With Easter just around the corner my thoughts have been revolving around the magical Easter Egg Hunt. Children love waking-up Easter morning to the anticipation of what they will find as they hunt around the house with an Easter basket. When several siblings are involved, feelings of anxiety over who will find the best treats are evoked and a resulting lesson of sharing and splitting up the loot often follows. Much like the beloved game of Hide and Go Seek, feelings of excitement, anxiety, and anticipation are sparked in both the hider and the seeker.
The game of hide and go seek can be used to open the learning centers in the brain so as to help our children strengthen their emotional and cognitive development through play. I’ve put together a list of activities that use the concept of hide and seek that are fun. Children will love the games and their cognitive and physical development will thank-you. If you have additional game ideas please add. Knowledge is power.
Babies 3-12 months
1) Babies love playing games of peek-a-boo. Nothing makes a baby smile more than hiding ones face and saying “boo”. Use a variety of props such as towels, large toys, scarves and even mirrors. Hide behind a hand held mirror, move the mirror down and say “boo”. Baby will think this is hilarious and will wonder what happened to the baby who was in the mirror.
2) Play hide and seek with your babies toys. Take a squeaky toy and another of similar size and hide them under a blanket. Ask your baby to find the squeaky toy. Give her a hint by squeaking the toy. Benefit: Strengthens memory skills and concept of object permanence.
This also works well when one parent hides in the house and makes sounds while the other parent carries baby and says, “Where is mommy. I can hear her. Let’s find mommy”. You are doing the finding but baby is doing all the learning. Baby will love the interaction and the joy and giggles when finding the hidden parent. When baby starts to crawl, she will love trying to find the missing parent by listening for sounds.
3) The fully crawling baby will love trying to find a hidden toy. Get right on the ground and crawl with her. Add some competition to the game and you will hear loads of giggles and laughter from your curious little munchkin.
Toddlers 12-24 months
1) Using a hat, take turns dropping blocks into it. You can name their colors or count them as you play. Ask your toddler, “where is the (red) block”. Your toddler will take out the blocks as you name the colors of the blocks. When she takes out the red, clap and say, “you found the red block”. Benefit: teaches numbers and color concepts, strengthens listening skills, strengthens cooperation skills, uses heightened anticipation to open the learning centers.
2) Expanding the hat game. As your toddler moves through her stages of development you can make the hat game harder. You and your toddler can put a variety of items in the hat. Ask your toddler to close her eyes while you take an item out and hide it. Your toddler empties the hat and tells you which item you took out, then hunts for it in the house. You can put in some letters or numbers to make learning way more fun. Main benefit is the strengthening of memory and object permanence.
3) Turn a large box on its side, upside down or upright. When my boys were younger they loved to sit in the box. As they got older it was way more exciting to sit with the box over their heads (they would have a flashlight). Fill it with lots of stuffed animals and encourage your toddler to crawl in and explore. Next time fill it with something else, like beach balls or warm sheets just out of the dryer. Hide something like a few wooden letters or numbers, or colored shapes. While your child is exploring you can ask them, “where is the letter “b”, where is the number “1”. Younger children will grab any letter and bring it to you. This is fantastic because they are recognizing that the item that you are requesting is in the “letter” family of words. As your child grows older they will be able to bring you the letter that you have requested. Benefit: Provides a great tactile experience. Helps child learn same and different, develops vocabulary, helps child work on conservation, strengthens listening skills, will bring out the giggles.
Juniors 2-5 years
This age group has a strong imagination. If we use their imagination along with hide n’seek games the learning can be endless.
1) Go on a treasure hunt in your home, searching for things that come in twos, for example, a pair of lamps, a pair of shoes, or matching candlesticks. Count them as you find them. Benefit: Teaches categorizing and counting skills.
2) Pretend you are solving a case (you are Dora, detectives, superheroes, etc.) There are clues hidden around the house that lead you to the next clue (like a scavenger hunt). The clues will lead you to letters. When you have found all the letters, they spell a word that tells you where the hidden treasure or lost key or stolen item is. Children will love finding the letters and will be excited to sit down with you and figure-out what word the letters spell. Benefit: Teaches that letters together create a word, uses imagination to make learning fun, strengthens listening skills and following directions.
3) Hide puzzle pieces around the house (24 piece floor puzzle). Put a letter on the back of each puzzle piece, the letter needs to correspond with something that you see on the puzzle piece or something related to what is happening in your child’s life at the time. For example, if the puzzle piece has blue on it, put a “b” for blue on the back of the puzzle piece. Maybe a different puzzle piece has a partial picture of a tire, put the letter “t” on the back of that piece. If we link an abstract symbol to something the brain already has information on. learning the abstract symbol is easier and more exciting. Only work with 3-4 letters at a time, more than that and the brain will not retain the information. Your child will feel frustrated and will not like your game. Use lower case letters until your child has mastered lower case. Benefit: Strengthens sequence development, observations skills and listening to directions. Sorting and making the puzzle strengthens math skills and language development.
Research shows that a child’s environment plays a vital role in the structural development of her brain. A child’s experience builds synaptic connections in the brain, increasing the long-term efficiency and learning capacity. Purposeful play opportunities along with child directed play build a strong foundation for future learning. With a strong foundation, learning is easier, making connections and being creative flows with ease.
The biggest benefit of all the above games and activities is the healthy bond that you are creating with your child. When parents play with their children, their children feel accepted, understood and loved. You are your child’s most important teacher!
Some additional articles on building brain power.