10 Different Ways to Play Tag

Boy running outside with two girls in background
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When kids play tag, they don't just run—they have to think on their feet. The need for quick reflexes, sudden changes of direction, and speed means that playing tag is great exercise. And tag games are easy to learn, with few rules and usually few (or no) props or equipment.

So the next time you gather a group of kids in a wide-open space, play tag! Many of these games and variations were inspired by Playworks, a nonprofit organization that helps schools foster physically active, social, healthy play.

Band-Aid Tag

There is no "it" in this tag game! All players can tag and be tagged. When a player is tagged, they put a hand on the spot where they were tagged—that's the "Band-Aid." Then, they can keep playing, using their free hand to tag others.

If they get tagged again, they'll need to use their other hand as a second Band-Aid, but they can still keep playing! A third tag sends them to the "hospital" (a designated spot near the playing area). Once there, they can perform a predetermined action, such as hopping on one foot for a count of 10, to heal their wounds and then return to the game.

Sock Tag

You'll need a spare knee sock, bandanna, or another scrap of fabric for each player. They should tuck it into their waistbands to create a "tail." As in Band-Aid tag, there is no "it." Everyone can try to grab each other's tails. The one who collects the most wins the game.

If you don't have enough socks to go around, play dragon tag, a version of sock tag in which groups of players link up to form a dragon. The player at the front of the line, the dragon's head, tries to grab the tail from another dragon.

Blob Tag

This game starts with two players as "it." They must hold hands and chase the others, trying to tag them. When they do, that person becomes part of their blob. You can either keep going until all players are part of the blob or have the blob split up when it consists of four or six players. In this case, all the blobs continue chasing the other players until everyone has been tagged.

Triangle Tag

Divide players into groups of four, and have three players hold hands to form a circle. Designate one of these as the runner, the target of the tagger. The tagger is the player outside the circle.

While they're trying to tag the runner, the circle trio must try to protect the runner without letting go of each other. The tagger may not go inside the circle. After each round, switch players so that everyone gets a turn to be the runner, the tagger, and one of the protectors.

Triangle tag is ideal for smaller groups and smaller playing areas—even indoors.

Flashlight Tag

A classic! This game combines the chase element of tag with the suppress-your-giggles fun of hide-and-seek. The basic plan is for the person who is "it" to find other hidden players using a flashlight beam, but variations abound—as do other flashlight games.

Drop the Linguini

Give about a third of the players a foam pool noodle. These are the linguini noodles. The rest of the players chase the ones who have noodles. If they tag someone, they yell, "Drop the linguini!" The player who was tagged must drop the noodle. The tagger picks it up and then becomes the target of the other players. You can also play with balls ("Drop the meatball!") or bean bags ("Drop the cookie!").

Footprint Tag

You'll need sand or snow for this game, in which players must step in each others' footprints as they try to avoid being tagged. And if you're playing in the snow, freeze tag seems like a must-do.

Don't Get Caught With the Cookie

Choose two players to be "it." Give about half the remaining players balls or beanbags (the "cookies"). Put a bag or box on the sidelines—this is the cookie jar. When you say "go," the "its" try to tag players with cookies. If they succeed, those players must run to the cookie jar and put their cookies inside.

To save themselves from being tagged, they can throw their cookie to another player. You can stop the game when all the cookies are back in the jar or allow players to retrieve the cookies from the jar at designated times.

Sharks and Minnows

This classic swimming pool game can be played on dry land too. Just have your players run instead of swim.

In this game, one person is the shark ("it") and the rest are minnows. The shark says something like, "fishy, fishy cross my ocean" and the minnows must then try to get from one end of the field to the other without being tagged.

Everyone's It!

Designate a playing area (it doesn't have to be too big for this game) and set a timer for three to four minutes. Everyone is "it," so everyone tries to tag everyone else. Players must keep a mental count of everyone they tag. After the time is up, you can declare a winner based on how many tags each player got.

To make it a little more challenging, you can require that players subtract a point from their running tally each time another player tags them.

1 Source
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Making physical activity a way of life: AAP policy explained.

By Catherine Holecko
Catherine Holecko is an experienced freelance writer and editor who specializes in pregnancy, parenting, health and fitness.