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Why Playing Hide-and-Seek is Good for Your Child

Posted 5/17/2016 by UHBlog

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Why playing hide and seek is good for your child

Whether kids find the perfect hiding spot for themselves or discover someone else’s not-so-secret retreat, children love to play hide-and-seek. Did you know playing the beloved childhood game can be good for your child’s development?

“It’s a wonderful game to encourage,” says clinical psychologist Carolyn Ievers-Landis, PhD. “At the most basic level, hide-and-seek is about following directions and taking turns.”

Although there are variations, the standard game is straightforward: Players agree on a “Home” location. One person, known as “It,” counts to 100 while other players hide within predetermined boundaries. At the count of 100, “It” yells, “Ready or not, here I come!” and searches for the other players. If “It” finds and tags a player before the player runs “Home,” the player is out. When “It” yells, “Olly olly oxen free!” the game is over and unfound players may emerge from their hiding spaces.

Certainly, the game is fun. But Dr. Ievers-Landis says playing hide-and-seek also offers youngsters many developmental benefits. These include:

  1. Fostering creativity. Kids know “It” will search behind the oak tree or in a closet, so it’s up to players to discover not-so-obvious spots.
  2. Understanding volume. Children must determine whether their body will fit in a small space between a chair and a wall, or if they should find a larger hideout.
  3. Getting exercise. Hide-and-seek doesn’t require a computer or other technology. Depending on the child’s developmental stage and the location of the game, kids must run, crouch and sometimes climb.
    “They’re using their fine-motor and gross-motor skills,” Dr. Ievers-Landis says.
  4. Increasing balance, agility and coordination. It takes a lot of dexterity to climb a tree to hide, then scurry down to run “Home” in an attempt to elude “It.”
  5. Teaching patience. Staying put – and quiet – for an extended period isn’t easy, especially for younger children, but the alternative means being discovered. Playing hide-and-seek helps kids develop impulse control. This is especially beneficial in children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  6. Building trust. “Kids need to believe the people they’re playing with are going to actually look for them and aren’t going to ditch them,” she says. “They need to trust that (“It”) won’t cheat and watch while they’re hiding.”
  7. Raising safety awareness. Children’s welfare is the top priority, so it’s important to set age-appropriate boundaries. Little ones may be confined to the family room, while older children may be permitted to play in the yard, but not in the garage. Dr. Ievers-Landis encourages parents to play along with very young children until youngsters demonstrate they can make good choices – then parents can step back a bit.
    “Even preschoolers can hide alone, if they’re in a safe place,” she says.
  8. Overcoming a fear of the dark. Some hiding spaces – such as closets or basements – may be dark. Hiding in these spots and emerging safely can help assuage some kids’ fear of dim locations.

Carolyn Ievers-Landis, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Ievers-Landis or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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