A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “The boy said the man grabbed him by the shirt while the child was on the swings at Southfields recreation ground at about 2pm. The man then left the area and the child ran home.
“The man is described as dressed all in black, including a balaclava covering his face apart from his eyes, with gloves and blue shoes.”
Police officers are currently in the area looking for the man and speaking to residents about what they saw and heard.
The police helicopter is also involved in the search.
Detective Sergeant Colin O’Hare said: “At this stage we’re keeping an open mind about the man’s motive but we need to find him.
“The park was busy with lots of other children in it at the time.
“I would ask parents to ask their children if they saw or heard anything and, if they did, to contact us as soon as possible.”
Anyone with information should call 101 quoting serial 756 of 30/07 or call 101.
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