Hide and Seek Activity for Kids
If left to their own devices, many kids are true adventurers. And yet, we’ve seen more kids than we’d expect be reluctant to set foot into the woods—arguably where the fun and learning go down! We mostly notice hesitation, but have even heard wee ones say that we (i.e. people) are supposed to stay on the walkways, ball fields or playgrounds of our local parks. Having spent their young lives on the beaten path, this misunderstanding is rather understandable. We’ve found words, even those carefully chosen by a teacher, don’t quite convince kids like these to take their game off-road. What does, you ask? Hide-and-seek.
It turns out, hide-and-seek works incredibly well—not only at getting reluctant kids “into” their surroundings, but at keeping all kids highly engaged. They love hide and seek. Who doesn’t? It never gets old, especially when you play outdoors. With the right twists, it can captivate kids of all ages. The more we’ve learned about it and observed how kids play it, the more we appreciate how powerful the game really is.
We’ve made our own variations on hide-and-seek and use the following with kids ages 6 and up. These age ranges are general guidelines, though. You know your kids best, so strike the balance with just enough challenge while avoiding making them frustrated. Check out our Hide-and-Seek for kids ages 0 to 2 or 3 to 5 as well.
- Wave (\minimum: 4 players): "Wave" is kind of a hybrid between hide-and-seek and freeze tag. In addition to the other set up, you need to establish some high visibility spot (e.g. tree, large rock, blanket on the ground) as the “cave.” Once the "it" player spots a hiding player, she calls and points him out (e.g. “I spy Finn”). The player who was found, Finn in this case, has to go to the 'cave' and must stay there until he sees one of the uncaptured players wave at him from a hiding spot. Once waved at, Finn is free to go and hide again. But, he must escape from the cave without being seen by the “it” player, since the she can call him out again if she sees him escaping. The game is over when all players are in the cave. Kids must decide who is “it” next and start the next game. Encourage kids to modify rules to create new variations. It's great experience for kids to solve issues that make the game less fun, like when the “it” player stays too close to the home base to allow waving and escaping.
- Sardines (minimum: 4 players): In this variation, only one person, "the hider," ventures off to hide, while the others count together. Once the counting ends, the players spread out in search of the hider. Each time a player finds the hider, he or she joins the hider in his hiding spot, trying not to get noticed by the other players. Over time, player after player crowds and crams into the hiding spot like sardines in a tin, hence the name. The player to find the hiding spot last loses the game and becomes “it” for the next round.
Why is this activity great for kids?
For many reasons, variations of hide-and-seek are played all over the world, dating back to at least 2nd century Greece. These variations are more sophisticated and require a significant amount of self control. Playing them only sharpens this critical skill and can easily burn an afternoon. Kids must police themselves and one another in order to make the games fair and fun—great ways to develop social skills like collaboration and communication. Kids also learn new strategies as they play, thinking critically about where best to hide and how best to navigate within the rules each round.
Searching for better and better cover, kids also learn, first hand, about the trees, brush, logs and other features of the outdoors...and they get off of the paths! Psychologists tout the emotional benefits, saying that kids get hooked on facing and, in the moment, conquering the fear of separation from loved ones (parents, friends). We have watched hide-and-seek build independence and self reliance—the more they play, the further kids will push themselves. Science topics like camouflage and predator/prey relationships can easily surface as kids play and talk with you about the game.