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Why Toddlers Love to Hide

By Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell ; Updated September 26, 2017
Toddlers love to hide (and seek).

Hide-and-seek is on the short list of games that toddlers love to play, according to HealthyChildren.org, the official website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Hiding behind a chair, under a table or tucked incognito in a blanket is exciting for a toddler. Running around the house or playground in search of your hiding place is also fun for a 2- to 3-year-old.

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A toddler who is hiding behind a big tree or under a slide at the park is eagerly waiting in suspense to be found and reunited with Mom or Dad. You'll probably hear your toddler say something like, "Me by dah tree" when you wonder out loud, "Where did my darling Timmy go?," notes Scholastic.com. After all, being discovered is a big reason why hiding is so much fun. Getting a big hug makes coming together all the more joyful for a toddler.


Hiding (and seeking) has deeper meaning for a toddler than simply getting a kick out of trying to keep her whereabouts under wraps, according to an article published in "Psychology Today." Hiding helps a toddler test the waters in her quest for autonomy. Little ones like to temporarily disappear from their parents because they want to know that they are capable of being independent, writes Shirah Vollmer, MD, an Associate Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Toddlers also love to play hide-and-seek because being pursued is a sign of being loved and cared for, adds Vollmer.

Real World Benefits

Hiding helps a toddler learn that real-life separations -- like going to day care -- are temporary. Hide-and-seek and other disappearing games can ease the potential trauma of being dropped off with a new caregiver. An experienced hider-and-seeker has learned that even though Mommy is leaving for a while, she will come back, explains ZerotoThree.org, a website published by the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families.

Keeping It Fun

Hide-and-seek keeps your toddler's motor running and helps him get the physical activity he loves and needs. Invite playmates to your home so they can chase each other around as they laugh hysterically, stopping only to catch their breath. Place a "house" made of cardboard in your toddler's room or play area and egg on two tykes to take turns being the hider or the seeker, recommends Scholastic.com.

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About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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