A group of elementary-age children play tag together outside during recess.

12 fun ways you can transform the game of tag

When you think of a classic outdoor game, what comes to mind? Do you think of pieces of chalk ground to dust after constructing an epic game of hopscotch? Maybe you remember impressive hacky sack skills during recess. When we consider a game that spans generations, crosses cultural boundaries, and can begin with a simple tap, we think of tag.

The traditional “You’re it!” game is a staple in gym classes, playgrounds, and neighbourhoods everywhere, and requires minimal (if any) equipment or set-up to play. From a physical literacy perspective, tag is wonderful for developing fundamental movement skills like running, dodging, and stopping … to name just a few.

But if you or your kids have ever wanted to jazz up this simple sport, here are some ideas and variations of tag games.

1. Bandaid Tag

In this version of the classic game, all players can tag and be tagged. Once a person is tagged, he or she must put one hand on the spot they were touched to make a bandaid. Tagged again? Make a second bandaid with the other hand and continue to run. If a player is tagged for the third time, they must visit the “hospital” — a designated spot outside of the boundaries — and complete ten jumping jacks to heal and rejoin the game.

2. Hot Dog Tag

This delicious deviation from the classic starts with one person designated as “it”. When a player is tagged, he or she must lay flat on the floor with hands by their side and legs together, as if they were a hot dog. To get back into the game, two free players need to lie on either side of the “hot dog” to form the buns. The tagger cannot tag any of the three players completing the hot dog, as they are allowed to join back in.

3. Dead Ant Tag

Decide on one person to be “it” in a large boundary. When a person gets tagged, they become a “dead ant” by lying on their back with legs and arms in the air. In order for the “dead ant” to join back in, he or she must be tagged on each limb by four different people. When a player becomes a “dead ant” for the third time — we’ll call it “ant years” — they take over as “it”.

In this large group game of tag one person begins as “it”. As other players get tagged, they link arms with the person chosen to be “it” and form a chain. The chain of people must work together and communicate as they try to tag the remaining players. The last player to get tagged is the winner and a new game can begin.

5. Octopus Tag

This ocean odyssey requires a play area with two clearly-marked end zones and edges to form a boundary. One person is elected to be “it” and act as the “octopus”. To begin, the “octopus” is positioned in the middle of the area and the other players line up along one end zone. When the “octopus” shouts “Go!” all players attempt to cross the area to the other end zone (the safe zone) without getting tagged. If tagged, he or she becomes “seaweed” and sits still at the position of contact. “Seaweed” may assist the “octopus” by waving their arms and tagging other players.

6. Soccer Ball Tag

In this sport hybrid, two players are designated as “it” and each have a soccer ball at their feet. To tag someone, he or she must kick a ball at the feet of another player. If the ball makes contact with somebody’s feet, that person gets a ball of their own and joins as “it”. The last person to be tagged by a ball is the winner. NOTE: Be sure to demonstrate a safe and acceptable method of tagging.

7. Freeze Tag

This chilly choice for tag is one of our favourites. Here’s how to play: One person is “it”. When a player is tagged, he or she stands still with their legs wide apart. To be allowed back into the action, another player must crawl through the “frozen” participant’s legs without getting tagged themselves. The game finishes when all players are tagged and “frozen.”

8. Oonch Neech

This variety of tag is popular in Pakistan and its name roughly translates to “up and down”. After choosing a person to be “it”, other players are only safe when their feet are not touching the ground. Whether players choose a tree, rock, or the front porch, they must find safety above sea level.

9. Colour Tag

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play tag underwater? In this cool pool option, the player who is chosen to be “it” stands on the deck (the “diver”) while the others wait at the near wall in the water (the “swimmer”). After everyone inside the pool chooses a secret colour, the “it” player may begin rhyming off a range of rainbow hues. When a swimmer hears his or her colour called, they must attempt to swim to the other end of the pool without being detected and tagged by the diver. In-pool participants may attempt to deceive the diver but all swimmers must go within ten seconds of hearing their colour. Be sure to provide proper supervision and enforce safe conduct while swimming.

10. Animal Tag

To prepare for this zany zoo game, mark four different areas as “cages” and decide on one person to be “it” (the “zookeeper”). Divide the remaining players into four groups and designate one person to play the part of the “monkey” — the mischievous player whose role it is to free the others from the cages. Each group chooses an animal and a movement for the game, i.e. kangaroos can hop, cheetahs can run, horses can gallop, etc. To begin, the animals are set free to move around, but if tagged must return to their respective cage. While the zookeeper is trying to lock up all the animals, the monkey is letting everyone loose!

11. Blob Tag

In this fun variation of the game, you start with two players who link arms to form the beginning of “the blob”. Those players then move around together (a great way to practice cooperation and teamwork!) and attempt to tag others. When a player is tagged, they must link arms with the tagger and become part of the blob. When a fourth player is tagged, the blob splits into two separate blobs. Every time there’s a fourth tagged player, the blob breaks into two and play continues until all players become part of a blob. The last two remaining players get to start the next game as the first blob.

12. Toilet Tag

This one is sure to delight any little players who find a bit of toilet humour a hoot! Toilet tag works well with a large number of players. Split the players into two groups: taggers and runners. The taggers have to try and tag the runners. This is where the fun begins! If a runner gets tagged, they have to pretend to be a toilet by kneeling on one knee and putting an arm out to be “flushed”. They can only move once another runner “flushes” them (by gently pushing down on their arm). The tagged player then spins around three times before they can play again. Play continues until every runner has become a toilet!

20 responses to “12 fun ways you can transform the game of tag

  1. Foxes and Hounds is a favourite for any age, even adults. It is preferably played in a large area and is a bit of a cross between hide-and-seek and tag. Everyone is a fox, and the game starts with a single hound that tries to catch the foxes. If a fox is caught, they become a hound until all foxes are hounds. The last remaining fox becomes the hound for the next round.
    What makes this different is that players have to signal to each other. If you are a hound, you point at the other player and if you are a fox you use your hands to make fox ears on your head. The rule is that if someone signals to you, you are obliged to signal back. If you get tagged and the hound did not signal back to you, or if they give the wrong signal to fool you, then you are free to keep being a fox.

  2. Hot dog tag looks good to me, and I think I am going to change the tag game to this version now. This one seems like the most fun, and the people playing the hot dog tag game will have fun, too, I am sure.

  3. Did anyone else have immunity through crusies, a double crossed fingers action ? We used to do this when we played but you had to hold up both hands simultaneously for it to count…….

  4. I suggest that the list include radioactive tag, a specific infection game of tag at night with revealing glowsticks for everyone, but the original tagger. (A personally made up game of mine)

    1. Another good one is Peanut. In the game, someone is the shell and someone is the nut. The goal is to end the game as neither the nut nor the shell. The shell tries to tag the nut. If the shell tags the nut, the two switch roles. The nut’s goal is to tag anyone, but the shell who’s trying to tag the nut. The person tagged by the nut becomes the nut and is chased by the shell.

  5. I’m getting tired of fights everyday so thanks for the games they can play I’m trying some of the games today at Lunch.

  6. Thank you for the ideals on “Tag”, its going to help a 5th grade group of boys that tend to argue everyday at recess because someone changes the rules and it’s always the same person who’s it.

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