10 Ways to Play Tag

Ready, set, run with 10 new twists on the classic game of chase.

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, of course, tag games are fun, as well as easy to learn, and usually, ​don't require props or equipment. So the next time you're faced with a group of kids and some 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.

1. Band-aid Tag: There are no "it"s in this tag game! All players can tag and be tagged. When a player is tagged, she puts a hand on the spot where she was tagged—that's the "Band-aid." She can keep playing, using her free hand to tag others. If she gets tagged again, she'll need to use her other hand as a second Band-aid, but she can still keep playing! A third tag sends her to the "hospital" (a designated spot near the playing area). Once there, she can perform a pre-determined action, such as hopping on one foot for a count of 10, to heal her wounds, and then return to the game.

2. 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.

3. Dragon Tail Tag: If you don't have enough socks to go around, play this 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.

4. Triangle Tag: This one is ideal for smaller groups and can be played inside or in a small outdoor area. Divide players into groups of four, and have three 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 he's 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.

5. 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 It to find other, hidden players using a flashlight beam, but variations abound!

6. 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 beanbags ("Drop the cookie!").

7. 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!

8. Don't Get Caught With the Cookie: Choose two players to be "It." Give about half the remaining players balls or beanbags—these are 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 cookie 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.

9. Sharks and Minnows: This classic swimming-pool game can be played on dry land too! Just have your players run instead of swimming.

10. 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 they are tagged by another player.

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