Hide-and-Seek: Play the Classic Game or a Fun Variation

Chain Hide-and-Seek and Sardines Are Newer Versions

teach the grandchildren how to play hide and seek
The game of hide and seek has many variations which make it fun for grandchildren. Photo © Yukmin | Getty Images

It can be played indoors or outside, with young and old. Because of its versatility, hide-and-seek (or hide-and-go-seek) has been played by many generations of children. Children (and adults) of all ages can enjoy this classic game. Not only does it provide the physical activity that kids need, but it also requires social interaction and problem solving. 

How to Play

Any area that offers hiding places and is not too hazardous is great for hide-and-seek.

It can be played indoors or outdoors. 

Before playing, designate a spot as "home" and set boundaries for hiding. Then choose one player to be "it." He or she counts to a predetermined number before calling out, "Ready or not, here I come!" When "it" sees someone hiding, he or she must run back to home base and call them out. The players can look for opportunities to come out of their hiding places and come in free. A traditional way of ending the game if players are still out is to call, "Ally, ally, in free" or "Come out, come out, wherever you are," or some variation thereof.

Generally players are allowed to change hiding places during the game. Of course, they risk being seen by "it." Changing places is easier to do when playing outdoors in a larger space.


A simpler game is played without a home base. The game is won by being the last player to be found. 

  • In Chain Hide-and-Seek, players join hands with "it" when they are found. As the chain grows and becomes unwieldy, much laughter ensues.
  • Sardines is a variation where "it" hides and all the other players look for "it." As each player finds "it," he or she joins the hiding place. As the game goes on, the searchers know that they are looking for a number of kids crammed into a small space!
  • 44 is a traditional game closely related to hide-and-seek. The player chosen as "it" must count to 44 and shout "44 home" before going to seek. When calling another player out, "it" says, "Forty, forty, I see ...," inserting the player's name. When players come in free, they call out, "Forty, forty, in."

    Capture the Flag and Kick the Can are traditional games that may be considered variations of hide-and-seek. 

    Safety Precautions

    When younger children are playing, be sure to have a signal to end the game even if everyone hasn't been found. Some children can squeeze themselves into the tiniest spaces and can be really hard to find. 

    Tell the children not to hide in any area where they might not be able to free themselves, such as coolers or any cabinet or closet that might lock. Discarded refrigerators were once a hazard for children playing hide-and-seek, but it is now illegal in most places to discard a refrigerator without taking the door off or padlocking it.

    It's also a good idea to have a rule about heights, so that children don't get hurt trying to find a high hiding place. If playing outdoors, warn the children about watching for ant beds, wasp nests and similar hazards. If the kids are playing in a small area such as a yard, patrol the area for hazards ahead of time, because in the rush to find a hiding place, children may overlook the dangers of the place they have selected. Needless to say, don't play in any place where there is vehicular traffic.

    For Older Children

    When playing outdoors, older children will enjoy using some more sophisticated strategies to prevent being seen.

    Cue them in to these ninja tips, and you'll be the coolest grandparent ever!

    Movement: We all know that motion catches the eye. That's how we detect birds and wildlife out-of-doors. Hiders should avoid any quick motions that would catch the eye. If they have to move, they should make their movement slow and fluid.

    Noise: Sound is another way in which seekers can zero in on hiders. Tell the hiders to check their clothing and gear for anything that might make noise and practice moving noiselessly.

    Sun and Shadow: It's easier to hide in shadows than in the sun, and silhouetting oneself against a bright sky is a sure way to be caught. This is a great opportunity for the grandchildren to practice moving low to the ground.

    Normally hiders would also be advised to wear dark, non-reflective clothing, but that could increase the risk of collisions and other accidents, so that tip is best not mentioned.


    See more classic kids outdoor games, or teach the grandchildren classic jump rope rhymes.