Hide and seek

What it is: Next to tag, hide and seek is probably one of the most basic kid games out there. It can be played indoors or outdoors and is easily adaptable for lots of ages and playing areas.

Best for: From as little as 3 or 4 to as many as 20 players.

What you need: You’ll need somewhere to play that has places to hide. This could be almost anywhere: inside a house, in a yard or neighborhood, in a park, in the library (if your public library happens to host a fun lock-in over the summer as a reward to kids who read)…basically anywhere but a big open field or gym. ;-)

How to play: Hide and seek is simple. First, set the boundaries for your playing area. Is it one room, one house, one yard, a whole neighborhood? Make sure everyone’s clear on the boundaries at the beginning. Then gather all your players together, choose one person, like Jack, to be It, and have It count out loud to a designated number, such as 20. (The number can be as low as 10, for really young kids in a small room, or as high as 60 or more for older kids in a bigger playing area.) While Jack counts, all of the other players quietly sneak away to hide. Once the other players have hidden, they must stay put until they are found. Everyone tries to hide, silently hoping that Jack will never find them…

Once Jack is done counting, he opens his eyes, calls out loud, “Ready or not, here I come!” and then starts to seek. He searches all over the playing area for the other players. All he has to do is spot someone (not necessarily tag them or anything) and then they’re found. If Jack needs help finding those last few players who had really good hiding spots, the people who are found can help him.

Once everyone has been found (including that last small sneaky player who always gets the best spots and is always last to be found), the game starts over with a new person as It. For us this was usually the first person Jack found (kind of a punishment for choosing such a lame hiding place, I guess). Then play as many rounds as you want!

Variations: Hide and seek was never my favorite game. Too quiet, too slow – and the suspense, fear, and tension of hiding and waiting to be found pretty much always gave me an anxiety attack. You could change the rules a little and allow players, once they’ve hid, to move around and find new hiding spots, at the risk of being seen by It when they move. Or for some more exciting or complex variations along the lines of hiding and seeking, try kick the can, hit the dirt, capture the flag, or sardines.

Kick the can

What it is: A great outdoor running game, kind of a cross between hide and seek and tag. Can be played during the day, but also makes a great night game.

Best for: A big group of at least 12.

What you need: First, you’ll need somewhere outdoors to play, preferably with lots of trees or things to hide behind. The best place my siblings and cousins and I played was at our grandparents’ house, which had a huge front and back yard that were connected (no fences) so you could run all the way around. Yeah, a house to run around and hide behind makes a great game setup.

Then you’ll need one to six cans. We always used three or six of the metal soup can variety (rinsed and saved kindly by my grandma for whenever we’d visit). Just be careful you don’t cut yourself. In place of metal cans, you could use cardboard oatmeal containers or something similar. If you have just one can, it could be bigger, like a pail or a bucket. If you have more than one, be sure your items can stack (see above picture), and it’s more fun if they make noise when they bang around.

How to play: First, choose a jail in your playing area, or a place players will have to go when they’re tagged. The jail should be a central place from which a shout by a player can be heard all across the playing area. The jail should also have a flat surface, like concrete, on which to stack the cans.

Then choose someone to be It (we’ll say it’s Tony). Tony takes the cans and stacks them in the jail area. Then he closes his eyes and counts to a designated number, like 30, which can vary depending on the age of the players and the size of the playing area.

While Tony counts, all of the other players scatter across the playing area and find somewhere to hide. Players don’t have to stay put in their hiding places for the duration of the game.

Once Tony finishes counting, he opens his eyes and goes out to find people. The object of the game for Tony is to find and tag all of the players, sending them to jail. The players try to prevent him from doing so.

So Tony walks wherever he wants around the playing area, looking for players. If he sees someone, like Shelby, he chases after her so he can tag her. If Shelby is tagged, she walks to the jail and stays there, next to the cans.

The players who are hiding don’t have to stay in their hiding places; they can sneak around the playing area, trying to avoid being tagged. And trying to free other players from the jail.

Say Shelby and two other players are stuck in jail while Tony is going around looking for more people to tag. If Asher hasn’t been tagged or found by Tony yet and he sneaks safely to the jail without Tony seeing, he can free all of the players in the jail at once by kicking over the stack of cans and yelling as loud as he can, “Kick the can!” He should yell loud enough so Tony can hear.

As soon as Asher kicks the cans, he and the other players from jail scatter and hide again. Once Tony hears the yell and the cans being scattered, he has to go back to the jail and set up the cans (and, depending on how many players you have, how many cans you have, and how big your playing area is, maybe count to like 10 again) before he can go find people to tag.

If for some reason Tony doesn’t get around to setting up the cans right away, the jail can’t hold anyone; that is, if a player is tagged by Tony and heads to the jail but sees the cans already scattered, that player is automatically freed from jail.

If you’re playing with more than one can, it’s a good strategy to kick them as hard as you can so they scatter far; that way, it’s harder for Tony to set them up again. But no deliberately hiding the cans from Tony or carrying them far away; that’s cheating. Also, it’s okay if someone kicks the cans in plain sight of Tony, as long as Tony doesn’t tag him or her first.

Variations: I think we almost always played with two people being It, just so it was a little more fairly matched.