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.