“Tag — you’re it!” There’s a reason tag is a classic game for kids across the world: Everyone loves it! There’s just something about chasing and being chased that makes people of all ages giggle and shriek in mock-fear as they take turns pretending to be predator or prey. Best of all for run club coaches and PE teachers, there’s no set-up or equipment required for a classic game of tag.
There are even hidden benefits to playing tag. It builds physical strength and endurance along with speed, agility, and coordination, but many experts say it also teaches children social skills regarding boundaries, consent and compassion. As always, there are two sides to the issue; certain schools around the country have banned tag due to concerns about boundary and consent issues. On the other hand, this has led to low- and no-contact versions of the game becoming more popular, which is a good thing for everyone — now there are more fun twists on the classic game than ever!
If you’re looking for ways to freshen up an old standard, check out the top ten twists on tag.
1. Robot Tag – This one’s perfect for hot days outdoors. One student is “it” (the tagger), while another student has an “oil can” — a spray bottle filled with water — and is safe from being tagged. When a player is tagged, he or she must freeze and then do rusty robot movements until the player with the oil can unfreezes them with two squeezes of “oil.” The player who was just unfrozen then takes over the oil can and runs to unfreeze someone else.
2. Shadow Tag – Sunny days, whether cool or warm, are perfect for playing Shadow Tag, in which the tagger steps or jumps on other players’ shadows to tag them. This no-contact version of tag is a fun twist for any group of kids, and especially for children who don’t enjoy actual, bodily tagging.
3. Ninja Turtle Tag – Thanks to Marathon Kids coach Jeff Byerly, whose run club kids love this fun version of the game. Coach Jeff sets four cones of different colors in four corners of the room or outdoor space, and gives pool noodles, cut in half and in colors matching the cones, to four taggers. To begin the game, kids yell “Turtle power!” and start running. When a runner is tagged, she or he must head to the matching-color cone and perform two exercises, such as burpees and jumping-jacks, until everyone has been tagged. Then four new taggers are selected, the kids yell out “Turtle power!” again, and the next round begins.
4. Dragon Tag – All players line up and hold onto the waist of the person in front of them. The person at the front of the line is the head of the dragon, who tries to “bite” (tag) the last person in line, who is the tail. Players must hold on and not break apart as the dragon-head runner leads them in the chase; if someone lets go, they’re out for that round and will be the dragon’s head in the next.
5. Freeze Tag – When a player is tagged in this fun version of the game, they must freeze until another player tags them to unfreeze them. There are many versions of Freeze Tag; in one, tagged players must freeze with their feet planted widely apart, creating a tunnel. They can be unfrozen only when another student crawls through. Teachers or coaches can support group cooperation by encouraging students to unfreeze as many of their classmates as possible and awarding points to students who unfreeze the most players.
6. Turtle Tag – Just as in Freeze Tag, players are frozen when tagged until another player tags and releases them. In Turtle Tag, however, players who are being chased can avoid being tagged when the tagger gets close by quickly lying down on their backs with their hands and feet in the air. They can stay down only for three seconds or less, and taggers must move on rather than hovering until the turtle stands up to start running again.
7. Flag Tag – This version of tag allows everyone to be the tagger at once, and it’s a low-contact way to play the game. Every player tucks a flag (this can be a handkerchief, a hand towel or simply a swatch of fabric) into their waistband or pocket, leaving at least half of it hanging out. Then everyone chases each other, trying to grab other players’ flags. When a player’s flag is taken, they’re out; the player with the most flags at the end of the game wins.
8. Stick Figure Tag – This one gets everyone laughing — players and teachers alike! For each round, there is one tagger as well as one un-freezer who is safe from being tagged. Everyone, including the tagger and the un-freezer, must run with their arms and legs held stiff and straight. When a player is tagged, they must freeze in position with their limbs held stiff until the un-freezer arrives to release them.
9. Chain Tag – This version of the game begins like classic tag, with one player designated as the tagger. As soon as the first player is tagged, they join hands with the tagger; the two then run together, holding hands and using their free hands to tag more players. Each new player who is tagged joins hands with the taggers, forming an ever-lengthening chain. The game is over once every player has been tagged and joined hands to make a chain with the whole group.
10. Crab Tag – As the name suggests, this fun version has players and taggers crab-walking around instead of running. Crabs aren’t the only possible animal to mimic; try Bunny Tag, with hopping players and taggers, or Sloth Tag, in which everyone must move on all fours, as slowly as possible.