".
- Gravity Falls: Several episodes have Dipper Pines (and, to a lesser extent, his sister Mabel) investigating some weird goings-on in town, ranging from tracking down a vandal who stole the head from a wax dummy of Grunkle Stan to finding out the truth about the founding of Gravity Falls to confronting a memory-stealing cult.
- Penny from Inspector Gadget is a perfect example of this trope. She is always sneaking around the enemy's latest hideout, trying to discover their plans and stop them. She would sometimes narrowly escape capture or detection, and other times would get caught, at which point her captor would utter the quote at the top of the page.
- Jade in Jackie Chan Adventures.
- The main characters of Scooby-Doo were treated this way, despite the fact they clearly weren't little kidsnote . Hanna-Barbera made up for this with actual kids in most of their subsequent Scooby-clones (See: Clue Club, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, and the 80's cartoon called A Pup Named Scooby-Doo that followed the same characters when they were children.)
- T.J. in the Recess: School's Out
- Ben from Ben 10. He's usually found snooping around, eavesdropping on bad guys in his kid form, though sometimes when he is caught he transforms into one of his alien shape shifting forms. This only lasts for a little while though, shortly expiring after, making him realize he's still just a kid.