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Tag (Game) 101: How To Play (Step-by-Step) / Rules / Variations

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

happy kids playing tag game and running
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Have you recently watched a group of kids playing a game of Tag? You might have felt that they were just having a good time running around. However, the game is much more than running about. Tag requires quick thinking and decision-making, deft movements, alertness, and, of course, a lot of speed. Simply chasing around each other can provide children hours of fun along with some great exercise.

Tag is an easy game that any child can quickly learn to play. The game involves two or more players, with the “it” chasing the others to “tag” them. Like any game, Tag also has some rules. A few basic rules are enough to keep everyone happy and the game running smoothly. Besides the classic version, Tag can also be played in a wide variety of exciting ways.

Now that you know the basics, perhaps you want to know a little more about the rules and the many variations that you can introduce to your kids. If you’re ready to know more, read on to find out how to play Tag, the rules of the game, and some fun variations!

How to Play Tag (Step-by-Step)

Tag is a traditional game that children play all over the world. Whether you call it “you’re it,” “catch and catch,” or “tiggy,” the game is played the same way.

Step 1: Round Up Players

To play Tag, you need at least two players. The more the players, the more the fun! 

Step 2: Find A Place To Play

Pick a place where you can easily run in without running into objects. Head outdoors and find a wide place such as a yard or playground. If the children are younger and may easily trip or fall, it would be best to find a place to make the fall easier. A grassy or sandy area will work out great.

Furthermore, if you are playing in a larger area, set boundaries not to run away too far. For instance, if you are in a playground, you can have everyone agree to stay on the gravel and make the grass and the sidewalk a no-go zone.

Step 3: Choose A Safe Zone

A safe zone or the “home” can be a tree, a door, or a circle drawn on the ground. When a player is in this spot, he is safe from being tagged. However, the player may hang out here only for 10 seconds.

Step 4: Determine Who Is “It”

The “it” is the person who is going to chase all the other players. Once he tags a player, the tagged person becomes the “it.”

If you know how it goes with some kids, deciding who gets to go first can take longer than the game itself. To fairly determine who will be the first “it,” you can use a counting-out rhyme such as “Inky, Pinky.” Children worldwide have devised their own crazy verses – from “onika-bonika” in England to “akkar bakkar” in Pakistan.

Step 5: Count Down

Once you’ve decided who is the “it,” it’s time for a count-down. First, the “it” person will count to ten to give the players a head start to run away. After counting to ten, the “it” will yell “Go!” and begin chasing and trying to tag someone as fast as possible.

Step 6: Tagging Someone

group of happy kids playing tag game and running at park
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To tag a player, the “it” needs to touch someone. The touch is a light tap on the body, usually on the back of the shoulder. The Tag should not hurt anyone, but be firm and clear enough to let the player know they have been tagged. The tagged player will then yell loud enough to let everyone know that they are the new “it.”

A game of Tag should never get aggressive. Those who push and hurt other players should be warned and removed from the game.

Step 7: Keep Going

Once a person gets tagged, the new “it” person will try to tag someone. Continue the game in this same way as long as you want to play. 

Step 8: Stop the Game

Tag is a very active game, and players will get tired sooner or later. The game will continue until the players no longer want to play. The exhausted players will most of the time mutually agree to stop playing to switch to another activity.

If you are leading a game of Tag for a group of younger kids, you can always choose to set a time limit.

General Rules of Tag

What are some rules in Tag you would need to know? The rules of Tag are pretty simple and easy to follow:

  1. A counting-out rhyme determines who will be the first “it.”
  2. You should avoid bumping on people or pushing each other while running. Doing this may get you out of the game 
  3. The “it” player needs to touch someone to tag them.
  4. Tagging someone should not involve pushing, pulling, or hurting anyone – a light tap is enough.
  5. If a boundary has been designated, players must remain within the boundary.

You can always modify and adjust the rules as you see fit for your situation.

Variations of Tag

1. Freeze Tag

Freeze Tag is one of the most popular variations of Tag. When a player is tagged, he cannot move and must remain frozen in place. A “non-it” player can come and touch the person to unfreeze him. You can either end the game or start another round when all the players have been tagged.

2. Toilet Tag

Toilet Tag is a fun tag variation that will have kids laughing all day. The tagged person needs to crouch on the ground like a toilet with his arm out like a toilet flusher. To unfreeze the person, another player must come and push down his arm gently as if they are flushing a toilet.

3. Rocket Ship Tag

Rocket Ship Tag is another fun variation that kids love. The tagger is the asteroid. When the asteroid tags you, you need to freeze with your arms above your head and your hands pointed like a rocket ship. When someone comes along and touches you, you can blast off and rejoin the game.

4. Sock Tag

To play Sock Tag, you need a knee sock, bandana, or another spare piece of fabric for each player. Each player will tuck this lightly into the back of their waistband to make a tail. There is no “it” in this game! Everyone can tag anyone by grabbing their tails. The player with the most tails is the winner.

5. Band-Aid Tag

When a player is tagged in Band-Aid tag, they put a hand over the spot he was tagged. If the player is tagged again, they put their other hand over the new spot. The player can continue running until they are tagged a third time, and then they become the “it.”

6. Turtle Tag

Similar to Freeze Tag, the tagged players are frozen until another “non-it” player unfreezes them. However, to avoid being tagged, players can get on their backs with their hands and feet in the air. But don’t think you can stay like this for the entire game! This safe position is effective only for 10 seconds, and you must get up and begin running after that.

Happy turtle walking
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7. Dead Ant Tag

If you are tagged, you must get on your back with your hands and legs up, like a dead ant. You can only come alive when four people come along and tap one limb each. Once you have become dead twice, you become the “it.”

8. Blob Tag

There are two “its” in Blob Tag, and the two will hold hands while chasing the others. When the “its” tags someone, that person joins hands to become part of the blob. The game ends when all players are part of the big blob. Or, you can split the blob once it consists of four people. You can keep splitting the blobs until all players have been tagged.

9. Sharks and Minnows

Shark and Minnows is a swimming pool game, but it can be played on the ground as well! The “it” is the shark and the rest are the minnows. The shark calls out, “Fishy, fishy, cross my ocean,” and the minnows try to race from one end to the other without getting caught.

Last Word

People have invented so many fun ways to play Tag. You can even encourage kids to come up with new ideas to play this game. It’s no wonder this speed game has remained one of the favorites of children through passing generations. Now, you are all ready to get your children occupied in a vigorous and exciting game of Tag!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.