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Meyerheim Versteckspiel.jpg
A 19th-century painting of three children playing hide and seek in a forest (Friedrich Eduard Meyerheim)
Setup timec. 90 seconds
Playing timeNo limit
Random chanceVery low
Age range3+
Skills requiredRunning, tracking, hiding, observation, ability to stay silent

Hide-and-seek (sometimes known as hide-and-go-seek) is a popular children's game in which at least two players (usually at least three) [1] conceal themselves in a set environment, to be found by one or more seekers. The game is played by one chosen player (designated as being "it") counting to a predetermined number with eyes closed while the other players hide. After reaching this number, the player who is "it" calls "Ready or not, here I come!" or "Coming, ready or not!" and then attempts to locate all concealed players. [2]


The game can end in one of several ways. The most common way of ending is the player chosen as "it" locates all players; the player found first is the loser and is chosen to be "it" in the next game. The player found last is the winner. Another common variation has the seeker counting at "home base"; the hiders can either remain hidden or they can come out of hiding to race to home base; once they touch it, they are "safe" and cannot be tagged.

The game is an example of an oral tradition, as it is commonly passed by children. [3]


A picture of children playing hide and seek. Hide from each other.jpg
A picture of children playing hide and seek.

Different versions of the game are played around the world, under a variety of names. [4]

One variant is called "Sardines", in which only one person hides and the others must find them, hiding with them when they do so. The hiding places become progressively more cramped, like sardines in a tin. The last person to find the hiding group is the loser, and becomes the hider for the next round. A. M. Burrage calls this version of the game "Smee" in his 1931 ghost story of the same name. [5]

Hide and Seek (painting 1881) Hiding in the Haycocks (1881) by William Bliss Baker.jpg
Hide and Seek (painting 1881)

In some versions of the game, after the first hider is caught or if no other players can be found over a period of time, the seeker calls out a previously-agreed phrase (such as "Olly olly oxen free", "Come out, come out wherever you are" or "All in, All in, Everybody out there all in free") to signal the other hiders to return to base for the next round. [6]

In another variant called Forty forty, the seeker must return to "home base" after finding the hiders, before the hiders get back. Conversely, the hiders must get back to "home base" before the seeker sees them and returns. [7] The hiders hide until they are spotted by the seeker, who chants, "Forty, forty, I see you" (sometimes shortened to "Forty, forty, see you"). Once spotted, the hider must run to "home base" (where the seeker was counting while the other players hid) and touch it before they are "tipped" (tagged, or touched) by the seeker. If tagged, that hider becomes the new seeker. [8] Forty forty has many regional names [9] including 'block one two three' in North East England and Scotland, 'relievo one two three' in Wilmslow, 'forty forty' in South East England, 'mob' in Bristol and South Wales, 'pom pom' in Norwich, 'I-erkey' in Leicester, 'hicky one two three' in Chester, 'rally one two three' in Coventry, ' Ackey 123' in Birmingham and '44 Homes' in Australia. [10]

International competition

Hide and seek world championship officially named "Nascondino World Championship" is the unique international hide-and-seek competition, [11] a team play for adults, with non-diversified categories by gender. Born in 2010 in the Italian city of Bergamo, it is held annually in Italy, in summer. The game is a derivative of the Italian version of hide and seek, "nascondino" (hide-and-seek in Italian), and takes place on a playground in the open air, set up with artificial and natural hideouts. The seventh competition took place in September 2017, with 70 teams from 11 countries.

See also

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  1. Williams, Jenny (20 August 2009). "30 Classic Outdoor Games for Kids". Wired. Hide and Seek. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  2. Trafton, J. Gregory; Schultz, Alan; Perznowski, Dennis; Bugajska, Magdalena; Adams, William; Cassimatis, Nicholas; Brock, Derek (August 2003). "Children and robots learning to play hide and seek" (PDF). Naval Research Laboratory. Retrieved December 2, 2011.{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. Luongo, Ryan P. Dalton,Francisco. "Play May Be a Deeper Part of Human Nature Than We Thought". Scientific American. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
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  5. The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories, OUP 1986.
  6. Ollie Ollie oxen free, World Wide Words, Michael Quinion
  7. "hide-and-seek | Definition, Rules, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-01-03.
  8. Darian-Smith K, Logan W, Seal G (2011). "44 Home - Hiding Game". Childhood, Tradition and Change. Australia. Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  9. "Acky one two three I see children's dialect on TV". British Library: Sound and vision blog.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. Darian-Smith K, Logan W, Seal G (2011). "44 Home - Hiding Game". Childhood, Tradition and Change. Australia. Retrieved 2017-07-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link) CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  11. Nalewicki, Jennifer. "The Hide and Seek World Championship Will Take Over an Italian Ghost Town". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 9 May 2022.