What is Hide and Seek?

Mary Elizabeth

Hide and seek, or hide and go seek, is a searching game. Originally played by a group of friends and neighbors gathered together, the game hide and seek now has popular variations in books, software, and on-line versions. The old-fashioned game of hide and seek has varying rules, but these are the major components.

The player designated "It" in hide and seek must count to a certain number before looking for others.
The player designated "It" in hide and seek must count to a certain number before looking for others.

Setting Up Old-Fashioned Hide and Seek
First, a playing area is designated. Depending on the circumstances, this may be indoors or outdoors. Once players agree on the boundaries, they should be observed. Second, someone is chosen to be the first IT, the seeker who will search for the other players. A home base,is designated, and this is where each round of the game begins for everyone.

Next, players agree on how long they will have to hide. Usually, IT counts, using a method such as one-one thousand, two-one thousand or one-Mississipi, two-Mississippi, to make the count even and about one second per number. Depending on the terrain and the players’ ages, IT may count to 10, 50, or 100. If the child who is IT cannot count as high as needed, an alternative approach is to set a timer.

Some games of hide and seek are played until IT gives up. In this case, players who elude detection are considered successful. An alternative way of playing allows players to move to different hiding places if IT doesn’t see them. A third way to play is to have home base also be a safe spot for player who get there before being spotted or tagged by IT, thus combining aspects of hide and seek with tag.

Playing Old-Fashioned Hide and Seek
IT closes is or her eyes and begins to count, while the other players hide. When the counting—which should be done loudly, so that players can hear—is done, IT shouts out “Ready or not: here I come!” to signal to the players that the hunt is on.

IT then searches for the other players, identifying them in one of two ways. Either IT can call out the name of the player and the location, for example, “I see Bobby behind the slide,” or IT taps the player spotted on the shoulder.

Depending on the version chosen, players may be moving from one hiding place to another and/or making a run for the home base, in which case IT must try to tag them before they are safely there. Once IT has identified a player, the player cannot run for home base. Likewise, once a player is running for home base, IT cannot call him or her out by giving name and location: the running player must be tagged.

The round ends either when everyone is caught or when a grown-up intervenes, such as announcing dinner time. Any players that remain hidden are called in. Typical calls include:

• Oli, Oli Oxen, free, free, free!
• Olee, Olee, in free!
• Ally Ally Oxen Free!
• Come Out, Come Out, wherever you are!

Usually, the first person spotted or tagged by IT becomes IT for the next round of Hide and Seek.

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Discussion Comments


We had the problem of coming up with new places to hide. There were only so many places on the school playground where a kid could hide, and IT knew most of them. Our best hope was to run to home base while IT was busy making the rounds.


I always called out "Ally, Ally Oxen Free!" when the game was over, but someone told me it was supposed to be "All the, All the Outs In Free!" I don't know if I believed him or not, but it did make sense to tell the "outs" they could come in free. Maybe somebody will come up with the ultimate right answer on that.

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