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How to Play Hide and Seek

Though this classic game was obviously originally designed for children, I've had a lot of fun lately playing it as an adult!

Everyone knows Hide and Seek. It is a classic children's game that is played all over the world. Recently, however, I have been playing Hide and Seek as an adult, too.

This is a guide to the rules of Hide and Seek, including tips for playing and some common variations, including Tag and Seek, Home Base, Kick the Can and Sardines.

The Basic Rules of Hide and Seek

You need three or more players. (Technically you could play with two, but more is much more fun.)

  1. Agree on the boundaries of the area in which players are allowed to hide.
  2. Select one person to be the "seeker".
  3. The seeker closes their eyes and counts to a hundred or uses a timer for two minutes while the other players hide.
  4. The seeker looks for the other players.

Where to Play

The most important thing is to agree on the boundaries for where to hide in advance, and make sure all the players understand them.

You can play Hide and Seek just about anywhere. You don't need much, but you need a space where there are places to hide.

Common Hide and Seek venues are:

  • Your house/someone else's house. Common hiding places are: under the bed, behind the curtains, behind furniture or inside wardrobes.
  • Your garden or park or school playground or any other outdoor area which is safe with enough places to hide. Common outdoor hiding places are: behind trees, under bushes, behind benches or bins.

If playing in public outdoor areas, beware of possible issues like messy dog owners. For Hide and Seek, I prefer to play in my local Botanic Gardens, where dogs are banned, so there is no chance of accidentally stepping on a dog's business.

Take safety and the age and maturity of players into account. You don't want to hurt yourself.

Playing After Dark

Playing Hide and Seek after dark during dusk can be fun. Players will be able to hide better in the dim light or creep around under cover of darkness. However, you need to make sure you have a safe venue for this. I would not play Hide and Seek like this in public areas of a busy city!

Indoor Venues for Adults

For a more grown-up Hide and Seek, you could play in a public building. For example: museums, large department stores or furniture stores can make good Hide and Seek venues.

However, if playing Hide and Seek in these venues, I recommend these tips:

  • Aim to hide by blending in with shoppers, rather than alarming security or causing a nuisance.
  • For example, hide by walking around different areas rather than climbing into a shop display and staying there.
  • Do not allow running.
  • Ensure that hiding is limited to places open to the public.
  • The best version for this sort of game is where the rules are once you are found, you join the seeker searching for everyone else. All unfound players should emerge victorious after a set time at a designated meeting point.
  • Invite a small number of people you know (around seven or eight players is about right), don't make a public event on the internet.

Playing in Ikea?

Ikea is a venue that comes to mind for adult Hide and Seek for obvious reasons. Not surprisingly, however, Ikea say they are not keen on large games of Hide and Seek in their stores. In 2015, Ikea in the Netherlands banned Hide and Seek in its stores after 19,000 people signed up to a public Facebook event to play Hide and Seek in the Amsterdam Ikea and 12,000 in Utrecht Ikea.

In December 2017, 18,000 people expressed an interest in playing Hide and Seek in Ikea, Bristol, England. Ikea said they would "not facilitate" playing Hide and Seek.

However, if you stick to the rules I've suggested, Ikea may be more tolerant/not notice. I recommend hiding in places like the restaurant eating meatballs, rather than hiding by climbing into a small space in a bedroom display.

Timing

Unless playing in a small area, it is a good idea to set a time limit for the game.

If all the players have a device that tells them the time, i.e. a watch or phone, then you say that after say half an hour if you haven't been found you should come out. This is the best way to deal with Hide and Seek in larger areas.

In small enough areas, or for young children who don't yet carry a phone everywhere, you could agree a signal that the seeker will sound when time is up. If you happen to have a loud metal gong around this is ideal, however, anything that everyone will hear will do.

Hiding Tips

Don't hide in the most obvious places. If possible to do so without getting caught, try to move around, so you end up somewhere the seeker has already searched.

Don't hide in the same places several times.

If you really want to make an effort in bigger places with a large hiding area, try changing your clothes! If everyone looking for you is looking for a guy in a red jacket, but you have swapped to a guy in a blue jacket with a funny hat, they may find it harder to spot you.

Girl hiding

Girl hiding

Variations

Here are some variations on the classic game to consider trying as well.

Tag and Seek

The same as Hide and Seek except that as well as finding others, you also need to tag them.

Home Base Hide and Seek

This version works well in a smaller space without too many places to hide. At the beginning of the game chose a home base. For example, this could be a circle marked on the ground with chalk or a centrally placed picnic bench

The seeker closes their eyes, and everyone hides. If the hiders make it back to the home base without being caught by the seeker they win.

Kick the Can

This is a combination of Hide and Seek, Tag and Capture the Flag.

You need a "can", for example, an empty paint tin, or a bucket, that you place in a central location in the hiding area.

You also need to designate a nearby space as a "jail".

The seeker (or seekers) counts to the agreed number, and everyone hides. A player is caught if they are seen and tagged by a seeker. These players are sent to jail.

However, if a player that hasn't been caught yet managed to knock over or kick the can without being caught all of the players are freed from jail.

The seeker wins if they manage to catch all of the players in jail.

Sardines

A reverse version of Hide and Seek. One person hides and everyone else has to find them. Whenever a seeker finds the hidden person, they have to join the hider in their hiding space. The idea is that eventually everyone will be squashed together like sardines.

This only works in a large indoor area. You also need appropriate boundaries and safety.

How Old Is Hide and Seek?

Written evidence of Hide and Seek can be traced back as far as the 2nd century BC. Julius Pollux a Greek scholar described a game called Apodidraskinda.

However, it is likely that people hid far earlier than that. Variations of Hide and Seek are played in different cultures across the world. Some psychologists have suggested that Hide and Seek stems from the game of Peek-a-boo, that mothers play with their children. Hiding was also a necessary survival skill in early societies, for example, to successfully hunt, so it was probably played by young children to teach them skills.

For this reason, it's likely that Hide and Seek was one of the earliest human games.

Please comment to share your Hide and Seek experiences.

Questions & Answers

Question: When playing hide and seek, do you make the first or last person found as the seeker?

Answer: I usually play with the last person found as the next seeker, as they will have spent the longest time hiding and might enjoy the change. However you can agree your own rule for this with the other players.

© 2018 Marianne Sherret

Comments

Henry Bell on June 09, 2019:

This is GREAT! It was so helpful. Thanks!

Liz Westwood from UK on June 14, 2018:

This is an interesting and nostalgic article for me, recalling games played in my much younger days and also those that our kids used to play.