"Hide, hide, hide!" shouted Carolyn Goodman of Westwood, NJ, as she ran to the patio. At 2½, she had discovered hide-and-seek, but her mom, Alexandra, didn't have to look far: Carolyn was completely visible, underneath a lawn chair, grinning. "She loves to hide in the same spot every time," Goodman says. "She loves when I take a long time searching and calling, 'Where's Carolyn?'"
To a toddler, hide-and-seek is an extended version of peekaboo, says Jennifer Young, assistant director of Ball State University's Child Study Center. She hides in plain sight with her hands over her eyes because she thinks you can't see her if she can't see you. She feels successful when you find her, too, so she heads to the same spot every time. Being able to wait, be still, and keep quiet will come later -- around age 4 -- when she has more control over her impulses and grasps the idea of truly hiding.
When your toddler sits on the floor, pulls a laundry basket over her head, and says, "You can't find me!" play by her rules. "Seek" everywhere, and when you do find her, act surprised. Reverse the game so she can be proud to discover you, too. (Be sure to hide where she can see you, though!)