This weeks big puzzle in child psychology: when does a child learn how to play Hide and Seek properly? L likes playing Hide and Seek, but at not quite 3, she is hopeless at it. Her inability to hide ineffectively is in a sense understandable. I suspect its down to not yet having developed a theory of mind. I believe that studies of children have shown that its only at 3+ they develop the ability to realise that people dont automatically all know the same things. So when L tells me beforehand where shes going to hide, or hides in a extreme obvious place, because if she can’t see me, then I cant see her, its because she hasnt yet properly understood the difference between what she knows and what I know.
What Im less sure about is why she also finds it so hard to do the seeking bit. I can go and hide in some fairly obvious places and she still wont find me. I suppose part of it is due to a lack of concentration/systemising tendency. She hasnt yet worked out, for example, that if someones hiding upstairs, you need to look through one room at a time. Some of it may also be due to lack of experience: she doesnt yet know the sort of places one might hide. Shes better at finding me in places where I have hidden in the past, but shes not yet good at generalising this knowledge. She will look behind the specific door Ive hidden behind before, but not necessarily other doors. The stranger thing, is that she doesnt yet seem to be good at observing differences. If I hide under a duvet or behind a curtain, I may not be directly visible, but Im still making a fairly prominent outline. But she doesnt seem to recognise that. Is her normal observation of a room or her memory of it so limited that she cant remember that it looked different before? I suppose I could check this by rearranging the furniture in her room and seeing if she noticed, but that seems a rather drastic experiment. Maybe I should try and find out at what stage children start to be able to do spot the difference puzzles.