Huddling behind the bathroom door, trying not to let out a breath, and struggling to stifle his giggles, your toddler delights in being the object of attention as he tries to best his brilliant mom, staying hidden from view for as long as possible. While hiding may seem an exceptionally simple and mindless form of play, it is actually developmentally advantageous. Not only are there natural drives pushing your toddler to hide from view, there are also definite benefits associated with him regularly engaging in this form of recreation.
Baby’s First Privacy
While toddlers certainly don’t demand the same level of privacy as older children may, they still enjoy having some time in which they aren’t subject to adult supervision, reports Tim Fill of the Children’s Play Council. Hiding gives toddlers a chance to escape the seemingly constant gaze of the well-meaning adults in their lives, so it can be very enticing.
Comfort of Containment
For a small child, the immensity of the world can be overwhelming. By hiding away in a secret corner or making an afternoon of playing in a box, your toddler can effectively reduce the size of the world he must navigate. Doing so can be highly comforting to your toddler. This activity is more than just a game; it is actually a way for toddlers to soothe themselves when it all gets to be too much, as it undoubtedly will from time to time.
If your toddler is hiding, he knows that eventually someone will come look for him. By creating this situation, he can ensure that he gets some attention as the pursuer must dedicate time and energy to seeking him out. Upon finding the well-hidden tot, the seeker commonly displays excitement, which can be pleasing to the child as well. Because the seeker seems so thrilled to see the never-really-lost tot each time she finds him, the toddler can enjoy the warmth of this positive energy again and again, feeding his need to be the center of attention.
Social and Emotional Development
Unlike other toddler play-time favorites, hiding games, including the perennially popular hide-and-seek, aren’t activities that these tikes can undertake solo. Because hiding games require co-play, they help toddlers build their social and emotional skills. These skills are developed through cooperative play with same age peers or adults. While toddlers certainly don’t have knowledge of these skills, they do have an inherent drive to develop them which makes them naturally eager to engage in hiding-related play.